First nations across British Columbia are celebrating a unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada on June 26 that recognizes aboriginal title to their traditional territories outside reserves. The court upheld the Tsilhqot'in Nation's claim to lands in the Nemiah Valley, some 160 miles north of Vancouver, rejecting the provincial government's argument that aboriginal title should be restricted to actual settlement sites and other places frequently occupied by semi-nomadic native peoples. Joe Alphonse, chief of the Tsilhqot'in Nation, said the ruling is a victory in a struggle that had its roots in deadly conflict with a wave of Gold Rush settlers during the 1860s. He said the communities need more control over resources to support more people living on reserves. "We didn't fight in this case to separate from Canada," Alphonse told a news conference in Vancouver. "We fought in this case to get recognized, to be treated as equals in a meaningful way."
The Lubicon Lake Nation of Cree in Alberta, Canada, is appealing a court order prohibiting the indigenous community from blockading gas operations on unceded territory. Calgary-based Penn West Petroleum won the order from an Alberta court last month, barring the blockade set up in December by Lubicon Cree protesters for a period of six months. "The judge denied [us] the opportunity to raise any of the constitutional issues and arguments for the Lubicon," said Garrett Tomlinson, Lubicon Lake Nation communications director. Lubicon Cree leadership argued that Canada has never entered into a treaty with them, which renders permits for oil and gas development on Lubicon land null and void.
On Nov. 13, members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota brought representatives TransCanada to the reservation to make the case for the Keystone XL Pipeline—where they met an angry response from many in attendance. Debra White Plume of the Owe Aku International Justice Project told them: "Run home and tell your corporate headquarters in Canada that the Lakota are going to make a stand. Tell them, you're going to have to run over them or throw them in jail. That's the message you have to take home… So I think you need to leave our land! We're ready to go to jail to get you out of here NOW, so you can leave on your own or be escorted out now…" A YouTube clip of the meeting shows speaker after speaker echo this sentiment—followed by the TransCanada reps heading for the door, visibly shaken. (Causes.com, Nov. 16)
Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers on Oct. 17 used tear-gas and rubber bullets to break up a protest roadblock by members of the Elsipogtog Mi'kmaq First Nation outisde Rexton, in New Brunswick. An injunction was issued two weeks ago against a blockade in front of a SWN Resources compound, where the oil exploration company is carrying out seismic testing as a precursor to fracking. Elsipogtog Chief Aaren Sock, council members and elders who had been conducting a ceremony at the blockade were among at least 40 arrested by heavily armed police in full riot gear. Some protesters responded by setting police vehicles on fire. Supporters from across Canada are said to be mobilizing a convergence on the area to support the Elsipogtog. (ICTMN, Canada.com, Oct. 17)
On Sept. 22, more than 300 Lakota, Dakota, Anishinabe and Apache activists and local white anti-racists organized by UnityND converged on Leith, North Dakota, to rally against Craig Cobb and members of his National Socialist Movement who settled in the village with the stated intention of taking over the local government and declaring a white separatist homeland. But Cobb and his followers did not offer resistance as Native American activists tore down and burned the neo-Nazi flags they had raised around their properties—adorned with swastikas, skulls, iron crosses and SS symbols. A large contingent of riot police were on hand, but did not interfere. The next day, the state health department announced it would shut down Cobb's home, which has no indoor plubling, for violating sanitary codes. (ICTMN, Sept. 26; Political Blind Spot, Sept. 23; ICTMN, Political Blind Spot, Sept. 22)
A 225-foot "megaload" of oil field equipment being hauled along US Highway 12 through northern Idaho and Montana, bound for a tar-sands site in Canada, was repeatedly blocked by protesters this month. As it passed through the Nez Perce Indian Reservation Aug. 6, some 100 tribal members and their supporters blockaded the road, some throwing rocks as state police moved in. Authorities said 20 protesters were arrested, charged with misdemeanors for "disturbing the peace." Several Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee members were among those removed by police. The load was able to proceed after two hours, but was blocked again Aug. 13 by environmentalist protesters outside Missoula, Mont. (AP, Aug. 13, AP, Aug. 8, AP, Aug. 7; AP, Buffalo Post, Missoulia, Aug. 6)
Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation attended a meeting with Canada's Gov-Gen. David Johnston Jan. 11, but left official residence Rideau Hall early to announce that her hunger strike will continue. "It didn't feel too good inside that house...but we stood up for your rights," Danny Metatawabin, who speaks for Spence, told gathered First Nations chiefs. "Somehow it felt like a show, a picture opportunity. What’s happening here is not done yet. It’s not over yet. Sadly, the hunger strike continues." He said that a wampum belt Johnston had been presented as a good will gesture by First Nations leaders at a meeting last January had been disrespected in the "ceremonial" meeting with Spence.
The Mikisew Cree First Nation and the Frog Lake First Nation, both located in Alberta, filed documents in Canadian Federal Court on Jan. 7, arguing that omnibus budget legislation that reduces federal environmental oversight violate the government's treaty obligations to protect traditional aboriginal territory. The plaintiffs are challenging Bill C-45 and it predecessor, Bill C-38, legislation that significantly restricts federal environmental assessments and cuts the number of waterways protected by the Navigable Waters Protection Act.