SIX NATIONS — Last Tuesday, Shilo Hill, went live on air at Jukasa Studios on Smoke Signals to talk about his experiences in Wet’suwet’en Territory.
Hill was one of the four individuals arrested in Gidimt’en, alongside his partner Eve Saint, who is a daughter of a Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief.
“I’ve had my involvement with activism and first indigenous issues for a minute,” said Hill.
He explained that ten years ago, some friends of his went out to Unist’o’ten and following his stint in Standing Rock, he felt that he had a bone to pick with the oil industry. As for the stand in Wet’suwet’en, Hill said things became more personal.
“All human rights go out of the window when you’re dealing with these kinds of people,” he said.
“My partner, Eve, her father is Woos, who is the Gidimt’en house chief, and he’s the one that’s in talks right now. So it’s also personal because like me and Eve are having a child so it’s like family because my child is going to be Wet’suwet’en right.”
He said that last summer, the duo went out to Wet’suwet’en to help. While this year, they returned as the chiefs had evicted the Coastal Gas Link Pipeline after the first week of January. After CGL left, they then blocked access to the Unist’ot’ten Yin’tah (how the Wet’suwet’en refer to their traditional territory), which 44 kilometres away from the nearest town, and lived off of the land.
During that time, Hill said that he reconnected with the land which is untouched in some areas, even venturing out on a cold night through the wood to reach the camp.
“It was so quiet and so beautiful, there was no fear when you walked through there. It was almost resetting for the soul to be in such a beautiful, pristine place.”
But later on, Hill said that although all of the land defenders present were unarmed, RCMP moved farther into the territory of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation after raiding an earlier checkpoint. As the road was cleared by large vehicles, the RCMP left and returned the following morning.
“So we just went to the gate and waited for them to come,” he said. “Then they all came up in a line and they kept strategically placing snipers, to slowly advance among these snow banks.”
He said that the snipers looked through their scopes at the defenders while a line of up to eighty RCMP marched up. While Saint was chosen to speak with the RCMP, she told them that the land was unceded and always been Wet’suwet’en territory. Hill also mentioned hat the injunction opened to remove defenders was “bogus” and “based on nothing.”
“Eve’s talking to them and then we all start talking to them because they start repeating themselves over a megaphone for us to leave or we’d be arrested,” he said. “They were flying these black helicopters over us, these two black choppers, and these choppers kept going into the back and dropping off all of these scouts and snipers.”
“They raided us — remember a few years ago when the navy seals raided Osama Bin Laden’s compound? Thats what they did to us. There was four of us unarmed. The amount of surveillance and money that they used when the way they came in at us was like they were gonna kill us. I really think they were gonna to kill us. If there weren’t the two media people we had there, I swear to god they were going to kill us. The look in their eyes, the vibe in the air, I’m not even lying,” he said.
Now, Hill said that because of what they seen and experienced, he and Saint still have trouble sleeping. After being surrounded, enduring the thought that they might be gun downed, land defenders were treated as though they had weapons.
“They said they heard we had rifles. But they didn’t find nothing because there was nothing to find,” he said.
While pointing her eagle feather at the RCMP while she spoke, Hill warned Saint to hold her feather high so that the RCMP wouldn’t shoot her out of believing that she had a weapon. He further mentioned that the territory is also in the middle of the highway of tears, so the history with the RCMP for the people in the area is already considered unsafe. Even though the RCMP said they wanted to talk, Hill asked “how do you talk to someone when they’re pointing a gun at you?”
Upon being arrested, each of them were later given rules to conduct themselves by, including ‘keeping the peace.’ They were later followed by RCMP after being discharged. Hill said that they were painted by the court as eco-terrorists.
As for the nation-wide support of Wet’suwe’ten, Hill said seeing the support made his ‘heart jump.’
“When I got out of jail I saw all of the Haudenosaunee support and I just want to make note of this; I’m very proud of the community and I’m proud of you all out there, I’m proud of every territory and I’m proud of every single action, every individual, thank you, nia:wen,” he said. “Seeing that kind of support, there’s just no words for it. This is like something to remember, seeing the entire country stand up and to be a part of this is just an honour too.”
He said that the ordeal was out of trying to protect the Yin’tah and the land for the future. He added that the blockades should stand strong, as no agreement has been met.