Lands under attack ‘for profit and for colonialism’ says artist and activist

Victoria Redsun says it is difficult to be a young, Indigenous person in an urban environment right now.

“We see our people on the streets and hurting,” says Redsun who adds that residential schools are still fresh in her memory and the issues around violence and genocide against Indigenous women is still happening.

The 20 year old Denesuline poet, performer, filmmaker and activist is based in Winnipeg.

She says you only have to walk down the streets of Winnipeg to see the ongoing effects of colonialism.

But Redsun says she felt safe and accepted during her time at the Unist’ot’en healing centre in British Columbia.

It’s where Redsun spent most of the winter up until her arrest during an RCMP raid on Wet’suwet’en territory in early February.

The RCMP cleared out the road leading to the healing camp after a Dec. 31 injunction was granted against supporters of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who are fighting against construction of the Coastal Gaslink (CGL) pipeline on their territory.

The pipeline will carry fracked natural gas from Dawson Creek, B.C., across the province to Kitimat on the coast.

Twenty elected band councils voted in favour of the project.

The hereditary chiefs say they have control over what happens on the territorial lands.

Redsun believes her arrest and the arrest of others showed what the RCMP “is truly there for.”

“They’re there to protect industry, they’re there for profit, they’re not there to protect the people,” she said. “Even though they say that they’re there for our safety. If you watch all of the videos of the RCMP at the Wet’suwet’en territory, they’re not there for our safety.

“They’re there to get this pipeline through.”

The arrest of Redsun and others at the camps in Wet’suwet’en territory spawned solidarity actions and blockades all over the country.

“I’m really happy to see everybody rising up after all the arrests as well after that week of invasion on Wet’suwet’en land,” says Redsun who adds that it was traumatizing to be arrested off the territory that has and continues to heal her.

During her time at the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre, Redsun says she learned about traditional foods, who she is as a person and how to break toxic cycles of trauma and colonialism.

Her experience made her feel “empowered as a native youth, two-spirit and Denesuline.”

While Redsun was at the camp to heal, she was also there to help stop the CGL pipeline.

“People can say its about a pipeline but there’s so many pipelines that are trying to go through native lands right now. So, it’s much more than a single pipeline,” says Redsun.

“It’s about the land and it’s about our rights as humans,” she said. “And I think we’re all recognizing and waking up as a people together to fight for those things because there’s only how much fresh water in the world right now because its all being polluted.

“There’s only so many lands that we can go on that’s pristine and we really, really need to fight hard to protect those things because they’re under attack for profit, an for industry and for colonialism.”

Redsun believes CGL is investing money into dividing people, including through paid social media advertisements.

“We’re not paid, I’m not getting paid for anything,” says Redsun who feels the money and jobs being offered for the pipeline are short term.

Redsun says it’s been hurtful to see the racism brought out over the issue from people saying they want to run people over with trains and trucks to bomb threats.

Redsun has now returned to B.C. to continue her support for the Wet’suwet’en people who are opposed to the pipeline.

Host/Producer - Winnipeg

Dennis is Metis from southern Manitoba. After spending a decade working in TV in Alberta and Ontario, Dennis returned to Manitoba to join APTN’s Winnipeg bureau as reporter/correspondent in September 2014. In 2016, he won a Canadian Association of Journalists award for his story A Soldier Scorned for APTN Investigates. In 2017, he became a host/producer for APTN National News and Face to Face. In 2020, Dennis and co host Melissa Ridgen were nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for Best News Anchor, National.