Contributed by Avery Florence — After introductions, the second question often asked upon arrival at Fairy Creek is “Are you arrestable?” These questions, always asked with a smile, are your welcome package. They are your initiation to a world of resistance, community, decentralized leadership to a suffocating reality of police presence, and to the certainty of daily arrests. It represents like-minded people finally joining forces and making the decision to face our environmental crisis head on.
When newcomers enter Fairy Creek’s headquarters, stark realities come to the fore. In the “real world”, we all ruminate from a distance on police violence, nonsensical government spending and reconciliation with our Indigenous people. But here, in this microcosm of our world, these issues are not fodder for thoughts. They are calls to action, beckoning humans to put their bodies on the line for something bigger than themselves. Apart from the 24-hour media tent, there is no cell service at Fairy Creek, isolating this situation into a world of its own, making it feel that this world is more real than that “real world” itself.
During each evening, the new batch of daily recruits meet in a gravel pit, forming a semi-circle around whoever is in the leadership role at that camp at that time. (Fairy Creek is organized in the fashion of “de-centralized leadership”- if it needs doing, get it done; if you need help, ask for it). As two strong women approached the middle of the circle to lead the meeting, the feeling dawns that this is the present-day apocalypse & we are the freedom fighters – because it is & we are. The meeting informed us of what was happening at the other camps within Fairy Creek (to the best of our knowledge) and assigned people (only on a volunteer-basis) to roles such as night-watch, cooking, building and heading up to the front-line. I did not know what to expect before arriving but I did not expect this height of organization. It is a level of organization unexpected amidst such chaos. This is not merely a gathering of tree-huggers–this is militant, peaceful warfare.
Before going, people had given words of caution, but I threw caution to the wind knowing that the people protecting these trees, our earth, our future, would be incredible people. And that is how you know you are on the right side of things.
What is happening at Fairy Creek is not just a fight for nature. It is a fight for humanity. Fairy Creek is a call for community as much as it is a yearning for environmental security. Fairy Creek is a call for community as much as environmental security. It is a call that keeps people there, and it is the belief that keeps them coming back.
Scattered around the grounds are signs that read, “Respect your Elders”, “Power to the Peaceful”, “Enough is Enough” & “Worth More Standing.” Phrases we all know in passing, but here, baked into the tension of this fight, they carry an unshakeable weight.
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Hundreds if not thousands of forest fires are burning all throughout Canada, and still, every day, we are cutting down ecosystems that have taken 2000 years to grow.
As you drive past these signs and into the hills, the scenery unfolds into a live version of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. Massive hills littered with tree stumps in memory of a diverse forest that once gave life. Now, only the birds sing over empty plains.
The land of Fairy Creek is unceded territory of the Pacheedaht tribe. Though we use the term “land back,” in Indigenous culture humans can never own the land; we are only responsible for it, ensuring its prosperity for 7 generations beyond ourselves. In most Indigenous nations, the chief is hereditary and functions under a Matriarch. Elected band councils were put in place by the Canadian government as a way to infiltrate these nations from the inside. The band leaders have signed this land away to be logged by the logging company Teal Jones. In Indigenous cultures the running joke is, would you rather the RCMP or the band leader? Though every situation is nuanced, this one is simple. Enough is enough.
For the Indigenous, these trees represent a world of culture. Cutting down these trees is cutting down beautiful peoples, many of which have only started to rediscover themselves by their roots. Elder Bill epitomizes this redemption. Once a logger himself, the 81-year-old member of the Pacheedaht nation now invites the forest-defenders on this land to help undo the damage of the years.
Yes. We, the forest defenders of Fairy Creek, are illegally protesting on Pacheedaht land against the old-growth logging industry, the police & government. But when all of us live within a system that consistently chooses short-term greed at the expense of the air our children need to breathe, what choice do we have but to put our bodies on the line?