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Indigenous Land Rights Action Blocks Northern BC Highway

Indigenous Land Rights Action Blocks Northern BC Highway

Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en members join day of action to support Ontario nation locked in conflict over development on its traditional territory.

Northern B.C.’s main highway was closed for more than an hour Friday evening as members of the Gitxsan Nation shut down traffic in a show of support for Indigenous rights actions across the country.

The blockade of Highway 16 in New Hazelton, between Smithers and Terrace, was part of a national day of action called for by Haudenosaunee Six Nations members fighting a residential complex on their traditional territory in southern Ontario. While about a dozen events took place in Ontario and Quebec, New Hazelton’s was the only one in Western Canada.

“Everything that’s been taken from us is connected to the land,” organizer Lorinda Campbell told close to 50 people who gathered in the rain at the New Hazelton visitor centre. “We are connected to the land.”

Drumming, singing and carrying signs and banners, the group moved from the visitor centre onto the highway shortly after 5 p.m., where they occupied a bridge in what organizer Hilary Lightening called “a strong message to the government.”

“The Haudenosaunee of Six Nations have issued a call for solidarity across Turtle Island. It’s akin to the same callout that we received from the Wet’suwet’en to shut down Canada,” Lightening said before the event. “What is happening in Canada is this criminalization of land defenders.”

The Haudenosaunee have been occupying a parcel of land on their traditional territory next to the Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve in Caledonia, Ont., since July. The occupation is known as 1492 Land Back Lane, a reference to the year Christopher Columbus landed in the Americas.

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