Occupy Blue River: High-conflict protest, two rules of law

Written By Geoff Russ & Fran Yanor

Caution: The following story contains content and language that may be disturbing.

In a filmed incident on Sept. 30, 2019, twin sisters, Amanda Soper and Nicole Manuel, approach two Trans Mountain workers at the gates of the company’s pump station in Blue River.

One sister videos while the other verbally attacks in a hail of insults.

“This white honky your backup?” Manuel yells at the female worker, an employee of Simpcw Resources, which provides security and other services along the pipeline. “That rapist is your back-up, huh?” Manuel says, referring to the male worker.

The Simpcw Resources woman is talking into her cellphone, reporting the presence of the protesters.

Her co-worker, a white male, steps protectively between her and the sisters as they draw nearer.

Manuel’s tone pivots. “Get a picture of him,” she orders.

The camera zooms in on the male worker as Manuel steps toward him, her hands up, palms inches from his face.

“Pathetic loser,” Manuel says.

He nods at her, his expression tight. “Can I help you with something?”

“Sick, pathetic loser,” Manuel continues in a sort of chant. “Pervert and pedophile and rapist of our Mother Earth. You’re going to have so much bad karma on you for what you’re doing to our river, all our water.”

Manuel glares at him. The man stares back, his face tense and still.

“I know where your kids go to school,” she adds, and the video cuts out.

In May of last year, Manuel (who also goes by Mayuk Manuel) was convicted of intimidation using violence or threats, and Soper (a.k.a. Kanahus Manuel or Kanahus Freedom) was found guilty of theft under $5,000, according to Ministry of the Attorney General court records.

Blue River residents, pipeline workers, and Simpcw First Nation members say there have been many more such incidents in the last three-and-a-half years for which no charges have been laid.

Since August 2018, the Manuel sisters and a revolving retinue of followers – dubbed the Tiny House Warriors – have taken up residence on a piece of Crown land adjacent to the unincorporated community of Blue River in B.C’s central Interior. The sisters are opposed to the $21.4 billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, which will span from east of Edmonton to Burnaby. The protesters have been encamped in several small hand-built structures on the site of a previously proposed Trans Mountain work camp – since constructed at another Blue River location nearby – in the hopes of stopping construction of the pipeline.

Heroes or harassers?

The protesters have been lauded by public figures and have gotten attention from news organizations for their alleged achievements in the fields of human rights, environmental activism, and decolonization. Kanahus Manuel, in particular, has received awards for her leadership of the Tiny House group during its occupation at Blue River.

The Trans Mountain pipeline route, showing Blue River and other communities along the project’s route [Map courtesy of Trans Mountain Corporation]

Residents of Blue River have a very different story to tell. They speak of harassment, a wounded economy, living in fear, and of violence committed by the protesters. Residents of the small rural community of 175 say they feel ignored by the media and the government of B.C., and that the protest group needs to leave.

When the protesters first arrived in town, many residents say they were curious, sympathetic, even welcoming. But, over the next months, those sentiments were replaced by shock, revulsion, and anger.

In the course of their occupation, protesters have not halted the pipeline construction but have instead blockaded a public road, cut off an access to a provincial park, chased away tourists, and burned through any good will local residents might have initially harboured toward them or their causes.

Michael Nesterski manages the Blue River Campground across the street from the protesters’ encampment. He was shovelling snow the first time Kanahus Manuel verbally attacked him.

“I heard her yelling, ‘Kids stay inside!’ Probably there were no kids there. But she was screaming, ‘Kids stay inside! The rapist, the pervert, the murderer is here.’”

Nesterski was stunned. “I didn’t know her tactics and I was like, ‘What the hell?’ I was really shocked. I jumped in my car and I was like, ‘I’m out of here.’” He drove around the block and when Manuel was still there, he went home, waiting until the afternoon to return.

“That’s what she does,” he said. “She has her phone and then if you react, she will use it against you and you are a neo-Nazi and whatever.”

Northern Beat reached out several times to both sisters and the Tiny House Warriors group. Kanahus Manuel responded to one question about a Sept. 15, 2021 altercation between protesters and Trans Mountain security, but did not answer multiple requests for an interview regarding complaints of harassing behaviour by protesters. Mayuk Manuel did not respond at all.

Rage-filled aggressions

“I hope my ancestors scalp you. In my dreams. Your nightmares. My dreams.”

Kanahus Manuel

Throughout their time in Blue River, the sisters have incessantly filmed themselves and the people they encountered, sometimes concocting questionable narratives to accompany camera footage, applying nefarious intent to the police, highway maintenance workers, passing vehicles, or people just walking by. Video clips, social media messages, and annotated photos present insulting, rage-filled aggressions, accusing people of heinous or despicable behaviours.

“(Kanahus Manuel) will lie through her teeth about anyone. It seems like she just finds anything to get more of a platform on her social media accounts,” said Blue River resident Sheyna McNabb. Once, Manuel filmed residents gathered at a barbecue. “She got it on videotape and said we were laughing at murdered Indigenous women, and put it all over the internet. That’s dangerous territory to be saying things like that about people.”

Shortly after the protesters moved in, a Blue River man was jogging past the encampment with his eight-year-old boy while training for a charity run. “(Kanahus Manuel) starts yelling at us, calling us white-privileged Nazis, white supremacists, that the (work) camps are going to come into town, and we’re not going to be safe. ‘And, you,’ pointing at my son, ‘are going to get raped.’ And spewing all this garbage,” the father shared in 2020. He made a formal complaint to police, but no longer wishes to have his name used.

“(Kanahus) starts yelling at us, calling us white-privileged Nazis, white supremacists… ‘And, you,’ pointing at my son, ‘are going to get raped.'”

Blue River resident

Later, he said his son asked, “‘Dad, what’s rape?’ What do you say to a kid?” he asked. “I still don’t know what to tell him.”

Meanwhile, the social media profiles of Kanahus and Mayuk Manuel, and the website of the Tiny House Warriors purport a litany of their victimizations and heroism in the face of systemic racism, unrelenting harassment, and continuous police surveillance.

“(Kanahus) is a very talented actress. She will approach people and insult them, then say, ‘I’m getting harassed by white supremacists,'” said Nesterski. “Those are her tactics. It’s so fake. She’s creating a reality show.”

“She’s creating a reality show.”

Michael Nesterski

Complaints go nowhere

During the occupation of Blue River, residents have phoned police dozens of times complaining about encounters with protesters. In 2020, they shared videos and social media postings of the sisters and others in their group calling residents and pipeline workers names and screaming obscenities. Numerous residents detailed specific incidents, along with corresponding police file numbers of formal complaints filed with the Clearwater RCMP.

Despite this documented trail of repeated harassment, no known charges have been laid related to the residents’ complaints and none were listed on the Court Services Online database in either of the sister’s names.

“To my knowledge, nothing has happened,” said Thompson Nicola Regional District Area “B” Director Stephen Quinn, the only locally elected official of Blue River.

As of Mar. 1, the twins’ interaction with Trans Mountain workers in September 2019 appeared to be the only incident in Blue River resulting in convictions. According to news coverage of the court proceedings, Kanahus Manuel (Amanda Soper) was given a conditional discharge for the theft conviction, meaning no charges would appear on her record if she met conditions during her one-year of probation. It is unknown if she met the terms of her probation.

RCMP “E” Division headquarters was not able to respond by press time as to the status of numerous complaints made by residents about the protesters. However, RCMP spokesman Sgt. Chris Manseau said today that five arrest warrants have been issued for the Tiny House protesters involved in a September 15, 2021 incident at the new Trans Mountain work camp in Blue River.

Arrest warrants have been issued for five protesters – including Mayuk Manuel – involved in an incident last September in Blue River.


According to an email from Trans Mountain, protesters broke through company fencing, and threw rocks and debris at workers and damaged equipment in “premeditated attempts to stop work and damage equipment.”

Recently released footage by Al Jazeera+ – shot from a ground level and via an aerial drone camera – shows protesters confronting, then scuffling with Trans Mountain security. A Qatar-based online news network, Al Jazeera+ have followed the protest activism of Kanahus and Mayuk since at least 2017. A film crew was visiting the encampment to shoot a documentary of the sisters when the protesters converged on the Trans Mountain camp.

Local residents who witnessed the incident said protesters damaged Trans Mountain camera gear and smashed solar panels.

Quinn said a pipeline security guard was injured and sent to hospital in the process.

A Mar. 3, 2022 tweet from Al Jazeera+ publicizing their documentary called the protesters “an Indigenous women-led group fighting to keep the Trans Mountain pipeline out of ancestral territory.”

Mayuk (Nicole) Manuel was one of a handful of protesters originally arrested at the incident, then later released. In a March 8, 2022 emailed response to Northern Beat, Kanahus Manuel wrote: “crown never pursued with charges.”

By March 14, Crown apparently changed its mind, with prosecutors deeming the case strong enough to proceed with arrest warrants.

We’re not all equal

All of which doesn’t alter Quinn’s ongoing efforts to get the protesters gone. For more than three years, Quinn has been trying to get help from the provincial government toward this goal. With no luck.

Most recently, he wrote to Premier John Horgan and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth – the third letter from Quinn or the Thompson Nicola Regional District on behalf of Blue River in three years. This time, Quinn asked for a 30-day action plan to clear out the protesters.

A Feb. 23 request from Northern Beat for a comment from the Premier went unanswered.

A similar request for an interview with Farnworth garnered an emailed statement from the ministry, acknowledging “the tension and frustration that exists” among community members and assuring that officials meet with local representatives, Indigenous leaders and the police and, that the RCMP continue to conduct investigations of “unlawful conduct” and provide evidence to Crown.

“I just don’t know how to respond to that kind of an answer,” said Quinn in early March after reading the full emailed response. “It’s nothing new. I’ve heard all that before. It didn’t answer the question. The question was, will you provide an action plan within 30 days to remove these protesters and the blockades?

“I simply don’t know what to do. I just don’t,” said Quinn.

“I simply don’t know what to do. I just don’t.”

Stephen Quinn

Years of inaction

In the summer of 2020, when asked what residents should do about being harassed by protesters, Horgan said if people’s liberty was being impinged upon, “they should call the cops.”

When Farnworth was queried at the time about the disconnect between telling residents to call police, and the reality of zero charges resulting, he deferred to the RCMP as responsible for operational decisions, and to the attorney general for determining whether or not charges would go ahead.

Under questioning from BC Liberal MLA Peter Milobar in a legislative estimates session, Attorney General David Eby said no charges relating to Blue River had been forwarded to the Crown for consideration.

When Milobar pressed Farnworth a few days later in Question Period about why the government has “sat on their hands for two years, pitted three different communities against each other” without proper engagement, discussions, resources to deal with the situation, Farnworth said government was “working with the community.”

“I don’t know who he’s talked to, because it sure wasn’t us,” said Quinn at the time.

“Why has this government sat on their hands for two years, pitted three different communities against each other?”

Peter Milobar

A year-and-a-half later, nothing has changed, Quinn said, convinced the inaction reflects an apathy towards rural issues.

“Talk about urban-rural divide. We’re the bottom of the heap, or close to the bottom,” he said.

Especially revealing was the contrast of how the convoy protests in Ottawa were handled, Quinn said.

“Is there one set of laws in this country for urban areas, and one set of laws for rural areas?” he asked. “That’s the bottom line. They do all this bleating about ‘We’re a country of laws and rule. We’re all equal.’ Turns out, we aren’t.”

“Talk about urban-rural divide. We’re the bottom of the heap.”

Stephen Quinn

After central Ottawa was occupied for three weeks throughout February, the federal government invoked the Emergencies Act to remove protesters.

“I am wondering why the Emergencies Act doesn’t apply to the situation in Blue River as in other places in Canada?” mused Quinn. “I understand that it was a billion dollars (economic loss) at the Coutts (international border crossing) and at the Pacific crossing, but what about the poor old campsite owner here who lost a summer’s business? Is he not just as important?”

When Farnworth was asked on Mar. 9 about a truck convoy supposedly headed to Victoria with the intention of occupying the legislature grounds for several months, he told reporters: “Legal protest is allowed in this country – it is part of a free and democratic society – occupations are not.”

“Legal protest is allowed in this country – it is part of a free and democratic society – occupations are not.”

Mike Farnworth

Megaphones and online racism

In a flurry of incidents during the early part of the pandemic, Kanahus Manuel focussed her fury on the customers and staff of the campground.

“(Kanahus Manuel) has one of those megaphones with a siren on it. She’ll blare the siren and then she’ll start calling people here COVID campers and saying that we support the rape of murdered indigenous women because we allow Trans Mountain workers to stay here,” said McNabb, who has worked at the campground for several years. “She’s put me online calling me Barbecue Becky and a white supremacist.”

Kanahus Manuel is seen here yelling through a loud speaker at Blue River Campground visitors across the street from her encampment in 2020.
[Photo Britney McNabb]

McNabb was born and raised in Blue River but is a member of the Wet’suwet’en Nation in northwestern B.C.

“I tried telling (Kanahus) ‘I’m status Native, what are you doing?’ And she’s like, ‘No, you’re not. You’re part-white,’” said McNabb in an interview in 2020. “She’s one of the most racist people I’ve ever met.”

Nesterski said the protesters could have been there for a decade and he wouldn’t have minded. “(But) not like this, insulting people, and being on the megaphone attacking our guests.”

Kanahus Manuel’s behaviour, in particular, has chased away campers and forced the campground owners to issue repeated refunds to people unwilling to subject themselves or their children to her verbal barrage of insults and accusations.

“She’s one of the most racist people I’ve ever met.”

Sheyna McNabb

Campground staff have amassed a binder full of incidents, including complaint summaries, photos, and videos of harassment. McNabb said they call the police for every incident, but the closest detachment is in Clearwater, an hour away.

“It takes them anywhere from one to four hours to get here when we call. If something violent erupts, everybody’s going to be gone and nothing’s going to be done about it by the time police get here,” McNabb said.

A July 2, 2020 tweet by Kanahus Manuel after she attended a Canada Day protest in Vancouver.

When the police come to investigate complaints, they often don’t approach the protesters for their response, McNabb said. “They come here, take our statement, don’t bother going and talking to her, because when they tried to go talk to her, she just says, ‘You can’t come over here.’ And they basically shut down and don’t do anything. And then (they) leave.”

 “The people in town have given up on dealing with the RCMP, and basically, take everything into their own hands.”

Sheyna McNabb

Filmed interactions by the protesters and bystanders, as well as social media posts to the sisters’ social media sites show both women and other protesters calling the RCMP “RCMPigs.” They are seen screaming at approaching police near their encampment, telling them to “F–off, get off our land!” and “You are sick and you are evil, and you have no right here,” and more.

 “The people in town have given up on dealing with the RCMP, McNabb said. “And basically, take everything into their own hands.”

Tricky conflicts

The Blue River situation is complicated by contentious Indigenous jurisdictional conflicts, which, after wading into similar issues in the Wet’suwet’en area, the provincial government may be intent on avoiding.

“The title holders on the land should be the ones that make determinations about what takes place on that land. Particularly if it is a demonstration that’s highlighting Indigenous rights and title,” said Horgan in 2020.”

The protesters’ encampment is on Simpcw Nation and the pipeline runs through Simpcw territory, an economically progressive community that supports the Trans Mountain pipeline.

At a public meeting in 2020, Simpcw Chief Shelly Loring told Blue River residents Simpcw members had been similarly harassed by the protesters, and that her nation had “zero tolerance for violence” or “confrontational racism.”

The Manuel twins, both members of the Neskonlith Indian Band, say they are asserting Aboriginal rights and title on the larger Secwepemc Nation, which encompasses 32 communities, including Neskonlith and Simpcw.

Both Loring and neighbouring Tk’emlups Nation Chief Rosanne Casmir – whose nation also consented to allow the pipeline through its territory ­– said protesters are on Simpcw land and are violating Secwepemc laws and customs, and asked the protesters to leave.

“The path to peace includes humility, it includes respectful dialogue, it includes sharing of knowledge and information”

Shelly Loring and Rosanne Casmir

“The path to peace includes humility, it includes respectful dialogue, it includes sharing of knowledge and information,” the chiefs said in a joint statement in July 2020.

Instead of respecting elected First Nation authority, the Manuel sisters hosted a hideous online smear campaign on their own social media platforms alleging both chiefs were involved in a criminal sex trafficking ring. Death threats ensued for Loring, who has since stopped talking to the media.

“It got so bad my mom had to hire security at her house 24/7 because she didn’t feel safe when she was alone in her home.”

Montana Gottfriedson

“It got so bad my mom had to hire security at her house 24/7 because she didn’t feel safe when she was alone in her home,” said Montana Gottfriedson, eldest son of Chief Loring. “These protesters are protesting the pipeline going through our land. Yet, none of those protesters out there are from Simpcw. They’re from Chase, Lillooet, down from Vancouver, all over. The pipeline is not even going through their land.”

The RCMP should be able to do something about it, help them move on, he said. “You don’t need to have brutality with it. But you can most certainly get them out of there.”

First Nation Strife

BC Liberal Skeena MLA and former Haisla chief councillor, Ellis Ross, has seen these types of tensions play out over and over in different communities. It’s a broad misunderstanding of leadership, of jurisdiction, and of rights and title, he said. “Rights and title is actually held by a community. It’s not held by a group of Aboriginal individuals. It’s the people that own the rights and title, so the people have got to decide, once and for all, who leads them, who represents them in these questions.” 

Every community dealing with these issues must go through the process of choosing their leadership, said Ross, whose own father was a hereditary chief. “Because if you don’t solve it, then you’re going to continue to be used for other people’s agendas. And your band, and your band members, will continue to live in poverty and be unemployed.”

Ross went through something similar with his nation. “Outsiders came in because they saw a little bit of division and they blew it up to a point where our entire community was divided, families were divided, friends were divided,” he said. “That’s why I take a hard stance against people going into Native communities and dividing for their own political purposes.”

“Rights and title is actually held by a community. It’s not held by a group of Aboriginal individuals. It’s the people that own the rights and title, so the people have got to decide, once and for all, who leads them, who represents them in these questions.”
–Ellis Ross
[Chad Hipolito]

While difficult to ascertain, people outside the Secwepemc territory seem to make up the majority of the protesters’ followers and donor base. Protesters have found particular traction with individual online followers around the globe, along with advocates of environmental, free speech, Indigenous, and human rights causes.

Greenpeace, Amnesty International Canada, Westcoast Environmental Law, BC Civil Liberties Association, and others have at various times defended the protesters, their safety, or agenda, and by doing so, lent the group public-facing credibility.

Support for the protesters surged following the release of video clips on Kanahus Manuel’s social media site which showed a shouting altercation between herself and two men standing on some of the protesters’ signage. Manuel said the men had attacked the encampment, before running her new truck into a tiny house and a pole.

Manuel published a photo of the men on her social media site. Local residents said the men were unknown to them and did not live in the community.

“We’re treating it as a hate crime at this point. But we have to consider some of the comments that (Kanahus Manuel) has made as well, right?” Sgt. Grant Simpson reportedly told the Tyee in May 2020. Soper was heard on the video yelling racial slurs at the two men.

Besides Neskonlith Chief Judy Wilson – also secretary-treasurer of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs – Tiny House group has gotten some support from a few high profile Indigenous leaders including Wet’suwet’en hereditary Chief Na’Moks (John Risdale), and Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. The two men signed a group letter in June 2019 (which has since been heavily edited – it’s unclear exactly what the signatories originally committed to), along with environmentalist David Suzuki and human rights leader Stephen Lewis, expressing concern for protesters’ safety, and their civil, Indigenous, and human rights.

Acknowledgement lends legitimacy

Amnesty International Canada also entered the fray writing at least two letters to B.C. authorities to advocate for the safety of the protesters.

In a July 2020 interview before his retirement, the organization’s long-time secretary general, Alex Neve, said land defenders in North America were facing increasing harassment and threats of violence, particularly Indigenous women. He said the organization monitored for their safety but didn’t take a position on Indigenous authority or jurisdiction, or the pipeline itself.

Yet, in two separate letters to Horgan and Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Strachan, Neve accepted carte blanche assertions in deep contention: He described the Indigenous protesters as “land and human rights defenders” upholding “collective sovereignty and jurisdiction” in opposition to the pipeline on “unceded Secwepemc territory.” In acknowledging their questionable self-characterization and the integrity of their cause, Amnesty helped legitimize both in the public eye.

“He’s basically just going along with whatever he read in social media or got in an email or a letter. He did no homework to actually understand if that’s true or not,” said Ross. “A real professional would have said, ‘OK, I’ve got to study Aboriginal case law in Canada. I’ve got to study section 35 of the Constitution. I’ve got to do that before I go off and repeat some of those comments that I’ve read or heard by somebody else without actually confirming whether or not that’s true. That’s very amateurish.”

Ross said Aboriginal rights and title do not reside with individuals but with the community as a whole. They are enshrined in the Constitution and so can’t be taken away. Hard-won case law, driven by Indigenous nations, has built the foundation from which to understand and apply the principles of rights and title, he said.

“It wasn’t the construct of the Indian Act. It wasn’t a construct of colonialists,” Ross said. “It was Aboriginal leaders who took the government to court to actually get those principles in place, so that First Nations could be consulted and accommodated in a meaningful manner.”

“It wasn’t the construct of the Indian Act. It wasn’t a construct of colonialists. It was Aboriginal leaders who took the government to court to actually get those principles in place.”

Ellis Ross

Ross said by acknowledging the protesters as legitimate, Amnesty and others devalue the legitimacy of democratically elected leadership, increasing divisions, and contributing to the destabilization of democracy in those communities.

What research was done, what sources were consulted, prior to Amnesty’s rise to the protesters’ defence, Neve was asked. “We have a variety of sources,” he said. None of which included local residents or considered their safety and rights. Nor did it include the elected Simpcw, on whose territory the protest is occurring. At Chief Loring’s initiative, Neve connected with the Simpcw after the letters were sent.

“It’s not for me to say where things should be on the continuum of politeness.”

Alex Neve

On the issue of harassing behaviour by the protesters, Neve acknowledged he was aware of “complaints.” But he said, short of criminal behaviour, which should be investigated, “protest and the style that people choose in their campaigning is really a matter of the choice of individuals and communities. It’s not for me to say where things should be on the continuum of politeness.”

“Well they’re certainly supporting (the behaviour) then,” said Gottfriedson. “Knowing what those protesters are doing. They’re supporting it.”

Get rid of outside agendas

The first thing Ross recommends to the community is to get all external actors out of the picture.

“At the end of the day, this is politics. This is fighting for power within a community, and that fight for power within the community is actually being manipulated by outside sources, for external agendas,” Ross said.

“At the end of the day, this is politics (a)… fight for power within the community being manipulated by outside sources, for external agendas.”

Ellis Ross

As with Amnesty International Canada and others, the B.C. government siding with hereditary leadership over elected leadership just adds fuel to the fire, undermining the democratic process, and destabilizing elected leadership, he said. The New Democratic government’s choice to negotiate with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary leadership while “ignoring” the elected leadership was a prime example.

“They ignored their (Wet’suwet’en) community,” Ross said, calling it “the ultimate in disrespect” and “the furthest thing away from reconciliation that I can think of.”

It encourages division of the community, Ross said. “And then turning around and saying that you want to work to unify the community? Well, you’re part of the reason they got divided in the first place.”

Lateral violence

For taking a pro-pipeline position, the Simpcw have been called traitors and sell outs profiting from the “black snake,” said Gottfriedson, who was personally targeted and harassed by the Tiny House group more than a year ago.

It began with a message on Instagram and avalanched into more than 80 messages one day alone, he said. “Saying stuff like, ‘We know where your mom lives. We know where your dad lives. You’re a traitor to your kind. How could you live with yourself? You should be ashamed to be Native.’”

The death threats were especially depressing, Gottfriedson said, with messages like, “‘I’m going to… bury you along with that black snake you’re working on. I know where you live. Keep your head on a swivel cause I’m going to get you when you least expect it.’”

“What kind of example are you setting for not only yourselves but our future generations to come with these death threats?”

Montana Gottfriedson

“What kind of example are you setting for not only yourselves but our future generations to come with these death threats?” he asked.

“The lateral violence within First Nation communities is horrible. Absolutely horrible. There’s a lot of it. And it is quite sad,” Ross said.

“As a First Nations leader that wants change for their people, you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place,” said Ross, who helped bring prosperity to his community and region through participation in the resource economy.

“As a First Nations leader that wants change for their people, you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

Ellis Ross

“If you don’t get into the economy, then you’re saying, ‘I’m OK with a high rates of suicide. I’m OK with the high rates of children going into government care. I’m OK with poverty, I’m OK with unemployment. I’m OK with begging for money from provincial and federal government. I’m OK with the Indian Act. I’m OK with dependence,’” said Ross. “If you do succeed, you’re called an apple, or a sellout, or assimilated, which I don’t understand at all.”

“The opportunity is there for First Nations to be independent,” he added. “It’s there. It’s waiting.”

Thousands of followers

For Kanahus and Mayuk Manuel’s part, they say they are the ones being harassed by locals, hounded by the police, and spied on by pipeline workers.

The Tiny House group has an active social media presence with a substantial following who seem to believe them. The group’s official Instagram page has more than 4,000 followers, while Kanahus Manuel’s personal Twitter has nearly 30,000 followers.

Kanahus Manuel has nearly 30,000 Twitter followers.

On her account, Manuel describes herself as an Indigenous land defender, warrior woman,  freedom fighter, mother of freedom babies, and traditional birth keeper, among other things.

“(Kanahus) is really fake with her reporting,” said McNabb. “She puts on this different persona to social media than what she actually portrays in real life for the people that live around here, that actually have had to deal with her.”

With fewer than 200 people in Blue River, Manuel’s real audience is on the internet, said McNabb. So she doesn’t much care what locals think of her if it plays well to her social media followers. “She could win (online) to lose some support around here.”


The Tiny House group has followers from around the world, but has lost grassroots support according to Tiny House co-founder Michael McKenzie, who is no longer associated with the protesters. “It’s quite serious. It shows she’s up there on her own accord, but she claims to represent the Secwepemc,” McKenzie told the Rocky Mountain Goat in November 2020.

The sisters continue to post regularly online, peppering comments and visuals of their activities with calls for funding. Online donations can be made to Kanahus Manuel or the Tiny House group via PayPal, (Interac) e-Transfers, or crowdfunding sites.

In all, supporters from around the world have donated tens of thousands of dollars, or more. Over $51,000 was recently raised for the group’s legal fees on GoFundMe.

Success perhaps not lost on some Secwepemc hereditary leaders who have asked for transparency in the protesters’ fundraising, along with an accounting of the group’s affiliations and associations since their occupation of Blue River began. The hereditary leaders asking for transparency are also opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline, and have set up protests of their own elsewhere in the nation.

Given the federal response to the recent trucker convoy in Ottawa which included freezing millions of dollars fundraised online for the truckers, Quinn questions why the Tiny House Warriors have not been dealt with similarly.

“GoFundMe has cut them off,” Quinn said of the truckers. “So why are they not cutting off the Tiny House Warriors? Because they’re doing exactly the same thing. So, it just goes to show you that there’s some real problems that we have to deal with in this country.”

“GoFundMe has cut (the truck protesters) off. So why are they not cutting off the Tiny House Warriors?”

Stephen Quinn

Negative consequences are catching up with some of the Tiny House occupants. Besides the new arrest warrants for Mayuk Manuel and four others related to last September’s incident in Blue River, Mayuk, along with her boyfriend Isha Jules, and her younger sister Chantel Manuel, were recently found guilty of several charges stemming from a 2018 incident in Kamloops. According to reported court proceedings, two security guards were assaulted at Thompson Rivers University when the three protesters attempted to crash a meeting on the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Kanahus Manuel denounced the verdict on Twitter suggesting they were based on false charges, and said her sisters were the ones actually assaulted, to the agreement of some of her followers.

“It’s called manipulation. They do a good job and I’ll give them that.”

Shephen Quinn

“It’s called manipulation. They do a good job and I’ll give them that,” Quinn said about the protesters’ social media use, although he doesn’t look at it himself anymore. “I found it too toxic for me. At my age, I just don’t need that kind of stress.”

Mounting Violence

Meanwhile, the big fear, said Quinn and others, is a mounting potential for violence in Blue River as protesters grow more militant and residents and pipeline workers become less patient.

Anti-pipeline activities elsewhere in B.C. have already escalated into violence. On February 17, a group of 20 or so people attacked a work camp of the Coastal Gaslink pipeline with axes, causing millions of dollars in damages and endangering the lives of workers, according to the RCMP and Coastal GasLink. The violence was condemned by Horgan, Farnworth, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. RCMP said they’d assigned 40 investigators to find out who was responsible.

In Blue River, clashes between the protests and pipeline workers have escalated since the company began building its 550-person work camp near the Tiny House encampment last fall. In the meantime, the Tiny House group may be mounting some sort of a legal challenge to the September arrests. In an email exchange with Northern Beat, Kanahus Manuel obliquely referenced a “lawsuit against Trans Mountain pipeline for that day(September 15, 2021).” Manuel would not divulge further details.

Any momentum on the protesters’ front may be slowed by the arrest warrants announced today, along with an ongoing B.C. Supreme Court injunction against blocking or obstructing access to the pipeline worksites. Trans Mountain has also implemented “unprecedented” safety and security measures across the pipeline project, including Blue River, according to a company email responding to this story.

The bottom line for Quinn goes back to the Province.

“I would really like the provincial government to go out and do its job,” he said. “They have the power under the Highways Act. They have the power under the Lands Act. Just go in there and do your job, period. And that will solve it.”

If the protesters remain until August, they will have spent four years at Blue River.

“I keep saying it’s one set of rules for one, and one for the other,” said Quinn. “At some point in time, that’s going to come crashing down around somebody’s ears. I just don’t want it to be mine.”