For many people, the tiny house movement represents a lot of different things. Minimizing one's footprint and one's possessions can mean greater financial and emotional freedom; for others, it can be a way to express their creative personality, or to find a renewed sense of community, or a step on the path toward home ownership.
For a growing group of indigenous activists and their supporters, tiny houses may be one way to help block the construction of a pipeline that will carry Canadian tar sands oil through their traditional territories. Watch Bryce Langston of Living Big In A Tiny House interview the founder of the Tiny House Warriors project, Kanahus Manuel (daughter of the late indigenous activist Arthur Manuel), about why these tiny houses represent more than mere shelter:
The Secwepemc First Nation in British Columbia have completed the first few of what will be ten tiny homes on wheels, which will be strategically placed along a 518-kilometre stretch of the Kinder Morgan's proposed Trans Mountain pipeline. The pipeline expansion project was approved by the Canadian federal government to go through unceded Secwepemc territory back in 2016, without the full consent of the Secwepemc, and despite the federal government's promise of reconciliation with aboriginal peoples. There are concerns that the pipeline could potentially contaminate the land, threatening the wildlife and poisoning the waterways. As Manuel told the CBC:
We, the Secwepemc, have never ceded, surrendered, or given up our sovereign title and rights over the land, waters and resources within Secwepemcul'ecw [traditional Secwepemc territory]. We collectively hold title and governance regarding Secwepemcul'ecw and the collective consent of the Secwepemc is required for any access to our lands, waters and resources.
Some are calling it the "Standing Rock of the North," in reference to the well-publicized and months-long protest against a similar pipeline expansion project in North Dakota.
As Manuel explains, the genesis of the project began during the time she spent at the Standing Rock protests. There, she saw tiny houses being built or donated to help protect and support the protesters there.
Inspired by this experience, Manuel has brought this idea back home. These solar-powered structures being built by Tiny House Warriors will not only provide shelter, they could also be used as mobile classrooms for teaching traditional languages or activities like tattooing. And of course, they will be also used to house local families in need of housing (currently, there's a housing crisis in many First Nations communities across Canada). The tiny houses being built as part of the Tiny House Warriors project will be insulated, built with recycled materials whenever possible and covered with murals depicting the stories of the local people. Each will cost approximately CDN $5,000 (USD $3,936) to construct.
So far, the Tiny House Warriors have partnered up with Greenpeace, and with supporters like Lubicon Solar to outfit the homes with solar power. The homes are being built with the help of volunteers and donations, and the project is welcoming support of any kind. As Manuel says:
Yes, I do believe this can be the next big Standing Rock. A lot of people want to come help; we want to ask them to come and help build these. You know, people that want to come and sit on the front lines, this is our frontline right now, it's building tiny houses and being able to not just resist against something, but also to create something really beautiful, to create hope and to create homes for people.