Widzin Kwa

For Freda Huson

free and prior, the river
fast and sure, rocking
rolled boulders and fish

and the bridge onto
another way, land
first and the pine/spruce
smoke & sockeye offering

what the water provides
washes over previous versions
ancestors linked in
a circle can
stop a bulldozer

a watchful stance,
a peaceful assurance
unmoved under heli rotors

the colonial line
interrupted with a checkpoint

the unsurrendered circle
of firelight and cycles of
drying and canning, severing
the commercial flow

and opening the bridges within

Rob Budde teaches creative writing at UNBC in Prince George, BC. He has published eight books.

Questions and Answers

How/where do you find inspiration today?

I find inspiration in those who resist oppression and work toward a more peaceful, just world. These folks include poets like Lee Maracle, Rita Wong, Dionne Brand, and Steve Collis, who write for a better world, to counter racist thought, to call attention to environmental crimes, and strive to support the communities around them. I am inspired most by those on the front lines of resisting destructive and unethical development with boots on the ground at places like the Site C dam, Gidimt’en and Unist’ot’en. These folks sacrifice so much to protect the land and water, and devote themselves to upholding Indigenous sovereignty over traditional lands.

What inspired or motivated you to write this poem?

I was inspired to write this poem by the desire to help in an important political struggle unfolding in Northern “British Columbia.” The Wet’suwet’en nation, its hereditary chiefs and Feast Hall governance system, have said an unequivocal “no” to a pipeline being built by Coastal Gas Link and funded by major Canadian banks. CGL wants to place the pipeline underneath the Widzin Kwa (also known as the Morice River) southwest of Houston BC. Freda Huson, who the poem is dedicated to, has been resisting industrial incursion onto the traditional territory of the Unist’ot’en for almost a decade. This is a precedent-setting struggle between resource extraction industry and Indigenous land rights and I would ask everyone to research to inform themselves.

What did you find particularly challenging in writing this poem?

The challenge was to contribute to the cause without centring myself as a settler ally. Allyship is tricky as a writer because my tools bring me attention, but I want all the energy and positivity to go to the front lines and the ethics of the struggle. I travel to Unist’ot’en to offer my support in a variety of ways but always am aware that I am not a spokesperson or a leader in the struggle. My poems are shows of support and efforts to inform public thought on the issues involved.

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