May 5, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Anti-Indigenous Violence at Walbran Camp by Industry Workers
An Indigenous youth was physically assaulted by forestry workers yesterday at the Walbran watch camp. The watch camp is part of the Rainforest Flying Squad’s nonviolent direct action to protect old-growth forests near Port Renfrew, which includes Fairy Creek. This camp is not a blockade.
At 1:02 pm yesterday (Tuesday, May 4th), 10 Western Forest Products forestry workers drove into the camp in four trucks with muddied license plates.
“They threatened us and our families,” said one. “They said ‘You can f**k with Teal Jones — don’t f**k with us’.” The men walked towards the four youth in the camp, racially targeting the Indigenous youth. While all youth were threatened, the physical violence and verbal abuse was explicitly anti-Indigenous.
The men were yelling threats and abuse, and warning them to leave the area, threatening future violence (to them and their families) if they did not.
Just before leaving, three of the workers attacked G., a young Indigenous man, and tried to force him to the ground, while a fourth man hit him.
His phone, which he had been using to film, was punched out of his hand and then stolen. His instrument was broken. There was a second camera filming and there is video evidence of this violent assault.
Several other incidents of threatening behaviour have also occurred since Monday afternoon, on May 3rd. Late Monday afternoon, a group of forestry workers made threats of impending violence to three people while holding tools – axes, tire irons and crow bars – in a menacing way, saying “This is your only warning.”
In the same afternoon, on the same road, several people in their vehicles were blocked in — by vehicles in front and behind them — and prevented from leaving by forestry vehicles for a period of time.
The following day, on a separate road, another incident took place. Trees were felled across the road to prevent campers and other people traveling on the roads from moving.
At no time has RFS been violent or promoted violence. These attacks have been fueled by industry and colonialism, supported by the BC NDP government.
In the violent assault yesterday, one of the workers yelled, “You make the Walbran look like Hastings Street, for God’s sake.”
The workers seemed ignorant of the fact they were on unceded Pacheedaht territory. The Pacheedaht, and nearby the Ditidaht, have lived on these territories for thousands of years. Their land was never sold or surrendered.
Elder William Jones, a member of the Pacheedaht First Nation, worked as a logger in his youth. He said that one day he went to work, but the reality of the damage he was doing to the earth hit him so hard that he wept. He quit working as a logger.
“You can’t control a fellow who’s willing to pick up an ax,” he said about yesterday’s assault. “They are hired because they’re racist, and they’re told they’re right.”
Kati George-Jim, Jones’ niece, said that both the logging on unsurrendered territories, and these assaults, are racialized violence against Indigenous people.
“We are under attack,” she said. “Indigeous peoples are targeted with violence for disrupting industry,” referring to violence towards and arrests of Indigenous people defending their lands against colonial exploitation across the province.
“The loggers broke our laws, and they broke colonial law as well.” She explained, “The fundamental laws of our coastal peoples are based in reciprocity and respect for all relatives, and consensual relationships. We honour all past, present and future generations by protecting the integrity of our shared mother earth.
“Premier Horgan is complicit in this crime because he has been promoting exploitation of Indigenous lands for profit, and doing it at the cost of Indigenous peoples’ lives” she added.
Another young Indigenous member of the blockades, who is Huu-ay-aht, says “It is deeply strategic violence to divide and erase First Nations out of existence.” She expects the clear-cut land will be built over with more homes for settlers.
We are inspired by the courage of Elder Bill and other Indigenous people who stand up to protect the land. We see that Indigenous people are often targeted by violence or arrests when the white allies standing alongside them are not.
The old-growth forests hold the spirit of the land, the integrity of the waterways, and all beings that live in or among them. We pledge to help defend these irreplaceable ancient relatives until they are protected forever. We hope you will join us.