Chiefs of two First Nations in B.C.’s central Interior are urging anti-pipeline protesters to pack up and leave an uninvited encampment on their traditional territory.
But a leader of the Tiny House Warriors village says they do not recognize the authority of the elected chiefs to make that call.
In a joint statement issued Thursday, Chiefs Shelly Loring of the Simpcw First Nation and Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation said the Tiny House Warriors at Blue River have violated Secwépemc laws and customs.
“The interactions that I have witnessed are violent in nature,” Loring said in an interview with CBC Daybreak Kamloops’ Doug Herbert.
“We thought that it was our responsibility to stand up and say this has to stop,” Loring said. “This is enough.”
The chiefs said protest camp members were not invited and do not speak for the two First Nations located near Barriere and Kamloops, along the North and South Thompson Rivers. The Tiny House Warriors village at Blue River is located about 230 kilometres north of Kamloops near the path of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.
Loring said the Simpcw Nation gave free, prior and informed consent for Trans Mountain to build and operate the new pipeline.
The First Nation operates a company that provides security for the project. Loring said protesters are increasingly aggressive in almost daily interactions with the Indigenous and non-Indigenous security workers.
“Some of our individuals that have been threatened. We’ve had some of our individuals that have been spit on. They have been recorded without their permission,” she said.
“There’s been a number of negative interactions that have been occurring and this has been ongoing for the last two years.”
Kanahus Manuel, a resident of the Tiny House Warriors village and its spokesperson, said in a phone interview that a statement will be issued shortly from lawyers for the group in response to what she described as false allegations against the protest camp members.
Manuel said she rejects the chiefs’ call for the Tiny House Warriors to stand down from their protest because the elected chief-and-council system has been unilaterally imposed by the federal government with no authority over traditional lands outside their own reserve.
Band chiefs’ authority challenged
“Federal Indian Bands are not the rightful or collective title holders.” Manuel said. “Therefore they can’t make decisions regarding our collective territories.”
Earlier this week Kamloops Thompson MLA Peter Milobar said he had met with British Columbia’s solicitor general over concerns about the protest group and its impact on nearby residents and businesses.
Loring said the First Nation shares concerns expressed by the protesters for the safety of women and girls in the communities affected by the pipeline construction boom. However, the Tiny House protesters have not spoken with her about the situation.
Among 19 women from the Simpcw First Nation are working on the Trans Mountain project, she said, “they report positive experiences — and no serious incidents.”
On Thursday the Supreme Court of Canada rejected the last remaining court challenge to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, refusing to hear an appeal from several First Nations against the project.
Loring said she is now concerned that more protesters will be coming from across the country to join the Tiny House camp.