Bella Coola women’s team wore shirts in support of the Wet’suwet’en who are protesting the Coastal GasLink pipeline. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Wet’suwet’en Strong shirts dominate All Native Tournament

Committee vice-president says the basketball tournament in Prince Rupert shouldn’t be about politics

The 60th All Native Basketball Tournament opening ceremonies wasn’t without controversy.

Entire teams dressed in T-shirts with “Wet’suwet’en Strong” printed on the front and “Unceded” on the back. Some players held signs reading “We stand with Wet’suwet’en” as they paraded through the court.

Escalating opposition to the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline on traditional Wet’suwet’en territory lead to RCMP arrests and rallies across the country. Fourteen people were arrested on Jan. 7 after attempting to block a forest service road needed by Coastal GasLink workers in the pre-construction process.

The 670-kilometre pipeline is intended to move natural gas from Dawson Creek to Kitimat, where the LNG Canada facility is being built.

On Feb. 10, more than 50 Indigenous teams from across B.C., to Hydaburg, Alaska, travelled to Prince Rupert for the All Native Basketball Tournament. More than 100 Lax Kw’alaams members opened the ceremonies. Dancers wore carved cedar masks, button blankets, tunics and dresses. They played drums, blew into conch shells, and used mussel shells as rattlers.

READ/WATCH MORE: Lax Kw’alaams prepare to lead All Native opening ceremonies

As Lax Kw’alaams continued to sing, the teams walked in one by one, many wearing the same T-shirt in support of the We’suwet’en protest. Once all the teams filed in the organizers, Indigenous leaders and politicians took their turn to speak in the centre of the court.

First up was Eva Spencer, the vice chairman of the All Native Tournament committee.

“I feel sad for the players right now because right now you’re not focused,” Spencer said. “Don’t bring politics into this.”

In 2017, the committee banned all anti-LNG statements, either on T-shirts or banners, from the tournament. The previous year, players wore blue “No LNG” T-Shirts as they walked into the court for the opening ceremonies. Players, coaches and managers wearing any anti-LNG or political statements were asked to either remove the items or remove themselves from the tournament.

Despite the ban, some players and supporters stood outside the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre and handed out pink “No LNG” T-shirts.

Following Spencer’s speech, Murray Smith, Algmxaa, one of the house leaders in the Gitwilgyoots Tribe, took centre stage with Chief Yahaan, Donald Wesley, who was the leader in the protest and court battle against Pacifc Northwest LNG project on Lelu Island.

Smith applauded the players who were making a political statement with the signs and the banners. At the end of his speech he said: “We are on unceded territory as well. I love seeing that on your T-shirts as well, unceded. Don’t forget, you are in control.” Behind him, Lax Kw’alaams members beat their drums and spectators cheered.

Teams left the court singing the Friendship Song with Lax Kw’alaams performers.

The tournament will be held in Prince Rupert from Feb. 10 until Feb. 16.

READ MORE: B.C. government, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs announce reconciliation process

To report a typo, email: editor@thenorthernview.com.


Shannon Lough | Editor
Shannon Lough 
Send Shannon email
Like the The Northern View on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

 

Eva Spencer, vice chairman of the All Native Basketball Tournament, tells the players at the opening ceremonies that the tournament shouldn’t be about politics. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

In the first publication of this story “Wet’suwet’en Strong shirts dominate All Native Tournament opening ceremonies” we wrote in error that it was Eva Clayton who spoke first as the vice chairman of the All Native Tournament committee. We apologize for this error to any one this may have offended, as it was Eva Spencer. This has since been corrected in both print and online editions.

Just Posted

Meet Tour de North cyclist Chris Fedoruk

Quesnel man is a community rider with this year’s Cops for Cancer team

Forestry Ink: Forest tenure changes are occurring throughout the world

Regular columnist Jim Hilton writes about forest tenure and ownership

Quesnel Safeway honours its volunteer shoppers

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Safeway’s volunteer shopper program

Police name second suspect, lay kidnapping and attempted murder charges in connection with Rudy Johnson Bridge incidents

Drynock is considered dangerous, do not approach him and call the local RCMP detachment immediately

Grey Ghost to get back on track at Doug Larson Memorial Race

Quesnel’s Mike Spooner wants to race again after 17-year hiatus

QUIZ: How much do you remember about Woodstock?

Weekend music festival in Bethel, New York, was held 50 years ago

U16 B.C. fastpitch team named national champs

Girls went undefeated at national tournament in Calgary

Advocates ‘internationalize’ the fight to free Raif Badawi from Saudi prison

Raif Badawi was arrested on June 17, 2012, and was later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for his online criticism of Saudi clerics

Canadian entrepreneurs turning beer byproduct into bread, cookies and profits

Some breweries turn to entrepreneurs looking to turn spent grain into treats for people and their pets

Canada ‘disappointed’ terror suspect’s British citizenship revoked

Jack Letts, who was dubbed “Jihadi Jack” by the U.K. media, has been detained in a Kurdish prison for about two years

Chrystia Freeland condemns violence in Hong Kong, backs right to peaceful assembly

There have been months of protests in the semi-autonomous region

Most Read