As the Wet’suwet’en peoples of British Columbia, Canada protest the construction of a Coastal GasLink pipeline across their territory, the Association of Native Americans at Yale or ANAAY hosted a teach-in to educate the Yale community about the issue and provide ways to stand in solidarity with the Indigenous community.
Members of the Yale community filled a lecture hall in Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall on Wednesday for the teach-in, which began with a screening of “Invasion.” “Invasion” is an eighteen-minute documentary about resistance efforts by the Wet’suwet’en Nation in response to transgressions such as pipeline building by corporations and the Canadian government. The short film was followed by a presentation by Jamuna Galay-Tamang, a Yale Fox international fellow and journalist who researches health in Indigenous communities. Galay-Tamang discussed her personal background and connections to the Wet’suwet’en community and argued that provincial, federal and Wet’suwet’en law bar the construction of the pipeline. She also shared information about worldwide solidarity efforts.
“Despite being distanced physically to the Wet’suwet’en crisis, ANAAY wanted to show solidarity. Members of our community have spoken out on the issue before, like during the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Vigil, but we wanted to come together with the larger Yale community to educate and spread awareness of the injustices happening in Canada right now,” said ANAAY member Hema Patel ’23.
According to Galay-Tamang, the process of planning the teach-in began soon after ANAAY conducted a vigil for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women on Feb. 14. ANAAY President Meghanlata Gupta ’21 approached Galay-Tamang to speak about the Wet’suwet’en protests at the vigil. From there, ANAAY members brainstormed ways to further raise awareness of the issue, Galay-Tamang said.
Evan Roberts ’23, who is a member of ANAAY, said while the group considered conducting a rally or publicizing a fundraiser, it ultimately decided to hold the teach-in. They hoped to draw attention to the issue before spring break, Roberts explained.
During the teach-in, Galay-Tamang emphasized the importance of following Indigenous news sources and social media, such as the Gidimt’en Checkpoint Instagram account and the Yintah Access website. These sources provide a more accurate depiction of the issue than mainstream sources, Galay-Tamang said. She explained how the Canadian government had often restricted media outlets from covering integral parts of the protests.
“The picture that is being painted often leaves out the years that have led up to this situation,” Galay-Tamang said. “There are things that are not being reported in mainstream media but are reported to us through the people in the camp.”
ANAAY members listed a variety of actions — both small and large — that attendees could perform in order to show solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people and the Indigenous community as a whole. These included donating to Wet’suwet’en fundraising efforts, following Indigenous media sources and raising awareness about these issues in their own circles.
Students can also support the Indigenous community on campus through ANAAY events and by asking for the advice and perspectives of the Indigenous community in other organizing efforts, organizers said.
Patel emphasized how environmental organizers can “broaden the scope and inclusivity of [their] movements” through developing an understanding of how the environmental movement was largely developed and shaped by Indigenous teachings.
“The Indigenous community here at Yale is both powerful and resilient, and we encourage non-Native peoples to become better informed about the work we do on campus and beyond,” Gupta said, concurring with Patel’s statement. “For environmental groups on campus, it is necessary that they realize that environmental crises are often a result of ongoing colonialism, and Indigenous communities are disproportionately impacted.”
Gupta added that the Yale community should look out for future ANAAY events, adding that the organization is in “the midst of planning for events that focus on our movements for justice and celebrations of our work and successes.”
The Wet’suwet’en Nation is governed by thirteen hereditary chiefs.
Neha Middela | firstname.lastname@example.org