Canadian Indigenous leader Freda Huson receives 2021 Right Livelihood Award
Press releases 29.09.2021
Freda Huson, a female chief from the Wet’suwet’en people in Canada, is one of the recipients of this year’s Right Livelihood Award. An advocate for Indigenous communities’ right to reclaim their land and culture, she has emerged as a leader against pipelines and other construction projects in Canada threatening to destroy ancestral lands.
Founded in 1980, the Right Livelihood Award honours and supports courageous people solving global problems. It comes with a cash prize of 1 million SEK (around 100,000 EUR or 115,000 USD) and long-term support to highlight and expand Laureates’ work.
Huson has advocated for Indigenous cultural renewal emphasising the importance of reconnecting with ancestral lands. Her work comes against the backdrop of horrific revelations of Canada’s colonial past and brutal exploitation of Indigenous populations.
Protecting Indigenous land and land-use practices is also important in the global fight against the escalating climate crisis. Despite its climate-friendly rhetoric, the Canadian government has been a significant supporter of the country’s fossil fuel industry, pumping large subsidies into the exploitation and transport of oil sands, oil and liquefied natural gas.
In 2010, Huson realised the importance of living on ancestral land to protect it from proposed pipelines, including the still-ongoing Coastal GasLink pipeline construction. Since then, she has helped set up and co-ordinated the Unist’ot’en camp to help people reconnect with the land and heal from colonial trauma.
Right Livelihood’s jury said that Huson was receiving the Award “for her fearless dedication to reclaiming her people’s culture and defending their land against disastrous pipeline projects.”
“The work I’ve been recognised for is teaching people our ways, which we are taught from a very young age: to take care of the land that sustains us,” Huson said. “What this award means to my people is it’s going to be more powerful to join forces with many others around the world with the same goal: to protect the land, protect the environment and make sure that people are treated fairly.”
“Huson is an Indigenous leader determined to reclaim her people’s rights,” said Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director of Right Livelihood.
“By occupying her traditional territory and rejecting destructive projects led by the Canadian government and the international fossil fuel industry, she defends her ancestors’ land and protects the environment for future generations. As the history of Indigenous genocide continues to come to light in Canada, Huson shows that reconnecting with nature and reclaiming Indigenous culture are crucial aspects of this struggle,” von Uexkull said.
The other 2021 Right Livelihood Laureates are:
- Cameroonian women’s and girls’ rights activist Marthe Wandou, the first person to receive the Award from Cameroon,
- Russian environmental activist Vladimir Slivyak, and
- the Indian organisation Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE).
The 2021 Laureates will be honoured during a televised Award Presentation in Stockholm on Wednesday, December 1.
Finally, please note our updated logotype! Find more information in our Press Kit.
Find more information on the other Laureates here.
Photos and videos of the new Laureates can be found here.
Freda Huson is a female chief (Dzeke ze’) from the Wet’suwet’en people in Canada. She has been a leading advocate for Indigenous communities reconnecting with their land and reclaiming control, including deciding over construction projects such as pipelines running through their territories.
Realising the importance of living on ancestral land, in 2010 Huson moved into a log cabin on her people’s territory in Talbeetskwa, along the Morice River in British Columbia. Since then, she has been the coordinator of the Unist’ot’en camp that now includes a centre for people seeking to reconnect with the land and heal from colonial trauma.
The Unist’ot’en camp also emerged as the main gathering place for people opposing the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which would transport shale gas across British Columbia. In 2020 Canadian authorities carried out a raid on an established checkpoint leading to the camp, which set off nationwide protests. While Huson’s actions have set the pipeline project back by years, it still remains under construction.
Huson’s holistic approach to reclaiming Indigenous culture, land and rights stands in stark contrast to the horrendous crimes committed against Indigenous people in Canada, which have increasingly come to light in recent years. Huson has brought cultural renewal by leading Indigenous people back to their land.
Place of Birth: Smithers, British Columbia, Canada
Date of Birth: May 24, 1964
Education: Business Administration Certificate
About Right Livelihood
Established in 1980, Right Livelihood honours and supports courageous people solving global problems. Housed under the umbrella of a foundation, Right Livelihood is a courage-powered community for social change committed to peace, justice and sustainability for all.
Each year, Right Livelihood highlights change-makers through an Award. To date, 186 Laureates from 73 countries have received the distinction. By recognising the actions of brave visionaries and building impactful connections around the world, Right Livelihood boosts urgent and long-term social change.
However, the work of Right Livelihood goes beyond only presenting the Award: they provide these change-makers with life-long support. Right Livelihood is a megaphone and a shield for the Laureates: raising their profile, providing them protection when their lives and liberty are in danger, and educating people on their innovative solutions.
Right Livelihood is headquartered in Stockholm, with offices in Geneva and Zurich. The Foundation has Special Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Council.