Dear Premier Notley,
My name is Evans Yellow Old Woman, I am a member of the Siksika Nation and also a co-founder and board member of VOICES, a coalition of LGBTQ2SIA+ people of colour committed to advocating for racialized and marginalized communities in the City of Calgary. I gave the land acknowledgement before your speech at the Calgary Pride in the Park 2018 Opening Ceremony.
Immediately after I gave a speech about building mindfulness around the impacts of colonization on Indigenous people in Canada and the importance of building community and caretaking of the land, you stood up and declared, “WE WILL BUILD THIS PIPELINE!”
Pride is not the space to talk about the politics of a pipeline. You piggybacked off my speech and prefaced yours with the importance of recognizing the land, immediately followed by your assurance that the Trans Mountain Pipeline will be built. This is a prime example of the violence we as Indigenous people are repeatedly subjected to on our own territories, the structural violence that we experience and often times let slide because we have been conditioned to do so to appease those in power.
I am here to say, “No more!”
Your justice system, the Federal Court of Appeal, declared that your government and the people you do business with, Kinder Morgan, inadequately consulted the Indigenous people this pipeline would impact. Declaring that you plan to overturn this ruling not only shows that you and your government have no idea what reconciliation is, but also reinforces the notion that the value of Indigenous lives are inconsequential in comparison to that of the land, deeming the areas and inhabitants impacted by the construction of the pipeline as sacrifice zones.
Ms. Notley, we do not own the land. We belong to it. Your comments are a direct threat to Indigenous people across Turtle Island. I would like to remind you and your government that the economic exploitation of Indigenous communities that continues today is a human rights violation recognized by the United Nations. Missing and murdered Indigenous girls, women, and two spirit are directly impacted because of this continued exploitation.
I implore you to uphold the promises you made to Indigenous people in your platform during elections. You stressed that reconciliation with the Indigenous peoples in Alberta was a top priority, but your actions as of late contradict that promise. Most recently by pulling Alberta out of the Federal Climate Plan as a result of this court ruling, you solidified your position on reconciliation.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Call to Action Number 57 refers to Indigenous education for all public servants. Thank you for illustrating in your speech at Pride that there needs to be more work around this. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ (UNDRIP) sets forth frameworks readily available for your government to use. These guides can help you and public servants at all levels of government ensure you know what you’re reconciling with.
Apologies are not work, they precede work. Don’t be sorry, do better.
In the spirit of reconciliation,
Evans Yellow Old Woman
Evans Yellow Old Woman is a two spirit member of the Siksika Nation and a co-founder and board member of VOICES. This letter was originally published on the VOICES website.