An Indigenous group holding a cultural gathering at a provincial park north of Kamloops, B.C., has now indicated it is occupying the park indefinitely, in protest of the Trans Mountain Pipeline project.
The Secwepemc Land Defenders arrived there on Friday for a three day traditional tattoo event but have no plans to leave the site at this point.
“It’s no longer a park. It’s where we live. It’s Secwepemc land,” said Kanahus Manuel, organizer of the event and a “Tiny House Warrior.”
The Tiny House Warriors are a group of Secwepemc Nation members who launched their movement in September 2017 with the goal of asserting title over their unceded territory.
They have now brought in three tiny houses which were built over the past 10 months and Manuel said their plan is to place these and others into the pipeline’s construction path.
“We want to address some of the issues that are happening here by reclaiming our Secwepemc village site in bringing attention to the threat of the Trans Mountain Kinder Morgan pipeline. We’re here at what they call the North Thompson Provincial Park, but it’s unceded, unsurrendered, Secwepemc territory,” she said in a Facebook live video posted Tuesday.
North Thompson River provincial park is just outside the town of Clearwater and is home to a historic village of the Secwepemc people, with evidence of numerous pit houses still visible along the river.
The park closure was approved by the province from July 6-9 for the cultural ceremony, but when it finished on Monday some people stayed behind to protest the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
“The province recognizes the right to engage in peaceful protest, however, also recognizes that people and families who are simply wanting a camping experience in this particular park are regrettably being inconvenienced,” the Ministry of Environment said in a statement.
Kamloops North Thompson Liberal MLA Peter Milobar blames the province, saying that the Environment Ministry should have known this would have happened when approving the closure in the first place.
The government says it is working to resolve the situation respectfully and refunds are being given to inconvenienced campers.
With files from Doug Herbert, Daybreak Kamloops