Protect Indigenous sovereignty—demand profiteers defund the Coastal GasLink pipeline

by Liz Marin

I stood up to Wall Street billionaires once before, and I’ll do it again to stop them from ruining our Mother Earth and the sovereignty of my Indigenous brothers and sisters.

Liz Marin, indigenous rights activist and Member Leader with United for Respect

When I found out that Kohlberg Kravitz Roberts (KKR) was acquiring a significant equity interest in the Coastal GasLink pipeline that is trying to invade the sacred ground of my Wet’suwet’en brothers and sisters, the first thought that came to my mind was my mother.

My family and I are Alaskan natives of the Tlingit tribe’s Eagle Wolf clan. While most of my family lived in Alaska, my family lineage is linked to Canada as well. My mother raised my siblings and me as proud Indigenous people, and she tried her hardest to make sure we never forgot our ancestors.

The first time I visited Canada, I was a little girl, and my mother took my siblings and me to see the Tlingit eagle totem pole. My mother always told me that I come from a very strong lineage of activist women and despite our harsh history of being taken advantage of, thrown into concentration camps, and colonized, the women in my family were unafraid and always ready to fight back.

My mother taught me to stand up for myself and what I believe in. Her brave spirit gave me the courage to stand up to KKR once before. And now, I’m ready to stand up to them again.

I first crossed paths with Wall Street private equity firm KKR in 2018 when I found out the Toys ‘R’ Us store where I worked would be closing because the company was filing for bankruptcy. I lost my paycheck. I lost my healthcare. But I didn’t lose my hope. I loved my Toys ‘R’ Us family and found solace knowing we had each other’s back as we tried to figure out why our company was going bankrupt. The news was saying it was Amazon. Our managers were saying it happens all the time in business despite years of profits. But eventually, I learned the truth.

Amazon didn’t kill Toys ‘R’ Us—Wall Street private equity firms KKR, Vornado, and Bain Capital did. They bought the company in 2005, loaded it with debt, and drove it into bankruptcy. To add further salt to injury, while these private equity firms caused Toys to collapse, destroying 33,000 jobs, including mine, they walked away with more than $470 million in fees and interests over the years.

They had enough money to buy yachts and mansions while we could barely put food on the table. We were livid. Our severance pay had been something our company policy guaranteed us and there was no way were we going to let these Wall Street billionaires walk away with our money and not be held accountable. So we fought and won back our severance.

Private equity is not just destroying retail jobs. From journalism to healthcare, to for-profit prisons and fossil fuels, private equity is doing damage to our communities, our economy and our planet. Winning a historic $20 million hardship fund at Toys R Us was a small, but important beacon of hope for millions of working families across the country. When we come together, we can hold the billionaires accountable.

Wall Street executives use their money and influence to rig the rules in their favor with no regard for the lives and communities they ruin. They lobby for policies that will make them richer and they don’t care about everyday people like you and me.

In the last ten years, an estimated 1.3 million retail and related jobs have been killed by Wall Street. And if we don’t stand up to them they will get away with their Coastal GasLink pipeline and ruin our sacred lands as the Keystone Pipeline did to Standing Rock; already leaking more than 600,000 gallons of crude oil.

Photo by Michael Toledano

For over five years, the Wet’suwet’en have been fighting to stop this pipeline slated to cut through their territories. The Hereditary Chiefs have asserted their right to jurisdiction over their lands, their right to determine access and prevent trespass under Wet’suwet’en law, and the right to Free Prior and Informed Consent as guaranteed by the United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. However, TC Energy will not listen and plans to move forward with the construction of the TC Energy Coastal GasLink pipeline with KKR at the helm.

To date, our protests have garnered national attention as militarized police conducted a military raid and illegally evicted hereditary chiefs, land defenders, and matriarchs. And KKR has not budged and refuses to pull back their investment. Our jobs weren’t safe in their hands and our sacred lands aren’t either.

Two ways you can help right now:

  • Sign our petition and stand in solidarity with activists around the world to protect Indigenous Sovereignty and demand KKR and other fossil fuel profiteers defund the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
  • Share a selfie or post to demand we defund the Coastal GasLink pipeline with the following hashtags: #Wet’suwet’enStrong #ShutDownCanada #ShutDownKKR.

I may not be a billionaire, but I am a proud Tlingit woman of the Eagle Wolf clan and like my ancestors before me, I will stand up and fight. Join me in letting the world know what’s happening in Canada so we can protect our Wet’suwet’en brothers and sisters from the same devastation we saw in Standing Rock. Let’s stand up to Wall Street!

Liz Marin

By Liz Marin

Liz Marin is an Indigenous rights activist and Member Leader with United for Respect. She helped lead the Wall Street campaign to win a historic hardship fund for former Toys ‘R’ Us employees, all while being a mother of three and helping her partner through full-time college.

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