Striptease for a radical change

Burlesque dancers support Unis’tot’en action camp

Forest Action Network’s Zoe Blunt has convinced some of Victoria’s burlesque performers to satirically strip down and raise funds for this year’s “No Pipeline” caravan.

Last year, the group bought and donated a bus to the First Nations Unis’tot’en camp near Smithers, along with $10,000. They’ll be borrowing the bus this year to once again transport those making the 15-hour trip.

“Last year, we had 48 passengers on the bus and eight other vehicles,” Blunt says. “There were about 200 people from all over the region in total.”

Getting to the camp is one thing. Being accepted and allowed on the grounds is quite another. The Unis’tot’en people continue the ancient tradition of asking strangers to state their intentions for the visit. Known today as Free Prior and Informed Consent Protocol, the tradition isn’t only spoken or written. Visiting parties in the past were asked to dance their people’s story atop planks placed across their canoes.

For this year’s travellers it won’t be quite so challenging. Before entering, they fully introduce themselves, ask permission to enter the land and camp, and offer their skills and commitment to assist the camp and benefit future generations.

Then it’s time to get to work. The camp has already begun and will continue building cabins on the Enbridge pipeline path proposed to travel through their territory.

“Oh my, it’s a lovely cabin. And huge!” Blunt says.

As a result, Enbridge moved the line a kilometer south on equally contested ground. “The indigenous people there have already started construction of pit houses,” she continues.

The natural gas pipelines in Kitimat, however, have already been approved without Unis’tot’en consent. Fracking to extract natural gas is one of their biggest fears. On several occasions, fracking surveyors and forestry groups have been asked to leave the camp. A verbal warning to these groups is paired with an eagle feather as a reminder of their unlawful trespass.

“They know they’re not supposed to be there,” Blunt adds.

Forest Action Network has a lengthening list of successful campaigns: stopping the China Beach housing development in Sooke, getting VanCity to divest from Enbridge, etc. Blunt was introduced to members of the Unis’tot’en clan at a conference in Vancouver in 2011 and had an instant connection to their cause. “The community is incredibly united on a number of issues,” she says. “Defending the coast, protecting the animals, stopping the pipelines.”

Forest Action Network will once again support what they consider the social good with this year’s The Harder They Come burlesque event. The tag line: Vancouver Island’s REAL wild life.

When it comes to powerful groups misusing their power, Blunt is just getting warmed up. “You may think you can get away with it, but people talk,” Blunt assures. “Even if it just starts as a whisper in someone’s ear, they talk despite intimidation they might be receiving.” M

 

The Harder they Come – Radical Drag Burlesque Cabaret makes a statement on Mon., April 29 at Norway House (1110 Hillside). Doors at 7pm, show at 8pm. Emcee and Poet Laureate Janet Rogers guides us through the work of Mandy Lushious, Ella Love, Tom Hat, Florence Fatale, Mitzy Turnpike, Lady Ethereal and more. $20 at http://forestaction.wikidot.com/harder.

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