All the people who work on The Red Review live and work on stolen Indigenous lands across Turtle Island. There can be no reconciliation without restitution, which includes Land Back and seizing the assets of the major resource corporations and returning them to the commons.
In the final bonus episode of this season of The Red Review, brought to you by Socialist Action, Emily, Flo, and Daniel interview Theresa Tait-Day or Chief Wi’hali’yte of the Wet’suwet’en nation about what Indigenous self-determination looks like to her.
In the first half of this episode (begins at 1:57), Theresa demands restitution from corporations and the Canadian state that built on their land and took their resources without any restitution. Theresa demands that traditional Indigenous governance be fully represented when resource development is negotiated. Theresa demands an end to the racist Indian Act.
In the second half of this episode (begins at 45:45), Emily, Flo, and Daniel unpack the interview and discuss how socialists ought to incorporate the first principle of self-determination for oppressed nations into slogans, tactics, and movements.
We wish to highlight that there are other Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs with different perspectives on the Coastal GasLink pipeline project. It is not our place to decide who is right or wrong. We instead target the Canadian state and Canadian corporations with demands that center Wet’suwet’en self-determination.
We encourage all listeners to explore other media if they wish to learn more about the different perspectives held by the Wet’suwet’en people regarding the Coastal GasLink pipeline. Watch this interview with Sleydo’, spokesperson for the Gidimt’en Checkpoint. A list of other articles that influenced this episode of The Red Review can be found here.
Website: First Nations Major Projects Coalition
Some Previously Shared Links:
Twitter: Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East
Website: Palestine Youth Movement
Website: No Pride in Policing Coalition
Website: Red Braid Alliance
Website: Last Stand for Forests
Twitter: 1492 Land Back Lane
Website: Tiny House Warriors
Daniel Tarade 0:16
Hello, and welcome to The Red Review. My name is Daniel. I use he/him pronouns. I am coming to you from the traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat Peoples.
Emily Steers 0:30
Hey, my name is Emily Steers. I use she/her pronouns, and I’m coming to you from the unceded territory of the Anishinaabe, Attawandaron, and Haudenosaunee Peoples also known as Guelph, Ontario.
Flo Schade 0:41
Hi, I’m Flo Schade, and I’m joining you from the western shores of Francois lake, the traditional territory of the Yex T’sa Wilk’us or Dark House of the Gilseyhu Big Frog Clan of the Wet’suwet’en people.
Daniel Tarade 0:52
All the people that contribute to this podcast, live and work on stolen Indigenous land from across Turtle Island, we say there can be no reconciliation without restitution, which includes land back and seizing the assets of the major resource corporations and returning them to the commons. Today, we are actually interviewing a guest who can speak to us about the primacy of self determination for Indigenous people. We’ll be speaking to Chief Wi’hali’yte, also known as Theresa Tait-Day, who is a matriarch and Hereditary Chief from Wet’suwet’en. And although we’ve covered the Coastal GasLink pipeline, and the blockades on a number of previous episodes, we are not here today to talk about a pipeline. We are here to talk about Indigenous self-determination and how that might look like and what demands socialists ought to put forward to further the struggle for Indigenous self-determination. We encourage people to give space to this conversation. Before we go to the interview with Theresa, I just want to give a brief content warning as there will be brief discussion of suicide. So just for the listeners coming from coast-to-coast to coast who might be unfamiliar with Wet’suwet’en, can you just give a brief background into the nation? How many people are living there? What are the clans? And what are the governance structures? And I think one of the thorny issues then is what is the relationship between the Band Council and the hereditary chiefs?
Theresa Tait-Day 2:15
Firstly, I’ll start with as we do an introduction of myself. My name is Wi’hali’yte, and it is a spiritual name and it has the same jurisdiction or authority as a hereditary house group. I am Ts’ake ze Wi’hali’yte and my English name is Theresa Tait-Day, and I come from the Wet’suwet’en territory, which is Northwest British Columbia. Our territory is 22,000 square kilometers from the Hazeltons to the Burns Lake area. We have six bands within our nation from Hazelton to Burns Lake, which is about 300 kilometers in length. Along the way, as you know, many of our people went to court and we went, in ’87, there was a decision, Supreme Court decision, called the Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa court case. Our people spent 10 years in court, we got a Supreme Court recognition that there is an Aboriginal right that has never been extinguished and that our people have lived here from time immemorial. And we’ve operated in a way, as a traditional way, with a governance system of the feasting, meaning that the Wet’suwet’en have 13 House groups and five clans. Within that five clans, there are 13 houses along the traditional territory. And then we have the six bands. Historically, the hereditaries were never recognized by the government of Canada until the court case, until Haida court case, until the Delgamuukw and others that have advanced our Aboriginal right. When we have projects coming in to our territory, the protocol should be that a recognition of our Aboriginal rights as hereditaries. As house groups, we have authority and jurisdiction of our lands. And we’re the decision makers, the House members are the decision makers, the House chief and there are many wing chiefs within the house. So the proper protocol would be for the government or industry to come and talk to — if you’re going to do a project on my land, for example, on our territory, then you would come to our house group and say we would like to do this. That is the proper way of making decisions for industry development and for Government to speak to us as a hereditary system. And together, and if this project is going to affect many of our houses, then it requires each house group to understand the nature of the project, to discuss the project, and to make a decision about the project. Each house group has that, but there is no mechanism in place. Government has failed and industry has failed to assist us in creating that mechanism to make decisions. Because it’s an easy way for the government and industry to go directly to the bands and leave us fighting about this very question. That’s the problem that we’re facing today. Because our hereditary system is in such that each house group has the authority to make their own decision, not one House chief would make a decision for us as a house group. Doesn’t happen like that. It’s not supposed to happen like that. And so what we’ve faced is misogyny within the — males have discriminated against the females in our case, and it’s because of their own relationships and their own understanding of the system. I speak my language and I understand the system very well. I’ve been raised with my great-grandmother and grandmothers, both of them, and my grandfather. And so I’ve gone to every feast ever since I was a little kid, and I’ve been groomed by these elders to understand the system and to treat people with respect as I go along. In this way, many of the people that are leading now have never been raised in the system, they don’t understand the system. So it’s another level of dissension that could happen as a result of that. Does that answer your question?
Emily Steers 6:30
Yes. Thank you so much, that gives a really, really solid basis for understanding. And so which of these governance structures consented to the Coastal GasLink project and who oppose or is continuing to oppose the project?
Theresa Tait-Day 6:44
Well, all of the band councils who run the bands. The band is a postage-stamp size compared to our larger territories. So as we know, the bands were set up in 1887, I think — no, it was later than that. The Indian Act was set up around that time. And the Indian Act was set to control indigenous people. The Indian Act was set up to take away our language, our culture. And the religion helped that. We were stuck on this reserve with all of those oppressions. And we’ve never had a chance to operate as hereditary system because the government taking away our resources, and leaving us quietly sitting there and fighting for every inch of rights we got here today. And so the bands have been used to dealing directly with industry and government and government has been used to dealing with bands. And so naturally, they’re going to go to the bands and make those decisions. And so in our case, we’ve got six bands that have made the decision for the entire nation and leaving us hereditaries out of that decision making process.
Daniel Tarade 7:58
So you are one of the founders of the Wet’suwet’en Matrilineal Coalition. So who founded this with you and what was the idea behind the coalition?
Theresa Tait-Day 8:07
I’m not against industry development, I want to be clear about that. I want to make sure they’re talking to us as hereditaries and that we as a house group benefit from any resource development on our land. And all of our house members must benefit. That’s my position. And that’s the position of the hereditaries that were involved in forming the Wet’suwet’en Matrilineal Coalition. We recognize that there was no decision-making process within our nation and that the government had not recognized, even though we have a court case, our authority and our jurisdiction as hereditaries over our lands. So the hereditaries within the Wet’suwet’en Nation, and there are five on our board, and three are House Chiefs and two are Wing Chiefs. And we also have about 87 members within the coalition who want to move forward in an economic fashion with respect and dignity of them as House members. So the coalition was formed because we understood that decisions had to be made as Hereditaries and that we needed to have a process where we are all talking about how we’re going to govern ourselves for the benefit of our nation — to include the bands in the decision making. There needs to be two mechanisms almost in play at the same time. One is the hereditaries. As a designated House Chief, and as I mentioned, I have the same status as a House Chief because of the nature of my name, the meaning of my name, we tried to engage with our members on this, you know, what’s at stake? How should we move ahead? Those are the proper protocols and processes for making decisions and now with the UNDRIP, United Nations for Declaration of Rights of Indigenous People, it’s really now even more important that the government and industry recognize that there are traditional governance systems. And I say governance because the Hereditaries in the house groups are the governing body over their land. However, there’s no mechanism within our nation to implement that. And so government needs to recognize that, industry needs to recognize that, and bands need to recognize that. And bands are a part of it. The bands are our people. They want to be able to make decisions, and they want to be able to support the hereditary system, but there’s no mechanism to do that. And so we recognize that. And so our attempt to educate our people, we’ve had public meetings in Houston, we tried to educate them on the Coastal Gas, for example. And because of the misogyny and the male attitude of being the only ones to make decision for us, really, really did not help us at all, as a nation. That’s why we began the WMC and we haven’t been supported by government or industry. We have been discriminated against by the males, and by the government’s — both governments, federal and provincial. As a result of this, we’ve taken on a human rights case that outlines their sex discrimination against us women. And I must say that we are a matrilineal society, all of our children follow us as women, all of our children are the frog clan, my children are the frog clan. All of the women’s children fall under one matrilineal system. And so there we know that because I’m a frog, I belong to this territory, and this is the jurisdiction that we have, but we have no way to implement those decision making processes. That’s part of the issue is that government and industry have not recognized us. You know, this human rights case, I’m hoping that will, you know, help us. Thank God that we have a very wonderful firm McMillan and Company, and our lawyer, Robin Junger, has agreed to help us pro bono because we could never ever get to this stage without that help. You know, we don’t have any funding. We operated as a volunteer board. And we, you know, organized ourselves this way. But when we were basically — I feel like we were discredited all the way around by everybody, and very hurtful.
Emily Steers 12:29
Yeah, that sounds really, really challenging and wish you well in the court case, that sounds like it’s going to be an important and difficult struggle.
Theresa Tait-Day 12:39
Yes, it is. And the other struggle with that is to, we’re not recognized in the human rights. We don’t have a spot, we don’t have any place to go. So that’s part of our challenge. That’s why we have a wonderful lawyer that’s taking on that challenge.
Emily Steers 12:54
I also want to ask, I know that there was some controversy around the stripping of the names of hereditary chiefs such as yourself and others in the Matrilineal Coalition. How did this happen, and what was the impact for yourself in the community?
Theresa Tait-Day 13:09
Well, I’ll tell you how it happened. It was a meeting in Houston, where we were having a public meeting, there’s probably 80 people, 90 people there of our membership. And we were informing our membership about the pros and cons of CGL, how it’s gonna affect our land. When the hereditaries — and its online, there’s a video online — when they came into our, you know, disrupt us and saying, we didn’t have a voice. You were not allowed to have this meet. who says that in this day and age, number one? We’re allowed to have public meetings, we’re allowed to talk about these things. This is the Indian Act system speaking to us under those people. So they were threatened by that. And then I heard that they were going to have a feast, smoke feast it’s called, and where I went to the smoke face because I heard that they were trying to take one of our members names away. And before I could even get up and speak, they disrupted the meeting, and they feathered me at the meeting saying I’m not allowed to speak. This was so hurtful. After that, that’s like assaulting my grandmother and my great grandmother and me and generations back to people that held this name. You don’t do that. And that’s what I wanted to speak about. When you’re Hereditary, you are born into a family, enter a matrilineal family, and you are trained by your ancestors, your great-grandmother’s and grandmothers. You are trained by them. And you are trained to how to act and you’re trained about your lands and about your system and you’re trained how to conduct yourself in the feast Hall. And so the names are passed down through the family. It’s a family name, and so no one has the right to come into your house or your family from another family and take your name. Nobody has —unprecedented. And the reason why it was done, it was because they feel that we are speaking out of turn, or we don’t have that right to think. And now again, that’s the Indian Act mentality that we have to deal with. As a result, I was feathered in that feast. And arbitrarily, the two names of the women, Smogelgem, Gloria George, and Woos Darlene Glaim, those names were taken because they are the House Chiefs, and they are the authority. And the men want to have all the authority. So they put men in there, that’s just unheard of. It’s just unheard of, it has never been done. And I might also say, I was in conflict one time with one of my house members. And I said to my grandmother, I just want to remove this person from this whole feasting business, Grandma, what can I do? Can I move her out? Can I do something to her? And she said, no, you can’t, you cannot treat your family members within your house group in this fashion. They’re part of you. And if you do that, if you try to do that, within the feast hall, you will lose your name, and so will they lose your name. This is an egregious crime. This law is how you keep families together. You don’t have lateral violence. But this is forgotten by these males, who want to have authority and control. I want to say that Hereditary House Chiefs are usually men. But that’s a decision for the house to make. If there is no man to take the position, a woman will take the House Chief position. In that case, there was Gloria And Darlene that held those positions for a long time. And it’s up to them to make the decision who’s going to proceed them, nobody else.
Daniel Tarade 16:54
Well, thank you for that. And it again provide some clarity as to the turmoil or inner conflicts as people are deciding whether to go with this project. Just to get to some other context, what have the last few decades looked like in Wet’suwet’en in terms of the economic situation and the day-to-day living of the people of Wet’suwet’en? And and how does this impact the decision to agree or disagree with this infrastructure project, the Coastal GasLink pipeline?
Theresa Tait-Day 17:21
For the last 30 years or so, there’s been absolutely no economic development, except for a gas station here and there. That does not sustain us. We need to have projects that have a life to it. We need to have shares in projects. We need the Impact Benefit Agreements, but those are limited. If you have a good Impact Benefit Agreement, maybe you’re astute enough to invest that in some way where it’ll grow for your nation. Within our nation, we’ve never had anybody come to us and say we want to give you a share of our project. It’s been a fight to get any kind of share on these developments that are going to our nation. That’s the one issue. Then again, I think it’s really incumbent on our people to — Well, it’s interesting, let me go back a little bit. I’m one of the people that helped to form the First Nations Major Projects Coalition. I was on the steering committee back in the day, I think it was 2014. And to date, I’ve been supporting it because we believe that there has to be an economic benefit to resource development within our nation, there has to be an equity stake that we as First Nations have on these developments, number one. Number two, our people said there must be consideration and the forefront of this decision making has to be the effects on the environment. So those two things go hand in hand. If there’s a project coming onto our territory, for example, we want to know — and we did do this with Coastal GasLink, our Hereditaries went on the land, and we saw where the pipeline was going. We saw how it was going to impact the grass and the different trails and everything. And we were actually instrumental in moving the pipeline out of sensitive areas because we were on the ground watching it, doing it, doing that work. And so there was a little bit of benefit there. But we did not meet our standards. So then we were shut down by these guys. So anyway, the bottom line is this; we need to have an equity stake in any project that comes along. We need to set up our administration so that the benefits go to the House members and not to some dark hole where it doesn’t affect anybody. Our people are still living in poverty here. There’s suicide, there’s drug use, and all of that stuff is happening because of the oppression and depression of our people. And that needs to change because it’s been the status quo for 150 years since the inception of the Indian Act, where people have been oppressed. When we were looking into establishing the First Nations Major Projects Coalition, when we all gathered together, it’s unbelievable at the time. How could we own a project? It wasn’t even in our vocabulary. Because we’ve been oppressed as a people. We have been trying to get a loan guarantee from the government so that our people can buy into major projects. And that has been a stumbling block for us. So if there’s any pressure to give to the government, it should come from the Canadians who really should support Indigenous economics and that we cannot continue to live on Impact Benefit Agreements. And we have to have equity stakes in projects. And the only way to get that is to be in the game of buying these projects. On the Pacific Trails pipeline, the Chevron, when they wanted to put the pipelines through here, they’ve done their due diligence, and they got the 20 nations on board. And they said, we’ll give you a share of this, we’ll give you 32% of the sale of this pipeline. And so the coalition, right at the beginning at their first meeting, did a straw man project to have an accountant analyze what this project would look like. So it would look like this. For the 20 Nations along that line, it would have cost us $3 billion to buy into that project. We could not get a loan guarantee to buy that project. We would have made $6 billion. So when you look at those kinds of numbers, it’s obvious that we can take care of our own education, our own health, our own housing, that our people do not have to struggle with poverty. That was our game, and that is the objective of Indigenous people who are like-minded and want to get out of the Indian Action and want to be self-sufficient.
And through the formulation of the FNMPC, we’re starting to open up that dialogue. The Hereditaries are involved in there, the band councils are involved in that development. Now we have 80 Nations working together from across Canada who are of the same mind and are working towards advancing the economic development within our nation. That’s where we need to be. And we’re also setting the environmental standards, with government and locally, doing our land use planning. We all have to do that in order to move ahead. And if you don’t want to talk about it as a Hereditary and you just want to push development away, we’re going to continue to live in poverty and oppression, and our people are going to continue to die as a result of it. Because poverty kills. Poverty kills our people. It kills us because we don’t have proper housing. We don’t have jobs. We become depressed, and we become suicidal. That’s a fact. That’s the reality. I see that from my own experience — the loss of my son.
Flo Schade 22:57
So sorry to hear that, Teresa. I just want to echo, like, that I completely feel you on that. You know, I live up by Francois Lake and my husband’s frog clan, actually. I didn’t know your frog clan — Oh, awesome, right on — wanted to say I completely hear you. And it’s like, it’s such a reality for people here.
Theresa Tait-Day 23:16
We have to be starting to think about the economics from our lands and start to do our due diligence when it comes to project development. Meaning we need to understand the projects, and we need to have a mechanism to understand it. So we created the WMC to have a vehicle, a voice to understand what does this mean? How are we going to use this project? And how is it going to benefit us? And what is the environmental impact? Those are the questions that we ask when we move forward with projects. And we haven’t had that ability to do that.
Emily Steers 23:51
So thank you so much for sharing that with us. That is — That means, means a lot that you would entrust us with this. Along with that, how does your role as as matriarch inform your position on this project?
Theresa Tait-Day 24:04
I really don’t know. I’ve done my best. But there’s so much lateral violence, you can only do so much. Like I said, we’ve been used to living under the Indian Act, under that oppression. But it’s really hard to understand that we have the ability to benefit from projects. We’re so used to others benefiting. Industry using us to benefit, and we get what? Impact Benefit Agreements are very little bit of money. And we’re supposed to be happy with that? No, I’m not happy with that. I want to share of every project that comes down the pipe from now on, and that’s why we formed the coalition so that we can ensure that we have that ability to get those benefits within the community, within the house groups, that every house member of our house — Kwen Beegh Yex — needs a benefit, not just one organization. That is like an arm of the Indian Act, I say because they’re making all the decision, they’re disseminating the money and people on the ground that are living in the communities don’t benefit. And they’re still stuck under the Indian Act. Still no jobs here. So what are you going to do?
Daniel Tarade 25:14
So then what would you like to see then from Canada and in British Columbia regarding nation-to-nation dialogue? Is there anything you would like to see from Canada or BC in the form of restitution for the crimes of colonization and in the so-called residential schools and everything else?
Theresa Tait-Day 25:31
Oh, yes, there definitely has to be recognition from Canada that number one, they have benefited from the use of our land, there should be restitution from the Government of Canada to every First Nation right across the country. There should be some benefit from the Pope and from the government in respect to how Indigenous children were taken and how families were broken. When we look at our territory, we still don’t have anything. Our ancestors, my great-grandmother and grandfather, they said, We want one cent a tree. That was nothing, right, in those days. We didn’t even get one cent a tree. So now it’s a lot more than one cent a tree. Let us govern ourselves on our lands. Let us be inclusive of the band councils because they are a governing body, and they do manage the band reserves. And that’s okay, that is their responsibility. But I want Government of Canada to recognize the Hereditary System and its jurisdiction and responsibility to our members. That’s what government needs to do. CN Rail is another one that’s gone through our lands. Not a peep from them! They should be paying for the right to go through our lands, and they should be paying our people. Another one is BC Hydro, they just cut to everything. They didn’t even consult us or anything. There was no benefit, no payment from BC Hydro to do that. The mining, they’re good at just giving Impact Benefit Agreements. That’s it. That doesn’t help us. A few jobs, yeah. But it doesn’t give us authority, and it doesn’t recognize our authority in our jurisdiction. And it’s kind of a slap in the face. Because you know, oh, we’ll give you a little bit of money. It might be millions of dollars, but it’s still a little bit compared to the billions that are been taken out of resources. So you know, the inequity is there. It’s not recognizing our rights and responsibilities as Hereditaries. And it continues to oppress us because you want to continue spoon feeding us like you have under the Indian Act, giving us crumbs off the table, saying this is all your worth, this is all you get. Well, that’s not good enough. You know, this is our land, and we have never been paid. We have never been killed off. The only way you can take our land is kill us or agree on how you’re going to move forward on our lands. Those two things have not happened. We still own our land, and we still have jurisdiction over our land. That’s why you see there’s conflict because there’s this whole historical imbalance, the oppression under the Indian Act, many are still oppressed under the Indian Act. I don’t know that they have equity stake in projects that don’t know that’s a possibility. There’s a lot of education to do inside and outside within the government and, you know, within our communities.
Flo Schade 28:29
A lot of people are under the impression that if the Canadian government is meant to responsibly recognize and engage with the Hereditary System, then by engaging with the blockaders, the pipeline blockaders, that’s what they’re doing. So basically acquiescing to the demands of the pipeline blockaders would be acknowledging the Hereditary System. Is that how you see it?
Theresa Tait-Day 28:52
I don’t think government understands. That’s the problem we have is that we have government officials that have no clue. This is really disgusting. These MLAs and these MPs that go and represent us, they don’t even know us. They didn’t even know our system. They pretend to but they don’t. And if you had Indigenous people, as leaders within the government, it might be a different story. I might also say this. I’ll give you a model. For example, back when we were doing the Delgamuukw decision Gisday’wa, years and years ago, I can’t remember, it was the ’80s, the Indigenous people got together and they said this is how we have to move forward. We have to have governance this way. We have the provincial government and the federal government in a circle. And then we have industry and then we have Indigenous. That’s the government system that we want so that we have our own Indigenous people in parliament, in the Provincial Parliament, in the Federal Parliament, so that we are sitting there with industry, and government, provincial and federal, and we are collectively making decisions together on resource development and on the future of our people. That is the model that we wish to have. But we in the northwest and elders back in 1980s, put this together as a way to dealing with it. This is not a conversation that anybody is having. Right now we’re down to having to deal with parliamentarians have no idea who we are and are making decisions for us. This is a very racist kind of way to make decisions. We’re still under the Indian Act, in effect, because of the system of decision-making in resource development. You understand what I’m saying?
Flo Schade 30:54
I do, I think. I mean, to me, it makes me think of, like you said, that the House Chiefs, you know, they’re authoritative over their territory. My understanding is that there wasn’t consensus among all of the House Chiefs ever in terms of whether to reject the project wholesale or not. And I’m thinking of Herb Naziel, in particular, who was neutral.
Theresa Tait-Day 31:15
Yeah. Okay. There’s two things there. I just wanted to clarify, when I say governance system within Canada, and outlining this model of provincial, federal and Indigenous from across Canada and industry need to make decisions about Canada together. That’s how we saw it. Now this is a bigger political question. When we boil it down to our Nation, right, we’re dealing with right now is the lack of government understanding who we are. And then when we come down to what’s happening at the blockades, not everybody is on board. Because our governance, our feasting, and our ways of living is that the authority of the House Group is paramount within the Delgamuukw decision. So a House Chief wants to do something on their land, they are entitled to do that. But then we have to come back into the fold and see how does this affect us as a Nation. In regards to the protesting, I wanted to say this is a much bigger picture than people know. Through the work of Vivian Krause. She’s an educator anyway, she has followed the money and looked at how the protests began and what the issues were and has discovered that the Rockefeller Foundation in the United States have had the monopoly on oil and gas since the beginning. And Canada being new at this wants to export LNG (Liquified Natural Gas), natural gas. They’ve blocked Canada from doing that by paying protesters to protest against oil and gas in Canada. And they’ve done this through various organization, I think Moore Foundation and the Tides Foundation, I’d have to check on these through my notes. So in our local area, what is transpired is over the last three or four years, these foundations have filtered money to individuals in the United States who have come to our area and started with the Unist’ot’en camp and then filtered down to the other two clans who are now protesting. The money that’s been filtered down, these protesters have been paid to protest because nobody stands in line 30 below weather and not expect some kind of payment for this. The other thing that I’ve noticed that our nation has not engaged as a nation, we have not talked to our people about this project. And three or four chiefs have made the decision to protest the pipeline. And I think that it’s really the government is that fault, again, for not having us as a Wet’suwet’en Matrilineal Coalition who were set up to engage with the people and to provide information so that people are informed beforehand. I mean, this is the days of UNDRIP, we were trying to implement that so that people know what the project is about. This was stopped by five guys who really did not do their due diligence in regards to this project. So right now, what we have is a situation of some protesters that are coming from out of country maybe and certainly are out of province. Molly Wickham, who has been the lead in the Gidimt’en protest really does not have the sanction of our nation to continue what she’s doing. I feel like it is they’ve garnered about $2 million over the last two years in GoFundMe. So I think that’s part of the agenda. And really, it has left our people poor, because we’re not benefiting as an agreement with any kind of industry coming in here when we have protesters and nobody wants to do business in that fashion. So right now, there’s a roque, kind of a rogue person who is out there saying this and that about our nation, which is unfounded and untrue, a lot of it. I don’t know what your question was around Herb. Herb was part of the coalition. He too has been kind of pushed aside by the rest of the group because they don’t want anybody else to make decisions for them, you know?
Emily Steers 32:18
Oh, thank you. And along with that, along with, like, what’s going on with the blockade? What is the feeling regarding the RCMP presence in Wet’suwet’en territory and you know, the arrests of members of the group blockading as well as journalists and legal observers?
Theresa Tait-Day 35:42
Firstly, the blockaders there’s probably two Wet’suwet’en or three Wet’suwet’en people up there. Many are outsiders and who have a different agenda and are using our people to fulfill their agenda. And so that’s an issue that we recognize is there. And I think the law, you know, we all have to live in Canada with the existing laws, criminal laws, and the family laws and all of that, that’s there, we have to live with that. And I think we have to make sure that we do, you know, until such time as the Wet’suwet’en nation have fully formed the governance system where there are economic benefits to house group members and a way is reached where we could make decisions together, you’re always gonna have this situation of having blockaders with their own agendas and arrest of people, well, what can you do? I don’t know, something I’m very conflicted about.
Flo Schade 36:43
When you’re mentioning a mechanism, I’d say probably the most official-ish one at this point seems to be the Office of the Wet’suwet’en as like a representative sort of body. What are your thoughts on on that organization and how they have represented the Hereditary System?
Theresa Tait-Day 37:00
Well, I sat at the Chief’s table when they got out of the treaty process. They were formed in 1994. Hereditaries were put on the table. And they operated without any thought of how are we going to govern ourselves. We were the decision makers, but there was no mechanism within the organization to ensure that our House Group members had a voice and that their voices were heard when decisions are made. That’s a failure on the Office of Wet’suwet’en and what the WMC wanted to do is rise that up and say, we need a mechanism where house groups are informed about projects. And that not only informed, benefit from these projects. It’s a failure on Office of Wet’suwet’en part right now to not implement that. And as a Chief that was sitting at the table, as Wi’hali’yte, I have said many times, we need to have an administration where each House Group, when there’s something going on there territory where there’s a benefit, that benefit has to go into each House Group’s bank account, basically. So that mechanism hasn’t been set up. Unfortunately, the recognition of the Hereditaries under the Office of Wet’suwet’en has gone to the heads of some people, and that’s where it stays.
Daniel Tarade 37:01
So while there isn’t a mechanism in place yet, and you’ve stressed the need for a system in place to be able to resolve the differences. You have some people that want the project and don’t. So how do people outside of Wet’suwet’en, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, how do we best support the process of Wet’suwet’en self-determination? What kind of demands might we be able to put forward that could be independent of the project itself, but ways of addressing that lack of ability to come to a decision?
Theresa Tait-Day 38:56
Well, for one thing, Canada needs to redress their past wrongs by taking our lands and resources and not paying for them. That has to happen. So does industry CN Rail, BC Hydro, Hydros across Canada, that needs to happen. And internally, we need to have the resources to have that conversation. That’s what we need. When we have a conversation about how do we govern ourselves, and I don’t want to go back 150 years and have a system where we have to go feast for every decision. No, we don’t need to do that. We need to modernize our decision making that is inclusive of the Hereditaries and the bands, then we can move ahead collectively, but we don’t have that. It’s a failure on the Office of Wet’suwet’en’s part to not implement that and not to see that, you know, it’s not working right now. That’s where we’re at.
Emily Steers 39:50
There’s a lot of attention on this issue from all over the place, both within the Canadian borders and abroad. What is one thing or a couple of things that non-Indigenous people who care about this issue, what are the things that we can articulate, that we can advance? What’s a demand that we should be advocating for? You know, if not solidarity with the blockaders, shut down Canada, what are the demands that we can call for?
Theresa Tait-Day 40:18
Yeah, the demands you can call for is for the Government of Canada to pay for past wrongs, to pay their debt to Indigenous people. Let us figure out how we’re going to manage our governance system locally and give us the tools to do that. Non-Indigenous people in Canada, for them to recognize that there are two systems in play. There’s Hereditary Systems and there are band council systems and recognize that those two entities need to find a way to work together and to be inclusive. I think writing your MLAs and writing the government to redress, look at the past issues of the residential school, going forward with taking our lands. Like there’s communities here that in the past have burned our people out in order to establish themselves. That hasn’t been redressed. You know, it’s incumbent on the government to recognize who we are, and to start to look at the Supreme Court decisions and implementing those decisions instead of us having to fight for every inch that we get. I don’t know what else people can do, except to recognize where they are, where they’re standing, as non-Indigenous people. This is our land, and this is unceded. We have not been killed, and it has not been bought off, we have not been bought off, and our lands have been taken, and resources have been taken, and our bank is empty, and our communities are committing suicide. And they’re going into drug and alcohol addiction because of the oppression and depression they feel. Because we’re still under the Indian Act. Until we get out of the Indian Act business, until we can stand up on our own two feet with our own resources and to have a governance where we can make decisions about how this is gonna affect us and how are we going to move forward, until we’re able to have a mechanism where we can have that dialogue, not just come to the table and expect us to make decisions immediately about these projects. Government has to provide the resource, industry has to provide the resources so that we can have those dialogues but more importantly, a recognition of how are we going to govern ourselves, and what mechanism are we going to use?
Daniel Tarade 42:37
We reached the end of our questions. You said you had 30 minutes, so I really appreciate that you stayed with us for the hour.
Theresa Tait-Day 42:43
I appreciate having the conversation with you. There are very few non-Indigenous people that get it, that are on our side. And I think it’s really incumbent on people to get to know your local Indigenous people, get to know the history, get to know how we’ve been affected by the Indian Act, get to know how the residential school has affected us intergenerationally. It’s not gone away because we’re still impacted by that today. We don’t have parenting. We’ve been raised in a school, and how do we know how to parent? Those kinds of things. Recognize that the effects of colonization on Indigenous people. As non-Indigenous people, recognize that and educate yourself on your local Indigenous people. Make friends. I was involved in establishing the bridging committee in Smithers. I grew up in a time when my great-grandmother was sitting there waiting for somebody and there’s potholes all over the street and they used horse and cart and she was saying to me in our language, I got arrested, and they were asking me my name and I kept telling them my name in Indigenous. They didn’t understand me. Yeah, so this was the beginning and then the community grew up that way. You have a racist attitude towards Indigenous people in Smithers. And when I moved home in 1994, I established the bridging committee who was a committee made in Smithers and to address racism, to open up the dialogue with the town council, with the municipality. So I did that. And as a result of that, jobs begin to open up in Smithers for Indigenous people, began to have an understanding about each other. So those kinds of initiatives are important. You know, if we start to understand who we are and where we’re going, how we’re going to get there together. So it’s not us in the boat alone, you are in the same boat because we have to live together and we have to benefit together. You know, whatever we do, you’re gonna benefit because we don’t have a store in Morice Town or Witset. You know, all our money goes into the municipalities, so they have an obligation to.
Emily Steers 44:46
Thank you so much for that. I also want to thank Flo for putting you in touch with us and for both of you for taking the time out of your day to have this conversation. I think it’s really really important for those of us, like Daniel and myself, we’re in Ontario. It’s very, very important for those of us who aren’t anywhere near the area, but who want to show support and solidarity, to understand the complexity of the issue and to understand the nuance of the situation. So thank you for taking the time to explain it. I think a lot of people are really going to benefit from hearing this conversation.
Theresa Tait-Day 45:20
Okay, that’s good. I’m glad. You know, my effort is to ensure that our people as Wet’suwet’en, we move out of poverty, and we start managing our own resources. That’s my dream. That’s why we formed the WMC to at least start the dialogue. Thank you.
Daniel Tarade 45:50
Well, hello, comrades, that was our interview with Theresa. We’re very grateful that she took the time to speak with us about her perspective on what’s happening in her nation of Wet’suwet’en. Just to bring that perspective out into the rest of the Canadian state, and by the rest of the Canadian state, I don’t mean to suggest Wet’suwet’en is a part of the Canadian states, but it is entirely surrounded by it. So what ought we do as socialists outside of the state? We’ve heard from Theresa some of the demands that we ought to forward. We’re just going to maybe provide a bit more of a discussion on that. So who wants to go first? Flo, Emily?
Emily Steers 46:26
I’ll give my two cents. First of all, I just want to appreciate again, I know I said during the interview, but I want to appreciate again, her taking the time to come talk to us. I genuinely feel so honored that she was willing to take the time and to like, share so much of her herself and her work, which was really, really wonderful, and provided such valuable perspective that is not readily available anywhere else, especially to those of us who are not connected to a lot of Indigenous knowledge systems, who are not anywhere near Wet’suwet’en. So for all of us settler allies, this is such an important perspective to have. What really struck me, and I know Daniel, you and I were talking about this, was how inline those demands were with what we talk about in Socialist Action and in a lot of socialist groups. You know, no reconciliation without restitution, self-determination for oppressed nations above all else. I felt like we as socialists can really listen to and learn from these contexts and these initiatives and these programs, and line up our activism and our demands with this so that we can truly be collaborators and co-conspirators.
Daniel Tarade 47:39
Flo, initial thoughts? And also because people on this podcast have never really been introduced to you, do you want to just introduce yourself?
Flo Schade 47:45
Yeah, I’m a member of Socialist Action. I reached out to Theresa for being on the podcast because I am a community member up here in Wet’suwet’en territory. I live around Francois Lake, just outside of Burns Lake, BC, and I married into the Nation. My husband’s a Frog Clan member. Yeah, you know, I have been digesting that interview. I was surprised, I guess by you know, how much of her thoughts and positions did sort of line up with what we as socialists do call, you know, restitution and no reconciliation without restitution and how boldly she put those forward. And I was happy to hear, even though it was slightly unexpected, even from my perspective, because she is also so vocally pro-resource development, which she also made clear. And I knew that this tension and that this perspective is common, and that it is complicated. And you know, I have been one of the people trying to advocate that the reality on the ground is a little bit more complex than the narrative and the media would lead people to believe, especially if they’re not, you know, here, embedded within the community. So reflecting on it, what I’ve been thinking about really is like, even myself, as close as I am to the community, I also need to step back and really try to hold space because I don’t know the intricacies and, you know, a lot of people don’t. And it’s important for us to listen to the different perspectives, you know, all of them. I see on the ground, certain reactions to the media narrative as one point of opposition. And I know, there’s a lot of visceral sort of emotional reaction to that construction, because I do get triggered and angry when I see this characterization of these people who I respect and who I know are deeply cultural as just shills and kind of like they don’t know their own minds or like that their positions are based on misguided beliefs of their own culture. And so that is hard for me to swallow. But it doesn’t mean that you know, I can or that I should also be trying to advocate or speak on behalf or something like this. So that’s kind of the overall feeling I’ve left with is really it is so important to hold that space and to be patient, to not try to get swept up in everything that’s going on in the media. And that is the way to my understanding, like what her great grandmother was saying before she passed, is that don’t engage in that similar manner. And so like, how can we go about holding the space, respecting the voices, without getting swept up in all of the hostility? It’s definitely given me something to think about in that regard, and kind of just re-imprinted it on my mind that the necessity of holding that space for them as allies.
Daniel Tarade 50:33
Yeah, absolutely. One of the things that struck me a lot then was that Teresa’s perspective was pro pipeline, but it didn’t come from the pro-band council perspective, either, which is often what you hear. You know, it’s this Indian Act imposed governance structure that is the front for the oil companies, it was the back door to get into the resources. But Teresa was actually like, very against the Indian Act, not in favor of the band Council unilaterally getting to decide, again, was a Hereditary Chief and was making very clearly the point that it’s the Hereditary Chiefs who should decide, and it seems as someone that was pro-development, in this case, she was trying along with other people in the Matrilineal Coalition to basically convince the other Hereditary Chiefs to come on board, which is dialogue, in my perspective. It’s going to be impossible, I think, for us to resolve exactly how all that played out, you know, getting stripped of the title and having new people appointed. That’s not for us, I think to say, but it’s very clear that it’s way more complicated than Hereditary Chiefs are against it and band councils for and that’s the fundamental opposition. Amongst the Hereditary Chiefs, for various reasons, you see people that are supportive or opposed to the project and that’s space that we need to allow for them.
Emily Steers 51:50
Yeah. And I think that’s one of the advantages, like, we are dialectical materialists. That is our basis of operation, that’s a fundamental part of being a Marxist, being a socialist is having room for these conversations, hearing all of the arguments, hearing it all out, and letting these conversations unfold and coming to consensus, rather than one body making unilateral decisions and, you know, 51% majority rule. And I think part of the reason that we’ve seen this massive reduction of like band council pro-pipeline, Hereditary Chiefs anti-pipeline and that conflict is because well, A, as she pointed out, most of us have, by most of us, I mean, settler Canadians, we don’t have any understanding, any knowledge of traditional governance structures, and how those differ from band councils and elected council positions under the Indian Act. We have no idea how the Indian Act disrupted systems of governance. You start to learn a little bit about that, and then you’re like, oh, band council was created by the government, therefore, they’re going to have pro-government positions, and the Hereditary Chiefs are gonna have the opposite. And it’s so reductionist, and it’s just such a stalling point, where it’s like, you’ve learned the absolute bare minimum, and you think you have the understanding, which is just like such a white knight position to take. The other thing that I I was really struck by that, like I hadn’t heard a lot about was, she said, You know, before shit went down and before she was stripped of her title, and all of these other things happened, they were negotiating with CGL and trying to minimize the environmental impact and trying to maximize the potential community benefits, like they were working really, really hard on ensuring that their community would actually benefit and not be negatively affected long-term, that the jobs wouldn’t just be temporary, that the inflow of work and the inflow of resources would not just be temporary for the duration of the construction but would serve to benefit the community long-term. And then that entire conversation just gets obliterated by the people who are just like, absolutely no pipeline. I’m not saying who is right or who is wrong here. That is absolutely not for me to say, but I understand like, yeah, I get why that would cause some tension and cause a lot of frustration for people. And I particularly noted when she was talking about the First Nations Major Projects Coalition, I was so impressed by what they were saying about that. I’m really, really excited to learn more about what they’re doing. Because like, yeah, environmental sustainability is a major concern. And given that seat at the table, they are going to raise that point over and over again, they’re not going to let it slip under the rug, which just further re-emphasizes the importance of having Indigenous presence and Indigenous leadership, of band council and Hereditary leadership, in all of these decisions. It cannot be a unilateral industry decision or government decision. Every party who stands to lose or benefit needs to be involved. And that has been something that the colonial government has never ever been able to hold space for.
Flo Schade 54:57
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s a good lead into, you know, if it’s not our place, which it’s not to really decide or judge on the governance structure and you know who’s legitimate, then what spaces can and should we, as Marxist socialists, work within and inhabit. To me, it’s in providing the conditions for freedom and for self-governance. Part of that is holding space. And part of that, too, as I see it is providing a viable option that’s not going to require self-sacrifice on the part of any of the Wet’suwet’en and workers, you know, because there are many Wet’suwet’en workers in the oil and gas field. And, you know, I think it’s important to recognize that, like, Teresa was saying, poverty kills, and it’s very true up here. We’ve all seen it, we’ve all experienced it. I think we can think about how we can provide the infrastructure and change the dynamics so that communities are able to fully discuss the full range of options. And this is what they’re going ahead with the First Nations Major Projects Coalition as well with their green energy initiatives. What I find, you know, impressive with their projects is exactly that they demand a stake, a seat at the table, they demand ownership, they want to own part of the means of production. And, you know, that’s a good thing, I think, for people to pursue. And while we can’t try to insert ourselves within the governance question, we can support any sort of policies that would support initiatives of ownership and decision making, right? And this is essentially what it comes down to. Yeah, and a question of democratic processes, you know, within the government in the midst of the hereditary system, that seems like it is problematized. But that’s, again, where we just need to hold space. But where I think we can be active is in asserting and fighting for those policies that will realize real options for people and give them real options so that they can exercise agency freely.
Daniel Tarade 56:56
Absolutely. And I think that’s one of the big principles. And how do we codify that, as socialists, in a set of demands is something we can talk more about. But there’s a few things that y’all brought up that I want to tease out a bit more, because I was actually going into this interview really stressed because you saw a lot of the social media discourse around the Wet’suwet’en Matrilineal Coalition. Again, we use the phrase, you know, people accusing them of being shills. And there’s probably some of that stuff that we can address here. We didn’t address it in the interview, because it’s already out there. We don’t need her to rehash that perspective. But two years after the WMC, the Wet’suwet’en Matrilineal Coalition, was founded, they receive 60,000 Canadian dollars from the Province of BC and $60,000 from CGL. But that’s something she made very clear in the interview. They needed resources to be able to hold those community consultations. And if you look at the documents obtained from those freedom of information requests, the money went to holding those consultations, for travel, for people to be able to gather in a space to talk about what the benefits of the project and what the potential costs of the project might be. So that’s not incompatible with what she said, that’s exactly what she called on the government to provide. If you want to be able to consult our people, you can’t just say consult your people, you have to make that possible. And like you said, Flo, you need to provide the material conditions so that people can have those internal conversations. And it’s not on us for how the governance and the structure of that’s going to take place. The Wet’suwet’en people can figure it out. But like we know, you can’t freely choose things if you don’t have the conditions present to be able to choose certain things. And like you mentioned with that coalition for the First Nations themselves developing those resource projects, the first project they did was a hydroelectric dam. It’s not like they’re explicitly looking to develop fossil fuels. They’re looking to develop jobs and infrastructure and things that will provide sustainability. Teresa herself, along with other people from Wet’suwet’en, previously opposed the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines, because it was carrying the dirty tar sands oil. The decision was possibly different. And the last point I want to make on this is that even the Hereditary Chiefs themselves proposed an alternate route in the past for the CGL pipeline. And we talked about this on the last episode of podcast, but the Hereditary Chiefs themselves said, We don’t want this route because it’s going to disrupt the Wedzin Kwa, the river, it’s going to disrupt certain very important cultural areas. But if you divert the pipeline, so that it follows a highway that already disrupted the area, we will approve it. CGL said no, because it would cost them $800 million more dollars, which is dumb, because they were happy that they got the band council approval. That’s all they needed in their mind. And so that’s where the failure of nation-to-nation dialogue, that’s where that broke down. And that’s what I see as a unanimous thing amongst basically all the Hereditary Chiefs I’m seeing, including Teresa, they want nation-to-nation dialogue. They want an actual opportunity to discuss this, whether you’re pro or against the pipeline, and that’s where a lot the opposition seems to be. That the Hereditary Chiefs themselves were sidelined in the decision-making process. Then Teresa is a person that is a Hereditary Chief, but pro pipeline, all of a sudden you find this very prickly situation that I have not seen really reflected in discourse.
Emily Steers 1:00:01
If I can jump in as well, the term oil shill has been really rubbing me the wrong way, especially for non-Indigenous people to be saying stuff like that. We are not there. We do not know what the situation is on the ground. We do not know why these people are making these decisions. The audacity of a white settler to say you’re being a shill for oil to Indigenous matriarchs, who are trying to hold space for their community and make decisions that will benefit their communities, and doing so quite transparently, seems a little bit rich. I know that I’ve seen this a lot on the left; we have a lot of different words for people who disagree with us. And I think we need to be really, really careful with the terms we throw around. Calling someone a shill for an oil and gas company. That’s a really major accusation. That’s really, really important. And that’s not something that should be bandied about by people who don’t know the situation.
Daniel Tarade 1:01:01
Okay, can I really quickly read out that quote from Thomas King’s “An Inconvenient Indian.” It’s talking about how a lot of reserves, in US in particular, in this case, they had an opportunity. They started making money by basically converting part of their land to a landfill. But then and I’m just going to quote directly here, “The garbage issue was as might be expected, controversial and the debate split many of the tribes. What was mildly amusing was watching environmentalists and concerned non-Natives lecture Indians on traditional beliefs and ethical standards. While Native people have for a long time now been adversely affected by white development near reservations and reserves — the mercury poisonings at Grassy Narrows in northern Ontario, the General Motors landfill near Akwesasne, the draining of the Pyramid Lake in Nevada, the Kinzua dam in Pennsylvania — the level of concern seems far greater, the reaction more intense when white communities are faced with the consequences of Native development.” The author Thomas King is pointing out that hypocrisy, you know, trying to frame this as a solely environmental issue when primarily we’re seeing it as an issue of Indigenous self-determination.
Emily Steers 1:02:12
Well, and I made a note about how essential it is that we be careful to avoid class reductionism. We don’t want to just reduce this to an issue of workers and the means of production, but we also don’t want to just reduce this to an issue of carbon emissions and environmental impact, nor do we want to just reduce this to an issue of Indigenous sovereignty. It is all of these things at the same time. And unfortunately, the internet is not a great space for that kind of conversation, particularly Twitter. And also national news media doesn’t make a great space for these conversations to happen. because there’s always a bent, there’s always a story that they are trying to tell. And there’s no resolution in this story right now. There’s no headline that encompasses this complexity, there is no article long enough to capture this. And we’ve done our best to capture one little slice of this issue with one of the Matriarchs in Wet’suwet’en territory. There’s no way to have this conversation without a lot of work. I remember, there’s an Anishnaabe writer, Leanne Simpson, who is really quite brilliant, but talks a lot about a lot of movements that kind of spring up from social media and from online discourse. And she says there’s a reason that a lot of these inevitably fail. And it’s because we haven’t walked together, we haven’t done the work. I’m not quoting directly, but it’s from her book, “As We Have Always Done,” and we need to walk together, we need to know one another first. We need to have the community bonds and the community knowledge to be able to hold space for these complexities. And then we will not be swayed by meager promises, we will not be broken so easily because we will have the bonds, we will know each other. This really, really emphasizes just the importance of intersectionality and of dialectics and again, of holding space for nuance and not jumping to any conclusions or decisions without meaningful consultation and without meaningful reflection, and having, this is one of the things that was really driven home to me today, having a theoretical base with which to engage with these issues, like having a body of work and a body of knowledge that you can come back to that informs your decision making rather than just operating on what feels right in the moment.
Flo Schade 1:04:32
Like how you put all of that and this discussion as well with the issue of the Hereditary Chiefs providing an alternate route that was you know, I guess dismissed out of hand. They just decided that was a little bit too much consultation, you know, got a little too real. I think that’s exactly the stuff that we again, even as socialists and non-Wet’suwet’en, non Indigenous in the community, these are still things that we can kind of analyze because why did that happen? You know what power structures exist around that negotiation that allowed the real demand to be sideswiped so easily, you know, and again, to go back to our theoretical framework, I think it’s the bourgeois state and the fact that they are basically owned by big corporations like CGL. And it’s absolutely the case that consultation is just a checkmark on a list. The government uses all sorts of underhanded dirty tactics to like confuse people. You know, one of the things that they do a lot as well as endless referrals about asinine things that make no difference in the grand scheme of things, but anything real anything, where Indigenous nations might have a seat at the decision-making table, those things are always somehow dead in the water. And these are the sort of structural elements, I think, that we can also take a look at strengthening in order to provide that space structurally and institutionally for the Nations to self-govern, and critically, to provide some kind of healing or harmony with the band and the Hereditary System, because the hostility and tension there also, in some cases, you know, it’s not sustainable either. If you just pulled the plug on the band system one day, it’s kind of the same thing with the pipeline, if you just pull the plug, then what? You can’t just do that without first having built up the infrastructure on the ground, so that there’s something to receive it. And you know, that’s what Theresa was talking about, as well, there’s not the right mechanism for real meaningful nation-to-nation consultation and negotiation to happen, and that’s going to have to develop not necessarily in contest with the band, they’re going to have to find some transition way. And again, that’s going to be up to the Nations to sort of decide how they want that to happen, but what we can do is try to support policies and social issues, things that we want to see to make sure that they have that space and those options.
Daniel Tarade 1:06:50
Absolutely, Flo. So the nation-to-nation dialogue between Canada as a state, and Wet’suwet’en is so hampered because the Canadian side of the equation is being carried out by the bourgeoisie. You have the corporations that don’t engage in meaningful consultation, the Indigenous people don’t have a real stake in the projects that go through their land. I thought that was something that was just really illuminating when Teresa was bringing up all the previous projects that went through Wet’suwet’en land with no stake in it, with no consultation, with no restitution or compensation for it. And so there’s a whole history that needs to be undone. It’s more than this one pipeline, but I can see how this has come to emblemize, maybe, the struggle, but we do need to put into some more of a broader theoretical context. So again, Marxist in the Canadian state, self-determination is just a primary principle. And even if you go back all the way to the Bolshevik Revolution, in 1917, they signed a document — the Declaration of Rights of the peoples of Russia. Peoples — plural. And this included equality and sovereignty of people of Russia, right of people of Russia of a free self-determination, including cessation and formation of a separate state. And that wasn’t actually just an abstract concept. Very shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution in October, a number of states left Russia, including Finland and Lithuania and Ukraine. They exercised immediately that right, and they did it even as non-socialist states. Actually, a number of them were hostile to the Bolsheviks. They aided in the counter-revolution, or like the White Army that attack the Bolsheviks. Yet they upheld it still as a fundamental principle. Why? Well, at the time, they were still operating under the idea of international socialism, like we need a world revolution. And they really thought in the early days that a world revolution was on the order of the day. Russia first and then Germany will go and it’ll just go through the whole world, and then you would have a united working class. And so they needed to win over the oppressed nations. They thought how, as a working class, if we emancipated ourselves in Imperial Russia with a tsar, but we maintain our boots on the necks of oppressed nations, why would they ever trust us? And that’s true. And it’s the same thing in Canada, why would any Indigenous person trust a settler Marxist? Who says, no, no, no, we’re going to make the decisions regarding this based on environment, based on whatever. No, first and foremost, and that at least gives me again, a theoretical basis for having a conversation with Theresa. I don’t think we’ve ever had a guest on the podcast who’s a member — I don’t know, she’s a member of the Conservative Party, but you can find articles where she was running to be one of the Conservative nominees in one of the previous elections. Like she’s not a socialist. Before the interview, she asked us, Tell me more about your party, you know, like, I don’t necessarily want to talk to radicals. But we told her, well, first and foremost, we’re for Indigenous self-determination, and that bridged the gap there. And maybe this is a small microcosm of what needs to be done to build unity because Indigenous struggles aren’t merely worker struggles. There’s more there. They are people that have been almost exterminated. If you’re going to build any sort of trust, any sort of unity in the future, you need to start today by deferring to their governance and leadership and knowledge in this struggle for independence, first and foremost.
Emily Steers 1:10:04
Yeah. And I think that was one of the big takeaways. And I really appreciated her kind of summarizing that at the end of like, what are the takeaways for non-Indigenous, non-Wet’suwet’en allies is get out of the way, don’t interfere, and don’t pretend that we know more than we do, but also address the root causes. Talk to the people around you about the Indian Act, make steps to redress the impact of the Indian Act. Learn about local governance systems in your area. For me, I live on Haudenosaunne land and I need to go learn more about Haudenosaunee protocol, Haudenosaunee governance because I’m right near 1492 Land Back Lane, which has been a huge blockade project recently.
Flo Schade 1:10:04
Yeah, one of the things or the takeaways that I’m coming away with is like kind of off what you’re saying, Emily, the struggle of poverty here has built I guess, a sort of consciousness, a class consciousness, even though it’s not used in that terminology, but the desire, I think, to have material security is one that’s not foreign to, you know, Marxists and socialists. To get back to what you were saying, Daniel, that freedom is also an essential component. And, you know, I know this gets lost a lot in lots of dialogues. But to me, that is also the point of communism, it’s so that people can be liberated. People who are oppressed will never trust you if you start going about not giving them the space to have their own autonomy, or not giving them the opportunity to be convinced by your ideas, and kind of inherently come to join the struggle. Self-determination is absolutely first and foremost. I just don’t see that struggle as completely separate from liberation entirely. And I think it does parallel and blends in with the socialist struggle for liberation, you know, for freedom, for agency, for self-governance for the masses of people and not just you know, a small minority. It is through holding space and recognizing nuance and complexity that I think we can begin to make those bridges and begin to actually build consciousness on a mass scale. We’re not going to do it by succumbing to the reductive online thinking. That is very tempting. Sometimes it’s easy and convenient, but it is important for us. And I appreciate you guys so much for giving this a chance.
Emily Steers 1:12:31
Yeah, the revolution will not be won with hot takes,
Daniel Tarade 1:12:35
Really quickly, maybe just some of the last demands that we can put forward. So I think we discussed this, Teresa herself said on the issue of the RCMP, she was conflicted. I think as people from outside, the RCMP as a representation of the bourgeoisie, they’re basically a military within Canada — RCMP off the land. The brutalization doesn’t further anything. Again, space for the people there to talk. And if the RCMP aren’t arresting the anti-pipeline people, then there can be an opportunity for those people to speak. So I think that’s a solid demand — RCMP off of Indigenous land. Straightforward on that one, and a moratorium then on the pipeline project. And I’ve seen this, again, from a lot of the Hereditary Chiefs. Until they can achieve that consensus, until they can have the meaningful dialogue with the people within the territory, at the moment then, it’s, again, it’s just a state forcing through a project that not all the people there are consenting to. So I think those are reasonable demands to put forward. But then it’s also on the order of the day — I just checked out our Instagram account recently, and they posted one of our flyers to the Socialist Action Instagram account, and it had two key demands at the top; Indigenous land back was one and then the second one was expropriation of major oil and gas and retail and major infrastructure that currently is being dominated by like a dozen people. And those might seem like separate issues, but it’s not exactly because it’s those corporations that are basically undermining the self-determination of Indigenous people. Imagine if democratically, Canadian workers owned these infrastructure companies. We could engage, I believe, way more reasonably in nation-to-nation dialogue. When you think about the $800 million more that it would cost for the preferred pipeline routes that would have satisfied the Hereditary Chiefs and the Office of Wet’suwet’en — $800 million. We talked about in the last podcast, the BC provincial government gives more than a billion a year to oil and gas companies. If we just nationalize, expropriated those industries, we can just give $800 million to the Indigenous community. Imagine what that influx would mean in terms of them no longer having to choose between poverty and a pipeline that might be environmentally destructive. Instead of this being now a campaign to stop the pipeline, it’s a campaign let them decide whether they want a pipeline or not, the Wet’suwet’en. And then for us, the campaign is expropriate and nationalized industries. Bring it under workers control
Flo Schade 1:14:54
That would provide the freedom, not being so constrained by the profit motive. A lot more reasonable options would be on the table in terms of ownership, decision making real divestment, restitution, but also critically in a way that engages with the realities of people on the ground and doesn’t leave anybody hanging because that’s the other thing too. You know, the capitalists, they’re happy to just let oil and gas workers up here, twist in the wind, you know, but a People’s Government or Crown Corporation, I guess, run by people democratically with different values in mind and different priorities rather than just maximizing profits, but actually delivering on material realities, as well as the agency that comes along with that, that is a way, absolutely, that we can I think structurally work around to provide the conditions that is going to lead to self-determination and self-government.
Emily Steers 1:15:47
Yeah. And I also want to say, thank you so much Flo, for putting us in touch with Theresa and for inviting her into this space and allowing this conversation to happen. I’m really, really hopeful that there’s going to be some really good takeaways for a lot of different folks from this interview, and from this discussion, and I’m very, very grateful to have you as a comrade and as a friend and as a collaborator in this work.
Flo Schade 1:16:13
Oh, thank you so much, Emily.
Daniel Tarade 1:16:15
Flo, come back onto the podcast anytime.
Hey comrades, thanks for sticking it out to the end. I hope you enjoyed and learned from that interview with Theresa. And just lastly, a few announcements as we finish up our first season here at The Red Review. It’s been a real pleasure to get to speak to so many wonderful guests and to see the number of people listening to the podcast steadily growing. We will be back in 2022. As always, you can reach us at redreview[at]protonmail.com. You can send suggestions for topics to cover or guests to interview or if you just want to say hi. Until we see you in 2022, stay safe and stay active. Take care comrades.