Gidimt’en land defenders mobilize to protect archeological site from Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Gidimt’en land defenders are presently mobilizing on their unceded territory within the province of British Columbia in Canada to protect an archaeological site from the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline.

Earlier this month, The Tyee reported that the area at risk is a ridge near Lamprey Creek.

Downstream the creek flows into the Morice River (Wedzin Kwa to the Wet’suwet’en) at a traditional village site called Ts’elkay Kwe Ceek. And upstream are sites at McBride and Collins lakes that contain house pits, also evidence of past occupation.

The article highlights: “To the Wet’suwet’en, this site holds clues, pieces of their history on the landscape that dates back millennia. To the B.C. government’s archaeology branch, it is known simply as GbSs-8.”

Past excavations by archaeologists have revealed evidence of use that pre-dates the arrival of Europeans, including lithics, materials related to stone tools.

Some of those artefacts could be 5,000 years old.

Molly Wickham, a member of the Gidimt’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation who carries the hereditary name Sleydo’, says: “This is legal evidence of our title. If they come and destroy this, they’re wiping us off this territory. They’re erasing the evidence of us being here. So, it’s really important that it’s protected.”

In early August, Wickham learned the site is slated for destruction under the authority of a permit issued by the BC Oil and Gas Commission to Coastal GasLink.

In 2015 and 2019, provincial government archaeologists recommended that if the pipeline could not avoid the site, then “mitigation options will be determined in consultation with the client, Archaeology Branch and relevant First Nations.”

That would involve Coastal GasLink applying for a site alteration permit and potentially hiring archaeologists to recover any remaining artifacts before the site is destroyed.

The Tyee adds that when Wickham and other land defenders were at the site in early September, “her voice [was] drowned out by a helicopter flying low, circling once over the group she leads before moving on.”

It also notes the threat of criminalization faced by the land defenders: “Two pickup trucks with Coastal GasLink’s private security have staked out the spot where the youth and Elders in Wickham’s group have parked their vehicles about 100 metres away. The security guards video the procession of vehicles as it leaves the site.”

Now, in this 4-minute video posted on September 20, Wickham provides the most recent update on the situation.

Wickham notes: “Coastal GasLink came in with about 15 trucks and security with workers to destroy one of our cultural sites. We went out to the territory and confronted them about it. …All of the workers there didn’t seem to know anything about any permits, didn’t seem to know anything about consultation, there was no archaeologist to be found.”

“After several hours of discussing this back and forth, they called the RCMP instead of an archaeologist. One RCMP officer showed up. …We described to him that CGL was trying to do this work unlawfully even according to their own law. …About an hour later another RCMP officer came to talk about what was going to happen. During that time all the CGL workers packed up their things and left the territory.”

Wickham adds: “They don’t have any lawful site alteration permits. …There’s no real enforcement that happens. There’s no consequences for them coming in and destroying our cultural sites.”

The threat to this archaeological site continues.

For updates, please see the Gidimt’en Yintah Access website, the Gidimt’en Checkpoint Twitter feed  and the Yintah Access Instagram page.

An earlier post on this situation can be read on the PBI-Canada website at: Gidimt’en land defenders seek to stop destruction of heritage site from construction of Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline (August 16, 2021).

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