Lines of Resistance: Settler-Indigenous solidarities in opposition to the Trans Mountain Pipeline

Authors: Michael Simpson*, University of British Columbia
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Indigenous Peoples, Environment
Keywords: pipelines, blockades, solidarity, settler colonialism, Indigenous geographies
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Roosevelt 1, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In March 2018, an estimated 10,000 people walked behind First Nations leaders ascending Burnaby Mountain outside of Vancouver, BC in a show of support for a ‘new wave’ of opposition to the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. At the culmination of this march, members of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation powerfully exerted their legal and political jurisdiction by constructing a watch house that stood in the path of the pipeline and in direct violation of a Canadian court injunction. A new pipeline opposition camp was also established in support of this action. In the months that followed, hundreds were arrested as pipeline opponents used non-violent civil disobedience and direct action tactics to physically prevent the project from proceeding. Numerous commentators have celebrated the recent efforts of settler environmentalists and Indigenous peoples to work in common opposition to pipelines and other ‘extractivist’ developments. And indeed, most every environment group opposing Trans Mountain proclaimed their strong support for Indigenous self-determination. While it is generally acknowledged that the relationships between environmental movements and First Nations has been fraught in the past, many settler activists opposed to Trans Mountain claimed that this time solidarity was being done right. However, this paper critically interrogates these claims to Indigenous solidarity, asking how far this solidarity actually extends in practice. Drawing on this case study, I consider the different understandings of solidarity held by different groups, the moments where the limits these solidarities arise, and how this might help us to think about building transformative political movements across difference.

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