Joyce Williams’ activism was first motivated by her mother’s words.
“God forbid our land should totally be devastated and the children ask, ‘What did you do to stop it?’” Williams said, recalling what her mother said to her when she was a child. “Are we going to feel shame in saying, ‘I didn’t do anything?’”
Williams, from Squamish’s Waiwakum village, is an organizer with the Skwomesh Action group, which is planning an anti-LNG protest in collaboration with the environmentalist group My Sea to Sky at Nexen Beach on March 29.
Skwomesh Action, a group consisting mostly of Squamish Nation women, formed last year in response to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project and has now expanded to take on the proposed Woodfibre LNG facility slated for Howe Sound near Squamish and associated FortisBC natural gas pipeline project.
“We are not going anywhere, this land and water is who we are, it is where we come from and we’ll always fight for it,” Williams said.
Her activism as a “land defender” has evolved from hearing the words of her mother as a child to her involvement in the national First Nations movement Idle No More, launched in 2012.
“The big lesson that came from that, from my elders, is ‘Go home, get educated on what’s happening in your territory and take a stand for it,’” Williams said.
Having a daughter of her own has also been a huge catalyst, she said.
“I wanted her to grow up learning off of the beautiful territory that her ancestors entrusted us with, not just her generation, but for generations to come,” said Williams, whose daughter is three years old.
Williams said she is satisfied with the engagement process of the Squamish Nation’s chiefs and council on the LNG proposals. The Nation is doing its own review of the Woodfibre LNG and FortisBC proposals and will make a decision on where the Nation stands later this spring.
“It is certainly out of the box and I am really glad that they are taking this step to do their own steps and process and investigating because, as First Nations people, we do certainly have different views,” she said.
Williams said with the Skwomesh Action rally, she hopes to create awareness and a safe opportunity for people to speak out.
“It’s an opportunity for all First Nations and non-First Nations to come support us in defending our territory. To show our community, our leadership, our government, how many of us will not support the industrialization of Howe Sound and that the potential environmental impacts take precedence over any alleged economic benefits that they are claiming,” she said.
“It is OK that we have differences in opinions, but this is going to be a place for people to come and make a stand and know that our voices will be heard.”
Squamish Nation Chief Ian Campbell told The Squamish Chief he is glad Nation members are taking a stand and making their voices heard.
“Many of our community members have gone around with petitions and creating awareness and that mobilization has helped us in our process to engage people,” he said. “I commend all members that are getting involved one way or another.”
For more info on the rally or the Skwomesh Action group go to skwomeshaction.org.