Extraction, Indigenous Dispossession and State Power: Lessons from Standing Rock and Wet’suwet’en Resistance

  • Paarth Mittal Political Science Honours Program, University of Victoria
Keywords: Keywords: Wet’suwet’en First Nations; Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; pipelines; dispossession; securitization


When Indigenous-led resistance to land- and water-killing projects threatens extraction, settler-colonial state and corporate institutions use security mechanisms to eliminate such “threats.” Using as case studies the pipeline conflicts of the Wet’suwet’en Nation’s (especially Unist’ot’en Camp’s) resistance to Coastal GasLink (CGL) in British Columbia (BC), Canada, and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in North Dakota, United States (US), this paper explores how fossil-fuel extraction interacts with critical infrastructure (CI) securitization to further Indigenous land dispossession. I argue that although the Wet’suwet’en and Standing Rock cases both involved the state and corporations criminalizing Indigenous resistance to extraction—to uphold fossil-fuel capital interests—the Wet’suwet’en case is unique because Canadian actors attempted to pacify resistance through symbolic appeals to Indigenous rights. Indigenous communities across the world are violently oppressed for peacefully defending their water, land, and communities. However, the motives and strategies of violence are unique for every colonial jurisdiction exercising violence, and for every Indigenous community impacted. I compare and contrast the rationales and strategiesof both cases through an in-depth content analysis of passages from TigerSwan surveillance and BC Supreme Court injunction documents. I discuss my findings within theoretical debates on dispossession and securitization.


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