Nuxalk Warrior Colette Schooner Passes On To Spirit World

Aloosta 4

Colette Schooner (Aluusta).

by Zig Zag, Warrior Publications, March 7, 2015

A strong Nuxalk woman, warrior, mother, and land defender, Colette Schooner, also known by her Nuxalk name Aluusta, passed away on March 4, 2015.

Born on October 29, 1980, Colette was just 34 years old. She was a mother to two children, a boy and a girl, ages 7 and 4 years old. Aluusta fought a year long battle against cancer before passing on.

Colette will be mourned by many people in both the Nuxalkmc nation as well as the Indigenous resistance movement. She participated in numerous land defence struggles throughout her life, including the 1997 Nuxalk blockades at Ista (King’s Island) at the age of 16, as well as the reclamation of Scw7cwlk, where she helped build a traditional pit house in an area targeted by logging.

Colette being arrested in June 1997 for blockading logging operations on Ista at the age of 16.

Colette being arrested in June 1997 for blockading logging operations on Ista at the age of 16.

I first met Colette in 1997 when we were both involved in the Vancouver chapter of the Native Youth Movement (NYM). We spent a lot of time organizing conferences, protests and meetings.

In the late 1990’s we went to several of the annual Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) gathering’s, in New Mexico and Texas. On the way to the gathering in New Mexico, our propane powered van caught fire and we had to abandon it on the side of a highway in southern Oregon. The fire spread so quickly we just left our belongings inside, but Colette braved the quickly growing inferno to rescue her guitar. Within minutes the entire van was engulfed in flames.

We rode together on Greyhound buses for four days to get to the gathering in Brownsville, Texas, and then four days to get back to Bella Coola. On our way back we had to transfer buses in Houston. We were standing inside the bus terminal when we saw our luggage being carted off, supposedly to be put on our new bus. We both had a bad feeling about it, and sure enough when we arrived in Vancouver our luggage was nowhere to be seen. It arrived about a week later, and we had to go the border to retrieve it.

Colette being honoured at Bear Butte, 1999, by Lakotas with a star quilt for her 1997 blockade arrest.

Colette being honoured at Bear Butte, 1999, by Lakotas with a star quilt for her 1997 blockade arrest.

One of my favourite memories of Aluusta, that I think shows her warrior spirit as well as her funny quirky side, was during a gathering of the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) that we attended in June 1999, at Bear Butte, South Dakota. The gathering was great, and Aluusta was honoured with a star quilt blanket for her participation in blockading logging on her people’s territory. We also got to meet the descendants of Crazy Horse during the honouring ceremony.

The pit house Colette helped build.

The pit house Colette helped build at Scw7cwlk.

While the Treaty Council gathering was going on, there was a protest called for Pine Ridge, which our group of NYM from Vancouver decided to participate in. The protest was against the unsolved murders of several Lakota men around the town of Whiteclay, Nebraska, including the rumoured involvement of local police in their deaths.

Whiteclay is a small little town just across the state line from the Pine Ridge, South Dakota, reservation. Its primary industry, it appears, is selling alcohol to people from Pine Ridge.

When we arrived at Pine Ridge, we joined around 2,000 Lakotas who at first gathered in a community hall and then marched to Whiteclay (singing the AIM song the entire time).

Whiteclay was like a ghost town that day, the streets were empty and many of the stores were boarded up because of the protest. There were only a handful of cops, as well.

Members of Vancouver NYM that traveled to South Dakota in June 1999.

Members of Vancouver NYM that traveled to South Dakota in June 1999.

The protest marched through the town and then back to the state line, where speakers denounced the murders and stated that the sign declaring the state boundaries should actually be moved back to the other side of Whiteclay, as the land had been illegally taken from the Pine Ridge reserve lands.

Almost immediately that big green sign started swaying back and forth; a couple of the NYM’ers had begun pushing it over, and they were joined by several Lakotas. The sign was toppled over and then carried to the opposite side of the town, where it was thrown down at the feet of the cops, who stood powerless to intervene.

As the large crowd began moving back through the town towards Pine Ridge, a small riot broke out. Stores in Whiteclay were broken into and looted. One store was almost set on fire.

By this time, dozens of state and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) police had arrived. Some rocks and cans of pop were thrown at them, but by this time most people were marching back to Pine Ridge to celebrate.

Colette's watermelon lies splattered on the road during riot in Whiteclay, Nebraska, June 26, 1999.

From the front page of the Rapid City Journal, Colette’s watermelon lies splattered on the road during riot in Whiteclay, Nebraska, June 26, 1999.

We shared our loot from the rioting. Some had taken cigarettes or pop, potato chips, etc. And what had Aluusta taken as part of her loot? A big watermelon which, during all the commotion, she had accidentally dropped on the road. The next day we saw a newspaper article about the riot, and on the front page was a big photo with a line of state police facing off against a crowd of Lakotas, and in the foreground was the watermelon Aluusta had dropped, splattered all over the road.

Another funny incident arising from this action was the arrest of one Lakota youth, the only person arrested that day. His name was Freedom, and he was bailed out of the BIA police jail for the sum of $35, later that day. It seemed so random and we laughed about it often; how “freedom” could be bailed out so cheaply!

In 1999, Aluusta had moved back to her traditional territory, in Bella Coola. Myself and others visited her that summer and spent three weeks out at Scw7cwlk. Aluusta introduced me to two of her friends who were renting property outside of town, and they eventually invited me to live on the land with them. I stayed for about a year, living along the Bella Coola River, gathering firewood and hauling water, as the land had no electricity or running water.

Aluusta with one of her two children.

Aluusta with one of her two children.

During my time there I traveled with Aluusta and our friends to the mass protests against the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle in the fall of 1999. We didn’t know what to expect, but it turned into three days of protests and clashes with riot police. Everyday we were exposed to tear gas, pepper spray and police baton charges, but this never deterred Aluusta from participating.

One of the many lessons I learned from Aluusta concerned our people’s traditions and the defence of territory. Frustrated at times by the apathy she perceived amongst some of her people, she pointed out the irony of people wearing traditional crests during potlaches, such as Killer whale or Grizzly bear, but doing nothing to protect the lands and waters upon which they depend for their very survival.

Besides being committed to direct action and Indigenous resistance, Colette was also a very spiritual person. She participated in her people’s culture and many different ceremonies throughout her life.

Aluusta was one of the most positive and good natured peopled I have ever met. She strove to be a good person mentally, physically and spiritually. All the more reason it came as a surprise to learn of her declining health over the last year and then recent passing away. It was an honour to know her and to share parts of our journeys through life together.  Colette’s funeral is to be held in Bella Coola on March 8, 2015.

Gilakas’la, Aluusta.

* There will also be a gathering in Vancouver, BC, Sunday March 8 at 12:30 noon at Grandview Park.

Event Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1549794918618728/

Update: Here’s a photo from the gathering in Vancouver to honour Aluusta on March 8, 2015:

Vancouver gathering to honour Aluusta on March 8, 2015.

Vancouver gathering to honour Aluusta on March 8, 2015.

Posted on March 7, 2015, in Warrior and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Mother Nature protects you left in the land of the living and your spirit will help the warriors in their fight, rest in peace.

  2. she was a truly amazing warrior and mom and dear friend…

  3. 💖 all our relations 💖

  4. collette was our daughter inlaw (Joe & Cookie Jules) the wife of our son Gerald… a true blessing to our family… a good human being in the truest sense of the word…. those who ceremony and strive to be such know the meaning of this… We are deeply saddened and our grief will not easily leave us…. We will strive though to live full lives in her honour and to be the best examples and human beings possible amongst her children… We’ll all find each other along the trail someday… we know this… but from time to time the sweetness of your memory collette will leave tears upon our face….We love you always…

  5. Did you notice that some of the screens where blurred outhttp://i.imgur.com/qNqtx.png

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