Guests on the Yintah

This song is a product of a request from the Wet'suwet'en Matriarch Auntie Janet, who must routinely confront the RCMP as they trespass on her private residence.
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an image of the sacred Wedzin Kwa river, deep blue with thick green forest on either side and mountains visible in the distance.

In May 2022, I spent two weeks at the Gidimt’en village site to support Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders in their struggle for sovereignty as they resist the development of the Coastal GasLink pipeline through their Yintah (territory). While there, I witnessed 7-12 Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers trespassing on the site three times a day. They would arrive at any time, walk through the village, take photos, and write in their notebooks. Seemingly simple activities were asserted routinely and aggressively. Their role was to criminalize, intimate, and harass the Wet’suwet’en who lived there and pressure their supporters to leave. Forsyth, a private security firm, parked two pickup trucks outside the entrance of Gidimt’en village day and night to watch our movements. Members of the Gidimt’en Clan have since filed a notice of civil claim against the RCMP, Forsyth, and Coastal GasLink for this campaign of harassment and the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has called on the Federal government to stop the harassment of Land Defenders on Wet’suwet’en territory. 

The role of the RCMP is to impose the settler state on Indigenous peoples living on their lands. They forcibly and routinely performed the falsehood that the Crown has ultimate authority over the Yintah. In 1997, the Supreme Court of Canada declared otherwise. In the Delgamuukw decision, it was affirmed that the Wet’suwet’en Peoples had lived on and governed the land since time immemorial and that they had never ceded it to a foreign power. Still, the Federal government pretends that the Band Councils have jurisdiction over the territory, seeks their consent in the pipeline development, and ignores the authority and jurisdiction of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who made history in court many years ago.    

Despite the constant presence and pressure of the RCMP, the Wet’suwet’en are building a Feast Hall at Lamprey, a site just across the road where the Lamprey Creek enters into the Wedzin Kwa, the sacred river that runs through the Yintah. The Feast Hall will be a site for Wet’suwet’en governance and celebration. 

One evening I played a few songs on the community guitar for Auntie Janet, the Matriarch who lives in the cabin at Gidimt’en, as well as a few others around the fire. Auntie Janet must routinely confront the RCMP as they trespass on her private residence. She asked me to write a song about the Wedzin Kwa. This song is a product of that request. It is a song about the settler violence I witnessed and the resistance that continues. As an ally and settler, it is my interpretation of the land and Wet’suwet’en law. It is an attempt to connect with all our relations, with the plants, animals, the water of the Wedzin Kwa, the history of the Yintah, and one another. It is about the practices that affirm a world much different than the one the Canadian government and the RCMP are attempting to naturalize. 

Guests on the Yintah

There’s a path from the Healing Lodge to the Feast Hall

Wet’suwet’en lead the way, they carry the weight
As guests we circle the spirit fire
Eyes lift with the smoke
Hearts open to learn from the land 

If you arrive in uniform, badges and boots
Carrying barrels for bullets and pipelines
To criminalize and harass the defenders of the land

If you come close, the Matriarch will tell you clearly:

“Get off the Yintah, this is our home on the Yintah
The Wedzin Kwa on the Yintah has millennia on you” 

“Get off the Yintah, this is our home on the Yintah 
The Gidimt’en Yintah has millennia on you”

The courts spend decades writing a rule book on consultation
Trying to preserve the honour of the crown but you can’t force honour
Just to get your way
Law comes from the land, it’s woven through with Wet’suwet’en stories
Traditions, across generations, being carried forward in love

If you arrive in uniform, badges, and boots
Carrying barrels for bullets and pipelines

If you come close the Matriarch will tell you clearly:

“Get off the Yintah, this is our home on the Yintah
The Wedzin Kwa on the Yintah has millennia on you” 

“Get off the Yintah, it’s Wet’suwet’en land on the Yintah
The Gidimt’en Yintah has millennia on you”

We hold this space to let all our relations expand 
We hold this space with love for the land 

There’s a path from the Healing Lodge to the Feast Hall 

By Dan Huizenga
Twitter: @dan_zenga
Instagram: @danzenga
Facebook: lookingforislands

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