By Andru McCracken
The hereditary leadership of the Secwepemc Nation has called for accountability and transparency from the Tiny House Warriors, but Michael McKenzie, the cofounder of the Tiny House Warriors goes further, alleging that the leader of the warriors, Kanahus Manuel, is there without the Secwepemc’s support and on behalf of herself.
“Kanahus has her family and has attracted activists from around the world, but has lost the support of the grassroots,” said McKenzie. “It’s quite serious. It shows she’s up there on her own accord, but she claims to represent the Secwepemc.”
McKenzie co-founded the Tiny House Warrior campaign in 2018 with a clear plan grounded in respect and non confrontation, soon after getting into action the warriors became a captive to violence and aggression.
McKenzie, having watched on the sidelines for long enough, has decided to speak up.
McKenzie’s vision for the Tiny House Warriors was to have Indigenous people living off the land on their traditional territory, teaching and learning from local populations and engaging in respectful discourse while blocking progress on the pipeline.
McKenzie said elders taught him how to deal with anger:
“When you are mad, lay down in water and let it all go,” he recalled. “We are not the type of people who believe anger will solve our problems. I don’t think we can solve the problem with the thinking that created it.”.
When the warriors moved their first tiny house to Clearwater, McKenzie saw the behaviour of the warriors take a new course.
“We had allies in Clearwater; a notable ally would get coffee for everybody because he appreciated the work of First Nations,” said McKenzie. “They yelled at him, told him he was not welcome here and even suggested he was trying to poison us.”
McKenzie didn’t see why and said he chafed against the Tiny House Warriors’ aggression. Eventually it came to a head.
“I was run off for being polite,” said McKenzie.
There was a verbal confrontation that escalated, and he alleges he was physically attacked by a fellow protestor.
McKenzie stressed that the warriors did deal with racism while in Clearwater in 2018, but he expected that.
“People came to us and were screaming stuff, but it was not that big of a deal. Some people are like that,” he said.
He takes issue with the hot discourse of the warriors, safely hidden on a backroad with an easy alternative route behind it in the tiny community of Blue River.
He said the hate they sow has repercussions for activists who are trying to stop the pipeline, increasing the chances of violence.
McKenzie characterizes the Tiny House Warriors as taking credit for work done to stop the pipeline by actual grassroots activists.
“She drove out there and did live videos outside the spot, casting it as the work of the Tiny House Warriors.”
While the Tiny House Warriors have name brand recognition and international attention, local Indigenous are doing the best they can to raise a few dollars for legal fees.
McKenzie remains committed to stopping the Trans Mountain Expansion, a pipeline he believes is illegal and wrong for the planet.
“I believe in our responsibility as Secwepemc to protect the land. Our own survival depends on it,” he said.
But he felt compelled to raise his voice against the Tiny House Warriors.
“I have no choice but to address it,” he said.
McKenzie warns off Indigenous youth from the Lower Mainland from joining the warriors.
“They are a danger to the youth. I don’t want them to get into a situation they don’t see coming,” he said.
The Tiny House Warriors were contacted for comment, but did not respond back by presstime.