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#ProtectTheInlet: Thousands marched against Kinder Morgan's oil pipeline expansion in B.C, and I joined them.

posted Apr 5, 2018, 5:20 PM by Simon Bakke
By Krista Rome, Clean Water Organizer

On March 10, under clear blue skies, my neighbor and I arrived at Lake City SkyTrain station, in Burnaby, B.C. Thousands of others bustled around us, circling up with drums, beautiful signs, and prayers for a better future. People from coast to coast were coming together to defend our land and water against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, an enormous threat to the Salish Sea, and to communities along its entire path. Looking around, I saw so many orcas and salmon swimming among us, and I knew I had made the right decision to spend my day standing with them, as a voice for the ones who cannot speak.  
 
Chief Reuben George of North Shore’s Tsleil-Waututh Nation addressed the crowd: “Our spiritual leaders today are going to claim back Burnaby Mountain!”. Burnaby Mountain, which is unceded Coast Salish Territory, is crossed by the existing Trans Mountain pipeline, and it’s headed for a massive $7.3 billion expansion. Hearing Ruben George’s words, I felt our deep, collective purpose: to stand together in defense of everything that is sacred to us, and to fight for a just transition to a clean energy future. 
 
We marched together on our pilgrimage up the mountain, with indigenous leaders from across the continent showing us the way with their confident steps, regalia, drums, and clear intention. I thought about how so many of us are ready to follow when we recognize leaders like George, who are grounded in integrity and stewardship of our natural resources. From Standing Rock to Burnaby Mountain, these indigenous-led, ally-supported movements exemplify the combined power of social justice and environmental stewardship.
 
When we arrived, we listened to First Nations leaders from across Canada as they shared their stories. A chief from Quebec, who had travelled to Standing Rock many times, spoke about solidarity. A trio of indigenous women from Alberta told us of the devastation the tar sands operations and associated “man camps” have had on their communities and on their women. These camps of up to 1,000 transient workers (mostly men) have resulted in increases in sexual violence against indigenous women in nearby communities. One speaker said that their own land and water had already been destroyed by fossil fuel extraction and export, and that we here must fight to protect what we still have, while we still have the chance.
 
Through these speeches, we felt the immensity of the impact the fossil fuel industry has had on indigenous communities, far and wide. By opposing Kinder Morgan’s expansion, we stand not just with our coastal communities and the Salish Sea, but with all people, land, and water from here to the tar sands’ source in Alberta.
 
Last, we walked down the trail to the existing pipeline's route. There we celebrated the newly constructed traditional Coast Salish “watch house” (Kwekwecnewtxw), on the path of the proposed expansion, which will be a base for water protectors who come to stand guard. Watch houses have been built since time immemorial on Coast Salish territories to watch for enemies and warn communities of imminent danger. Kinder Morgan’s expansion is just that. And we stand ready to defend what we love.
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