On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I talk with community organizer Kanahus Manuel of the Secwepemc Nation, on whose territory the massive Mount Polley mining disaster took place this past August. She talks about the grassroots struggle in response to the tailings pond spill, and the larger multi-front struggle to defend the land and to assert, defend, and strengthen the many Indigenous nations on the west coast.
On August 4, 2014 a tailings pond burst at the Mount Polley copper and gold mine, owned by Imperial Metals. The mine lies in the interior of what is currently known as “British Columbia,” in the territory of the Secwepemc Nation. The pond covered more than four square kilometeres, and more than 25 million cubic metres of mine waste and contaminated water flooded into the surrounding watershed. It has been called one of the worst environmental disasters in modern Canadian history, and it is also an example of colonialism in its most toxic form. The land in which the mine sits, like most of British Columbia, was never surrendered and never covered by any treaty with the Crown, and the mine’s presence has never been sanctioned by the nation whose territory it despoils.
Kanahus Manuel has been at the centre of the grassroots response to the spill — a response that is not only demanding answers, a clean-up, and some measure of responsibility from the company and the provincial government who imposed this violence on her people and the land, but one that is all about asserting and strengthening nationhood. And beyond even that, it is about strengthening the links across the many struggles currently hot and active in so-called “British Columbia” between indigenous nations defending their land, and resource extraction companies backed by the settler state. It is, as Manuel notes, a “revolutionary time” for indigenous nations in the northwest of Turtle Island.
For more about the struggle in the aftermath of Mount Polley, check out this page on Facebook.
Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.
Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.