Secwepemc hereditary chief, daughter arrested at rail blockade in B.C.

A Secwepemc hereditary chief and his daughter gave themselves up for arrest voluntarily Tuesday after the RCMP moved in to end a railway blockade near Chase, B.C., in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

Chase, B.C., is about 50 km east of Kamloops.

Anushka Azadi, a spokesperson for the Secwepemc Sacred Fire, said Hereditary Chief Sawses chose to be voluntarily arrested to prevent RCMP from snuffing a sacred fire that was burning along the tracks and prevent other Secwepemc nation members and supporters from being handcuffed.

“He sacrificed for us,” said Azadi.

Azadi said Sawses’s daughter and a nation member also allowed themselves to be arrested rather than walk away from the tracks.

“Many times we had to negotiate to keep violence from the sacred fire and stop the sacred fire from being dismantled by the RCMP,” said Azadi.

“So the group decided in order for that to happen they would offer up arrestables.”

Secwepemc members and supporters took to the tracks last week in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ fight against a natural gas pipeline.

After a 96-hour truce with CP expired Monday, they resumed the blockade.

As part of the truce, CP CEO Keith Creel released an open letter asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to meet with Wet’suwet’en chiefs.

Secwepemc nation members and supporters blocked CP rail lines from Monday night to Tuesday morning near Chase, B.C., in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. (Anushka Azadi)

Neskonlith te Secwepemc Chief Judy Wilson said some Secwepemc members felt the letter “fell on deaf ears.” 

Wilson said she also believed their actions were also spurred by the RCMP arrest of Gitxsan hereditary chiefs Monday night at a rail blockade near New Hazelton, B.C., and the Ontario Provincial Police operation against a camp set up by Mohawks of Tyendinaga along CN tracks. 

Azadi said the police presented them with an injunction issued by the B.C. court to end their rail line demonstration Tuesday morning.

Police say tracks cleared

B.C. RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey said in an emailed statement that three people were arrested for “breach of the civil injunction” and were taken to the Chase detachment for processing. 

O’Donaghey’s statement said police were called by CP Rail police to the blockade, which was established at a spot near the Neskonlith hall. Neskonlith is about six kilometres south of Chase.

The statement said that there were about two dozen people along the tracks. 

The statement said the tracks had been cleared.

Azadi said some people went to the RCMP detachment to await the release of the arrested and a meeting is planned to determine what to do next. 

She said the sacred fire was moved back to the Neskonlith hall.

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