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Lauren Marina, Lush

The Canadian government has given the go ahead for an oil pipeline extension which would run through 518 km of Secwepemc Territory. But its people, the so-called ‘Tiny House Warriors’, are fighting back, one small dwelling at a time. KATIE DANCY-DOWNS went to visit them

Standing before Little Shuswap Lake, where ice has formed into wave-like crests and ominous mountains disappear into deep cloud, there is a feeling of deep peace that you feel you could stand and soak up forever.

Deer tracks flit across the snow, and birds of prey hover overhead. But with the bitter winter chill comes a reminder of the destruction that could soon fall upon the surrounding land.

In future years, will the water in the lake still be clean? Will bears and coyote still live here peacefully?

Pipeline expansion

In Canada, we are meeting indigenous groups at the forefront of climate action. So many people tell us that everything is connected by water. What we soon discover is that many of these communities are connected by something else – an oil pipeline that is about to rip through their land.

One of those groups is the Tiny House Warriors, and Little Shuswap Lake is part of their territory.

As I write this, Canadian news channels are again discussing the Trans Mountain Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the pipeline will go ahead. It is in the national interest, he says.

One person whose interest the pipeline is not in, is Kanahus Manuel, the activist defending her native Secwepemc territory, and leading the Tiny House Warriors .

“These tiny houses are actually big giant houses in what they stand for,” Kanahus says.

Going big, by going small

Ten handmade wooden houses will be placed along the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline route , which runs across 518 km of Secwepemc Territory. This is in addition to a pipeline which already runs through indigenous land.

The Secwepemc people have not consented to the pipeline, and Kanahus says they never will.

She tells me: “As the Secwepemc people we are the first to be impacted by any kind of development or destruction of our land. We have the say in what’s happening in our territory. There are minimal standards that Canada should be abiding by. There are minimal standards that Kinder Morgan should be abiding by.”

Standing out against the snow, the first tiny house has been splashed with vivid paintings: an emerald and ruby coloured fish jumping from clean water, a wolf seemingly leaping from the house, and a mountain landscape mirroring the exact place where we’re standing.These illustrations hold the stories of the Secwepemc people, and explain why they are choosing to resist the pipeline and oil extraction. Indigenous resurgence So far, three of the 10 tiny houses have been built, and Kanahus is calling for volunteer builders to help deliver the project.Some people have tipped this protest as the next Standing Rock, where indigenous communities stood up against the Dakota Access pipeline . In fact, Standing Rock is the very place where Kanahus first encountered tiny houses, when one was built in two and a half days for her and her children.Kanahus tells us: “It’s really important for the government to really pay attention to what is happening right now with the indigenous resurgence. People are saying that Standing Rock was a renaissance. We’re saying it doesn’t stop there."This is a revolution to change the planet, and the government has to get on board and be on the right side of history.”At Standing Rock, Kanahus saw tiny houses bulldozed. At the Sun Peaks Ski Resort protest, she […]

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