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Saving Sesamo: Community Bands Together to Save Bus to Unist’ot’en Pipeline Blockade

by Kelly Pflug-Back

Saving Sesamo: Community Bands Together to Save Bus to Unist’ot’en Pipeline Blockade

In the parking lot behind an industrial building in Scarborough ON, Brett Rhyno has spent the past two weeks coaxing the life back in to a converted school bus which will be transporting him and a few other supporters to the Unist'ot'en Camp in the coming week, fuelled by nothing but veggie oil and sheer dedication.

Problems with the bus- nicknamed ‘Sesamo’- breaking and engine put a damper on Brett's former plans to leave Toronto with a caravan of other supporters earlier in June, but he refused to let this stop him. “I spent a year with the Unist'ot'en, on their territory.” he told the media co-op, wiping the engine oil off his hands with a grease-stained rag. “I made a commitment that if things heated up I would go back.”

In the wake of the conservative government's recent approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, the situation has been heating up indeed for Indigenous peoples whose land and livelihood would be devastated by the project's continuation. Numerous Indigenous and non-Indigenous allies have travelled from across the country to stay at the Unist'ot'en camp since it was established in 2010, and the looming spectres of Chevron's planned fracking expeditions, pipeline construction, and the expansion of the Athabasca tar sands, continues to bring new levels of solidarity.

With no money for repairs and no significant mechanical skills, Brett would have had little hope without the community around him. Supporters in Toronto set up a Save Sesamo online fundraiser which raised $1000, and Brett later came into contact with a mechanic and former anti-war organizer in Thornhill who made trip daily trips to teach Brett the skills needed to get the bus back on the road.

During this time the bus has been parked behind an ersatz intentional community hidden in the midst of one of Scarborough's industrial areas, where a revolving cast of 20-30 people have been running projects including permaculture, metal and woodworking, fermentation, and natural healing services, for the past eight months.

“In my perspective, it's time we started living our activism, not just talking about it,” said Brett, who plans to continue developing the bus's future potential as a social movement asset, while simultaneously setting an example of viable energy alternatives by powering it with veggie oil. “We need to establish ways of supporting ourselves that don't rely on the current system, whether that's growing food or transportation. And a huge part of that is the relationships that we have with First Peoples. If we want to take down this capitalist, colonial system, what are we going to replace it with?”


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