Our mouths are full of blood from biting our tongues,
now it is our time to speak our truths.
Molly Wickam, Kanahus Manuel and Freda Huson are the leading edge of the spear when it comes to Indigenous land defence in British Columbia. Three strong matriarchs now stand at the forefront of BC’s environmental movement. It wasn’t always like this. Now all eyes are on these three Indigenous women as they stand strong for the full autonomy of their Indigenous sovereign lands. They are revered by some and simultaneously reviled by others.
Molly, Spokesperson of Gidimt’en Clan, is an intrepid land defender, once an educated urbanite, she finds herself taking the role of the backcountry momma. She is willing to put her body on the frontlines in order to protect her homelands and the life she is intent on maintaining and building there. Kanahus is a traditional Secwépemc woman — sturdy, strong, with piercing eyes full of determination. She is accompanied by a fierce no-nonsense assertive demeanour, donning traditional tattoos from face to toe. Her traditional name translates to “The Eater of Souls” reflective of her frontline resistance at the Tiny House warrior camp where they stand against colonial forces and the oil industry. Freda is logical, direct, and speaks from the heart. She has remained a steadfast and steadyhanded spokesperson for Unist’ot’en for over a decade and is the creator of an entirely off-grid healing centre that overlooks the Wedzinkwa river. Freda is passionate about bringing people back to their traditional territory, creating safe spaces, while fighting to end violence against Indigenous women. A revered matriarch and a devout Catholic, who built a home for herself out on the territory in order to occupy the land, to reconnect with her Indigenous culture, and to teach land-based wellness to others.
Imagine these three women’s lives as they navigate through the daily struggles of leading stressful land protection efforts. All the while some members of their nations remain in support of the pipeline and see it as a means to support their own families, tensions mount. As the pipeline surveyors, with their RCMP escorts, encroach upon the camps, tough decisions have to be made. Within the ranks of the resistance, some activists are asked to leave sparking a vicious backlash by otherwise would-be supporters.
These women remain resolute in their plights while balancing family life and the constant tensions between their supporters, objecting neighbours and outright racism from the public in person and over social media. And topping it all off within settler environmental NGO’s there are competing agendas that collide against the hereditary system of governance. Some allies are manipulating narratives to fit their own motives. An ongoing daily struggle that threatens the fight against the gas and oil industry with constant setbacks and sabotage.
Working against all odds, these women refuse to become another statistic. This band of matriarchs are rising to the forefront, bringing their marginalized communities with them and changing the way Canada thinks about both conservation and what it means to protect our environment.