The Unis’tot’en cabin and resistance camp is a reoccupation of the traditional, unceded territory of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation. The camp was set-up in 2010 as a means to block access to Wet’suwet’en territory by pipeline corporations and other resources extraction industries that do not have permission to access the land. Members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation feel they have a sacred duty to protect the land from harm and preserve it for future generations. The camp started in 2012. Located 1200 km (740 mi) by road from Vancouver, BC and about 130 km from the town of Smithers, it is on the shores of the Wedzin Kwah and mouth of the Gosnell Creek. These are all tributary to the Skeena, Bulkley, and Babine Rivers. Members of the Unis’tot’en clan, First Nations peoples, and other supporters staff the camp is staffed. Power is generated by a solar array. Water is supplied by the Morris River.
The Camp was constructed as a means to block development of numerous pipelines and other development deemed harmful to the land. These include: pipelines from Enbridge, and Pacific Trails Pipeline (Chevron), and action to protect their lands from Lions Gate Metals from seven proposed pipelines from Tar Sands Gigaproject and LNG from the Horn River Basin Fracturing Projects in the Peace River Region.
In 2015 the Unist’ot’en released a declaration which included this statement:
“The Unist’ot’en settlement camp is not a protest or a demonstration. Our clan is occupying and using our traditional territory as it has for centuries. Our free, prior, and informed consent protocol is in place at the entrance of our territory as an expression of our jurisdiction and our inherent right to both give and refuse consent and entry into our territory."
The camp is the site of activities related to healing and learning. A youth camp provides opportunities for young people to learn and practice their culture. At the exact points of where pipelines were intended to cross the Unist’ot’en Territory of Talbits Kwah a Pithouse, and Permaculture Garden was built. The camp also includes several small greenhouses, and a secure all season bunkhouse.
Construction of a healing centre began in 2015. There is a healing centre where people can come to reconnect with the land, cultural practices, and recover from health issues, such as substance abuse. The Wet’suwet’en people believe healing can come from being connected to the land and the impacts of colonialism, including living away from traditional territories, is harmful.
The Unis’tot’en blockade and checkpoint is the site of action by the RCMP as they enforced an court injunction to grant workers from the TransMountain pipeline temporary access to the area. Fourteen land proctors were arrested on Monday, January 8th, 2019 as the RCMP raided the checkpoint. This action raised the issue of Indigenous sovereignty to the Canadian public. The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs claim title to the land and have not given permission for this pipeline development. The Wet’suwet’en band council, a system based on colonial governance practice, had given permission for the project. The Wet’suwet’en system of governance pre-dates the formation of the country of Canada, and members of the Wet’suwet’en nation has never signed a treaty created. For many Indigenous peoples in Canada the recognition of traditional title to land is of vital importance. The Canadian government's continued support for extraction industries over the protection of the recognition of Indigenous sovereignty and adhesion to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), of which Canada is a signatory, is a major friction point in contemporary Canadian society. The action taken at the Unis’tot’en checkpoint and camp and lack of consultation with hereditary chiefs is perceived as being in violation of UNDRIP. The action and lack of recognition of Indigenous land title and sovereignty is also perceived as impacting the Canadian governments efforts to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report on the residential school system and efforts to reconcile with Indigenous peoples in Canada.