CLEARWATER, B.C. – An Indigenous political activist was briefly detained Saturday following a Trans Mountain pipeline protest in British Columbia’s North Thompson Provincial Park.
Kanahus Manuel, a spokesperson for the activist group Tiny House Warriors, was arrested by the RCMP after allegedly defying an eviction order from the BC Parks service that was delivered on Thursday.
The group’s members belong to the Secwepemc First Nation, which released a statement Saturday afternoon calling Manuel’s arrest a “declaration of war.”
In the release authored by the Secwepemc Women’s Warrior Society, Manuel is referred to as a political prisoner of “the white supremacist RCMP and Park Ranger goons of the Canadian state,” whom they said are intent on forcing the Tiny House Warriors from lands the Secwepemc consider ancestral territories. The statement adds the territories were never surrendered to a Canadian government.
Dawn Roberts with the B.C. RCMP said members went to North Thompson Provincial Park to meet with the protesters and discuss the eviction notice. She said the liaison team continued to have conversations with protesters after the arrest, and the remaining protesters began to pack up the tiny houses they’d built.
“Those discussions were extremely positive, very respectful, very understanding,” said Roberts in a phone interview.
Snutetkwe Manuel said her sister has been charged with mischief after the group refused to leave the park, although Roberts did not confirm that formal charges have been filed.
An RCMP statement said Manuel was released from custody late Saturday afternoon on a series of conditions and a promise to appear in court at a later date. Additional members of the protest were told they could leave the park on their own or be arrested themselves.
Manuel said the RCMP and BC Parks service have no jurisdiction in the park.
“This is a Secwepemc village site. Our people died of small pox here,” she said.
Manuel said there were around six other protesters with her sister when she was arrested, including two village Elders. She subsequently recorded and posted a video to her Facebook page of a conversation with two RCMP officers who stopped her from entering the campsite, which she said was to help her mother pack up.
The protest had originally begun as a three-day tattooing ceremony running from July 6 to 9 and grew into a Trans Mountain blockade by July 11.
Roberts said that she did not know precisely why the eviction order was filed by BC Parks, but did say the tattooing ceremony forced the closure of the park and cancelled reservations for campers.
Kanahus Manuel responded earlier this week, saying her people have been inconvenienced by colonialism for over 150 years.
“We were moved off of our lands. There are internationally protected rights which (say) Indigenous people can use and exclusively occupy their lands to maintain our culture, our language and our ways,” said Manuel in an interview.
In a post on the Tiny House Warriors Facebook group Wednesday, Manuel said the Trudeau government left the group with “no choice” but to reclaim their hereditary lands through occupation of the territory that the Trans Mountain pipeline would pass through.
—By Spencer Harwood in Vancouver