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

All Native Basketball Tournament

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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

Quesnel RCMP still searching for Darryl Leblanc Jr.

Leblanc was last seen Dec. 30, 2019, and police are asking for the public’s help in locating him

Quesnel Council agrees to tax shift that gives light industry a break

The shift means residences will see a tax increase of about $3 per $100,000 each year

Quesnel Lightning strike in Kelowna

Three teams from the local ringette club competed at the Sweetheart Tournament in Kelowna Feb. 7-9

Quesnel council proposing 6.7-per-cent tax increase for 2020

Tax increase reflects added RCMP and bylaw resources, plus new snow levy

UPDATE: One dead after multi-vehicle collision involving logging truck on Highway 97

DriveBC says highway expected to remain closed until 8 p.m.

VIDEO: B.C. senior recalls ‘crazy’ wartime decision to grab bear cub from den

Henry Martens – now 96 – says he was lucky to be alive after youthful decision to enter a bear’s den

Cheapest in B.C.: Penticton gas prices dip below $1 per litre

Two stores in Penticton have gas below a dollar.

Loans or gifts? Judge rules woman must pay B.C. man back $7K

B.C. judge rules that woman must pay back more than $7,000 in advanced funds to man

VIDEO: Outpouring of worldwide support for bullied Australian boy

Australian actor Hugh Jackman said ‘you are stronger than you know, mate’

Man, 40, killed in hit and run in Fort St. James

One person is dead in a hit and run case that is… Continue reading

‘A horror show:’ Ex-employee shares experience at problematic Chilliwack seniors’ home

Workers are paid below industry standard at all Retirement Concepts facilities

Forest industry protests northern B.C. caribou protection deal

B.C. Mining Association supports federal-Indigenous plan

Youth-led report calls on B.C. government to create plan to end youth homelessness

There are no dedicated programs for youth homelessness at federal, provincial level, report says

Trudeau: Time for blockades to end and Indigenous leaders to work with government

Prime minister says situation in Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute is ‘unacceptable and untenable’

Most Read