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At Fairy Creek, Indigenous Land Defenders Explain Their Struggle

Aya Clappis is Afro-Indigiqueer of Somali and Nuu-chah-nulth descent. For them, climate justice is about collective liberation and the Fairy Creek struggle is part of the larger movements for both.

“We need the land back to be liberated the same way that we need systems of policing to be abolished to be free… and that’s tied to Black liberation, that’s tied to queer liberation,” Aya tells Teen Vogue. “It’s really an all-encompassing thing because the systems that gave rise to climate change are all rooted in our various oppressions and oppression is this lasting trauma that, I think, has really not allowed us to act on climate justice.”

A key issue in the Fairy Creek fight is Indigenous sovereignty beyond a legal definition. In this situation, Aya says sovereignty would mean “the local community not being confined to the extractive colonial structure in place, which forces Pacheedaht and other Nuu-chah-nulth communities and Nations to rely on logging, to rely on extraction.… “True sovereignty would be the ability to live our ways of life, to practice our beliefs and our laws without infringement from the state and industry or any other outside body.”

Aya also hopes this is a chance to build two-way communication with local settler communities, saying this is “an opportunity for us, for once, to learn from each other, instead of there being a one-sided, assimilation approach.” They also believe there’s a chance for decolonial practice, with ways to break down the colonial systems that still exist.

“The heart of the matter is a colonial one and the police presence [at Fairy Creek] is evidence of that and ongoing proof of colonialism at work,” Aya said, arguing that, “as long as the people of the land are oppressed,” policies that keep the land and water alive will be suppressed.

Part of the effort against colonialism can be educational, Aya said. For people who want to support the cause, learning about Nuu-chah-nulth people and territory could alleviate the lack of knowledge settlers operate from.

“It is quite literally almost half this island, on the west coast,” Aya explained. “If people understood who we are, they could show up in a much better way. I think that they would understand that this struggle has been going on for a few hundred years now and that our people never accepted our conditions of colonialism. They never accepted the Indian Act.”

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