Trailblazer: Kanahus Manuel and The Tiny House Warriors
“We stand resolutely together against any and all threats to our lands, the wildlife and the waterways”Kanahus Manuel
The Tiny House Warriors, a group of Secwepemc land and water defenders, have a simple message, “water is life; our land is our home”. Their mission: stop the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline from crossing unceded Secwepemc territory.
The Tiny House Warriors are standing in peaceful defence of their territory and against the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which they say does not have the collective free, prior and informed consent of the Secwepemc peoples. The plan is to block access to pipeline construction by building 10 tiny houses along the 518 km pipeline route. To date they have built six houses on Secwepemc territory near Blue River and Moonbeam Creek. The houses act not only as a physical barrier, but also provide community housing to Secwepemc families. Each house will be equipped with off-the-grid solar power.
The Tiny House Warrior movement was founded by Kanahus Manuel, a mother, water and land defender, and member of the Secwepemc Women’s Warrior Society. Manuel’s family has led the struggle for rights and sovereignty in Secwepemcul’ecw (territory of the Secwepemc people) for generations. Her late father Arthur Manuel, a former Secwepemc chief and residential school survivor, was a global champion for Indigenous rights and title in Canada and abroad. Author of The Reconciliation Manifesto and Unsettling Canada, he never ceased to be a powerful spokesperson for Indigenous peoples. Her late grandfather George Manuel was the second president of the National Indian Brotherhood (now the Assembly of First Nations) and founding president of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples. Kanahus said she is continuing the work that her father and grandfather led. “I will never live my life and their life in vain, for what they did for us — and not just them, but all our ancestors before.”
Indigenous water and land defenders are at constant risk of harm for the work they do to protect the land and the Tiny House Warriors are no exception. The impacts of resource development projects are disproportionately borne by Indigenous communities, particularly Indigenous women and girls. During construction, the influx of industry workers in temporary accommodations, or “man-camps,” has been associated with increased incidents of sexual harassment and violence against Indigenous women and girls from nearby communities. Today, COVID-19 exacerbates these threats. The Tiny House Warriors have had to deal with intimidation tactics, threats, and violence. In April 2020, three white men and one woman rammed through a barricade at the Blue River camp, damaging camp property and one of the tiny houses while verbally abusing Manuel and others.
In response to that incident, KAIROS signed a letter of support with other participants of a human rights symposium that was held in Secwepemc territory in support of the Tiny House Warriors this past March. The letter speaks clearly to the importance of this movement:
Everyone spoke to the importance of the stand the Tiny House Warriors were taking to carry on the fight of their ancestors to ensure the run of salmon in the rivers, the abundance of berries in the fields, and the purity of the water to drink. But most of all, what they pass down to their children by taking a stand is the knowledge that the land is their responsibility to protect, as well as the strength to fight for it.
This movement models hope and solutions for transitioning towards a new economy and they invite others to stand with them. “Some people say it’s going to be Indigenous peoples who stop climate change, but it will take every single person, not just Indigenous people,” says Manuel.
Support the Tiny House Warriors.