Indigenous-led art event raises $750 for Wet’suwet’en legal defence fund

A recent art event led by Indigenous student groups has raised $750 to support the Wet’suwet’en legal defence fund.

Held on February 4, “The Time Is Now: Stand with Unist'ot'en” was organized by the First Nations Studies Student Association (FNSSA) in collaboration with the Indigenous Law Student Association and the Indigenous Leadership Collective, amongst other groups.

Event co-organizer Alexa McPhee, who is also the editor-in-chief of the Journal of First People’s Writing, described the event as a community art project “led by mainly Indigenous women with … a lot of support from allies.”

McPhee was also excited about the turnout, which she said “was was way more than [they] expected there to be.”

Hosted in Sprouts’ new location in the Life Building, the event saw over 50 attendees crowd into the space to share food, create art and participate in smudging and drumming. Participants also worked together to paint two large banners that read “Wet’suwet’en strong” and decorate them with signs and symbols that remind them of Indigenous resilience.

The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and members have been protesting the construction of a Coastal GasLink pipeline on their traditional territory.

The tension escalated after the BC Supreme Court handed down a temporary injunction in December to let construction workers into the Unist’ot’en Camp, which was set up to stop the pipeline. Gidimt’en clan then set up a second checkpoint, but the RCMP dismantled it and arrested 14 people — who have now been released — on January 8.

The hereditary chiefs and the RCMP later reached an agreement to let construction workers into the territory, but not to start the pipeline construction on the land. The Unist’ot’en Camp then pushed a Facebook post on January 30, calling for Coastal GasLink to stop its work on the territory.

In response, the finished banners will be gifted to the Unist’ot’en healing camp along with medicines collected from the Indigenous Health Research and Education Garden at UBC, while the cash donations of $750 will be transferred directly to the Wet’suwet’en Legal Defence Fund.

Currently, no further plans has been finalized yet, but both McPhee and Indigenous Students Association President Tiffany Storry expressed excitement about hosting future events that would toward supporting Indigenous rights. Storry also encouraged the campus community to attend other events hosted by Indigenous student groups.

“There is a lot to learn and a lot to enjoy,” she said.

Sprouts President Sarah Siska also shared interest in seeing more Indigenous fundraising events come to Sprouts in the future.

Ultimately, all three women spoke about the special responsibility UBC and its students hold as the school sits on the occupied, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Musqueam people.

“When we have Indigenous students that are helping with the organizing and … allies that are in Indigenous studies or people that are very interested in Indigenous politics and rights, there’s definitely a strong sense of responsibility,” said McPhee.

“All UBC clubs have bit of a responsibility to do what we can,” Siska said.