A First Nations elder has been defying Kinder Morgan’s injunction barring protesters from its worksite on Burnaby Mountain, in order to maintain a sacred fire.
Sut-Lut, from the Squamish nation, has been tending the fire with help from family, friends and the RCMP.
“In my culture when there’s a problem we gather the people around the fire. We feed everybody and the earth is alive,” said Sut-Lut.
“And it’s connecting all peoples, because we get to talk there.”
To get to and from the fire, she has to cross the police tape that separates Kinder Morgan workers from protesters. Most people who cross that barrier are arrested immediately.
RCMP officers have been working in collaboration with Sut-Lut to ensure she can continue to keep the fire going. They escort her in every morning and escort her back out in the evening when she returns home to care for her family.
Officers have also helped her by setting up temporary structures to keep her dry, offering food and even chopping wood.
“They’ve helped us stay dry, try and stay warm, and I’m so appreciative of them,” said Sut-lut.
Const. Ben Smith works with the Aboriginal Policing Services unit at the RCMP. He’s been acting as one of the liaisons between Sut-Lut and the public, facilitating Sut-Lut's invitation to have two protesters join her each day at the fire.
“The relationship that we’ve experienced is great,” Smith said.
”The partnership and the relationship that we’ve formed and bonded together has paid off. There’s nothing but peace going on here.”
Smith said officers have seen protesters enter the injunction perimeter angry but leave with a sense of calm.
“Sut-Lut’s message to those people has been about peace,” said Smith.
“We support that and we’re very very happy to work with her and her nation.”
Sut-Lut’s brother has also been working behind the police tape. He is carving two totem poles that will be donated to the residents of Burnaby with help from Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal men.
Despite the rain, the mud and the cold, Sut-Lut is staying put.
“I will be here every day until God, Creator-willing, we win this thing,” she says.