The night before the Nanaimo hunger strike began, Sabina Dennis had a dream about trees. Mother Earth told her, “Why are you scraping off my skin? Now I am exposed. The sun is harmful to me. My flesh is what protects me from it.” The next morning Dennis read about the hunger strike on the internet. She immediately began a fast, but is very slender and became physically ill after four days. She also reached out to the two Nanaimo men through a mutual friend in Sierra Club BC. Sabina Dennis is one of several environmental leaders planning more forest events.
Nanaimo Hunger Strike is Over.
“Government refused to declare a moratorium on logging of the last old growth forests in BC, so we are going to keep fighting,” said Robert Fuller.
The two activists said MLA Sheila Malcolmson told nothing could be done for the forests because of a trade deal with China, a federal matter.
“That was a new one,” stated a dubious James Darling.
The pair ended their 14 day hunger strike at a rally in Nanaimo’s Maffeo Sutton Park on Saturday, August 8.
“We made the announcement at the end of the rally. We’ve more than achieved what we set out to do. Deep down we knew that we’d never get any response from our MLAs. We had a ten minute skype call. There wasn’t too much said. I think we may have pushed things (on the environmental front) a little bit,” explained Fuller.
An indigenous speaker at the rally, Fred Speck of the Gwawaenuk Tribe. said, “We need to keep their feet to the fire. They are absent and silent and I want to know where they are.”
More Forest Events Planned
“There are a bunch of different proposed events. Hopefully they will come to fruition. Someone is trying to get enough people together for a forest march in different cities throughout the province. There could be environmental actions near Port Renfrew.”
I read Darling part of an email, from a Quadra Island resident, calling for a demonstration in support of ‘James Darling and Robert Fuller’s hunger strike.’
He responded, “I hope that the rallies are in support of ending the cutting down of old growth trees rather than keeping us on a hunger strike. We don’t want the focus to be on us.”
The two men are going to take a few days off to recuperate with family.
“We will be doing something, guaranteed,” said Fuller. “It has been an incredible roller coaster ride. If it hadn’t of been for the well wishes and support we received from people throughout the province, this could have turned out very differently, but with that kind of support you know you are on the right path.”
One of Their Strongest Supporters
“There were a couple of videos she put out with elders blessing us. It was more well wishing than anything else,” said Fuller.
One of the highlights of his fast was a twenty minute phone conversation they had when he was demonstrating in front of MLA Doug Routley’s Nanaimo office on Friday, August 7th.
“It was an incredible experience. You know how every now and then something special happens and you get all tingly? Well I got all tingly and then I had to go to my vehicle and have a good cry.”
Dennis explained, “I am praying for these men who have sacrificed their bodies for the forest. The most important teaching of our people is that we preserve our lands and their wisdom for our children and the seventh generation ahead of them. This action has evoked the spirit of the old forests.”
Not Impressed By Government
“My whole life I have been aware of the importance of the trees. I don’t see how anyone couldn’t see the significance. If you just go to the forest, you feel their strength and wisdom,” said Dennis.
Dennis’ fast came to an end after she started to throw-up on the fourth day. She found it difficult to drink water.
“It takes a lot of strength to do a hunger strike. Fuller and Darling are actually starving for old growth forests. I know they aren’t starving to death, but their bodies are eating themselves. It is a huge sacrifice. I don’t think government has taken them seriously enough. They should sit down and meet them face to face.”
“The politicians are forcing us into the position where we have to make a different move. You can see how these situations escalate to the point that industry and people are standing off against each other. The corporate dollar is paramount at this point. When we want issues resolved and try to speak with politicians, they send in the police,” said Dennis.
“Nowadays it becomes a Federal issue when a few Indians try to stand up for their land, and I am talking about the United States and Canada. I think people are going to have to realize we are not safe. It isn’t just First Nations people. We are an example of how all people are going to be treated as resources diminish and we become more and more desperate.”
Fraser River Salmon
“People have to protect our beautiful land. This will happen out of necessity and is happening out of necessity right now. We see it as First Nations. Our salmon are gone from the Fraser River,” said Dennis.
She is a member of the Dakelh (Carrier) Nation and traced her people’s problems with the salmon runs back more than a century ago. When the railway was pushed through the Fraser River Canyon, it triggered a series of rock slides culminated in the great Hells Gate landslide of February 1914.
“Scientists back in the day said that in order to restore the salmon habitat, the debris had to be removed. This was never done.”
In late 2018, the Big Bar landslide dumped 75,000 cubic metres of rock into the Fraser.
“The last time I checked, which was a week ago, not a single salmon had come up the river. For the past two years we haven’t fished at all.”
Salmon is a vital component of Dakelh diet and a significant number of people are hungry.
As a result of her actions of behalf of the Wet suwet’en, the Gitxsan gave Dennis 500 salmon to share with her people.
“You see how our people support each other. The Gitxsan are sharing with the Carrier right now. This isn’t an old trade system that died, we are still functioning. We still trade and that is a huge part of why we support each other.”
Protect Our Beautiful Land
Dennis says that humanity was given a responsibility to protect the earth by the Creator.
Every race once knew that.
“People talk about what will happen at the end of time. Look at 1,800 species threatened with extinction as we speak. I am no scientist, but it is sure obvious that when the moose have gone, the salmon are gone and the forests are gone – there will be nothing left but a lot of work to do.”
“When you see a brother or sister in need and they have a brilliant action to create change, it is important to stick up for them. We should join them and nourish that dream because it is that dream that creates change.”
“Fuller and Darling are visionaries. They are going to be supported and make this happen for our trees. This will open the gate, the right people and the spirits of the trees themselves are in support of this vision.”
Proposed Action Near Port Renfrew
According to the Ancient Forest Alliance, “The valley is largely protected as an Old-Growth Management Area and Wildlife Habitat Area. However, Teal-Jones has begun road construction adjacent to the unprotected headwaters of the valley (about 4km up from the lake). While there are no current cutblock applications at this time, it could be part of their future plans.”
One of the organizers of a small grass-roots citizens group emailed, “We are ready to stake a stand, at the scene of this crime, against corporatized governments and Teal-Jones. We need food, camp, money donations and most of all, we need brave souls to come out and hold back the loggers.”
Upcoming Campbell River Demonstration
The organizer of this protest, Geraldine Kenny, was inspired by Darling and Fuller, but wants British Columbians to go much further.
“Join us and bring your posters and placards and stand up to Horgan’s NDP government who are intent on destroying the last old growth forests on Vancouver Island and in BC. 500 soccer fields of big tree habitat are logged every day, eco-systems are destroyed and forest bio diversity brought to the brink,” she urges her neighbours.
“What I would like to see is an old growth logging protest in front of every MLA office in every riding of British Columbia. Tomorrow Smithers, the next day Nelson, then Port Hardy, Campbell River, Victoria etc. That’s what I would really love to see … Social distancing and masks recommended for safety and comfort.”
In The Interior
There is another demonstration ‘in the making’ in the interior. Sabina Dennis expects her sisters, some of the Dakelh and Wet’suwet’en peoples and an environmental group in Prince George to participate.
“I haven’t even figured out what I am going to do yet, maybe a rolling blockade or something like that.”
She intends to launch this action on Monday, when Fuller and Darling issue a press release about the end of their hunger strike.