A taste of Burnaby Mountain: mud, climate change, and history in the making
Then Sut-Lut appeared, in a warm brown coat and with a young child in tow. She stood behind the line that we weren’t allowed to cross, in among the RCMP officers.
When Sut-Lut began to sing and beat her drum, she turned slowly and sang to the crowd on the road, to the people watching from the mud path above, to the elders carving a totem pole, to the core drillers and to the RCMP. We were together in that moment.
One by one, the citizens walked across the line. Each one turned to say their name to the crowd and receive cheers and applause before ducking under the police barricade ribbon and into the hands of the RCMP. Each person did what they needed with a certain etiquette.
Later, we stood for hours in the rain outside the RCMP office, waiting for the seven arrested that day to emerge. An off duty officer stopped to chat. Everyone agreed that the day’s events had been positive, that the animosity between protestors and the RCMP had substantially lightened or even disappeared. “It’s a relief,” the officer said. “This is very complicated for the City of Burnaby. On the one hand, it’s paying for the appeal of the NEB ruling and on the other hand it’s paying the RCMP officers to enforce the injunction so that Kinder Morgan can drill there. It’s not simple for the people involved.”
As the citizens emerged, I asked about who they were: a hospitality school student who plans to guide fishing trips to build employment in her First Nation; a sous chef who said he recently stopped drinking and smoking and started to notice what was going around him; a woman who had protested years ago to stop logging on Burnaby Mountain. “It’s just a relief to have done it,” she said. “I knew I had to but I was worried that I would be too scared. I feel so much freer now.”
Thursday was completely different. The drilling on the road was finished. There was talk about the invalidity of the injunction, but no one knew for sure. We walked from the camp across the lawn, with the First Nations elders drumming and singing.
Amy George, Grand Chief Stewart Phillips and other First Nation elders disappeared down a steep path with patches of shin high mud to the remaining drill site while young people ran ahead, moving packing crates in front of them to secure their footing. The Sojourners sang on the lawn above. Following the elders, more than two hundred people slowly snaked through the woods and then stood in the mud. The faith leaders and others who had decided to be arrested held off so that the processing of the First Nation elders would not be delayed.
When the time came, each person was offered the microphone before crossing the barricade tape. Many young woman were arrested and here are some of their comments:
“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal. I want to be successful.”
“There is no second chance for us, this is all we have.” (by a 13 year old girl)
“I practice every day. Kung Fu for life!”
“I’m doing this for every gender and every sexual preference. I want to be able to say that we have not left a mark that is undoable. We can stand here today and leave a mark of positive change.”
The young men were eloquent as well:
“I am tired of being in a world that is being destroyed by humanity. I have a piece of paper that says I have served in Afghanistan and, guess what, I want another piece of paper that shows I am fighting for what I now believe is true.”
“I’m with him.”
The arrests concluded with announcements: professors from UBC and SFU are going to be on the mountain Friday, some in full academic regalia, to make the point that action is necessary based on what we know. On weekdays, people gather at the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Sign on Centennial Way at 10:30 am, 12 on the weekends.
That’s where each day’s creature begins to take shape.