A Secwepemc activist from B.C. is in a North Dakota court today to face charges stemming from her involvement with protests in Standing Rock.
Kanahus Manuel was among dozens of people arrested near the construction of the North Dakota Access Pipeline last Oct. 22.
She faces charges of criminal trespass, engaging in a riot, obstruction of a governmental function, disobedience of a public safety order during riot conditions and disorderly conduct.
“They’re bogus charges. It wasn’t a riot,” Manuel told CBC via telephone after travelling to Mandan, ND from B.C.
“On the day I was arrested, it was during a prayer walk away from the pipeline.”
The sun was rising as the police began to make arrests, she said.
“It was really violent,” she said. “We had elders, women and pregnant women. It was a peaceful march, we were singing.
“The police started to mobilize…they came over the hill like a war movie. They looked like war machines to us as civilians having not ever seen these machines before. We started to retreat because they were overpowering us.”
Manuel spent the day and night in jail and was released the next day. Two weeks later, she plead not guilty to the charges against her.
“I believe that these are major human and Indigenous rights violations. Because when native people stand up to say ‘no’ to these development projects, whether it’s in Canada with the Kinder Morgan project or here with the North Dakota Access Pipeline, if we are really following international standards of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People then these corporations and governments need the collective free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous People, and they don’t have it. Indigenous People have said no.”
This isn’t the first time Manuel has faced criminal charges related to defending Indigenous rights.
In 2002 she was sentenced to three months in the Burnaby Women’s Institute for protesting the construction of the Sun Peaks Resort in her home territory, citing threats to traditional hunting grounds.
Manuel has also protested on the front lines against well-known development projects in B.C. like the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion and the Mount Polley tailings spill disaster by Imperial Metals.
Manuel said she’s headed to the courthouse with a fearless attitude, carrying the prayers of her supporters and holding onto her faith in traditional ceremonies to help get her through.
“I’m going in with no fear. I’m not scared to speak the truth.”
She stressed she’s not alone, and hundreds more are going through similar struggles since the events at Standing Rock.
“There’s a lot of arrest warrants out, people on the run. It’s wrong — these are young people that are protecting their land and culture. Standing Rock wasn’t just about stopping a pipeline, it was about building a massive convergence of native people to bring back our culture and to stand up together.”
Update from Kanahus: BREAKING NEWS: ALL CHARGES DROPPED AGAINST Kanahus Manuel and 2 others that were charged stemming from Oct 2016 mass arrests at the Standing Rock pipeline resistance. NOW FREE EM ALL & DROP ALL OTHER CHARGES AGAINST ALL WATER PROTECTORS. #SHUTDOWNDAPL #STOPKM #DROPALLCHARGES