Our Town

Wetsuwet'en Chief leaves behind legacy

Gisday'wa (Dr. Joseph Alfred) Born March 1, 1927, Gisday’wa passed away at the age of 86 on Thursday.
— image credit: Contributed photo

For Immediate Release:

Today the Wet’suwet’en Nation is heavy hearted with the tremendous loss of our great leader whose traditional name is known world-wide, with our nation at the sides of our Gitdumden Clan (Bear) we mourn the passing of Dini ze’ Gisday’wa, Dr. Alfred Joseph. Born March 1, 1927, Gisday’wa passed away at the age of 86 on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, surrounded by his loving family in Hazelton, B.C.

Gisday’wa belonged to the Gitdumden Clan, House of Kaiyexwenitts (House in the middle of many) and leaves a profound legacy as a distinguished champion of his Wet’suwet’en people and for Indigenous peoples rights all over the world.

Gisday’wa’s leadership was evident in his leading role in the historic Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa court case that recognized and affirmed Aboriginal rights and title to traditional lands in the Supreme Court of Canada.

Dini ze’ Madeek, Jeff Brown of the Gitumden Clan, House of Anaskazi (Where it lies blocking the trail) remembered the man that was.

“Gisday’wa deeply loved his people, our traditions and culture and he was a tremendous teacher who gave selflessly to pass on our traditional ways," Madeek said. "On behalf of all Dini ze’ and Tsakiy ze’, elected leadership, and all Wet’suwet’en members, I wish to express our sincerest condolences to his family and loved ones. Gisday’wa will be greatly missed, however, we will carry on his unwavering commitment to the well-being and happiness of the Wet’suwet’en people.”

Gisday’wa eloquently demonstrated his leadership in his opening address to the Supreme Court of B.C.

"Officials who are not accountable to this land, its laws or its owners have attempted to displace our laws with legislation and regulations. The courts, until perhaps now, have similarly denied our existence," Gisday'wa said May 12, 1987. "In our legal system, how will you deal with the idea that the Chiefs own the land. The attempts to quash our laws and extinguish our system have been unsuccessful. Gisday’wa has not been extinguished.”

A Smoke Feast is taking place Saturday, February 1st at 12:00 p.m. in the Hagwilget Big Hall to make arrangements for services that follow.

A memorial is tentatively scheduled Monday, February 3rd evening with Funeral and Settlement Feast on Wednesday at 12:00 p.m. sharp. Final announcements will be confirmed tomorrow following the Smoke Feast.

For information updates contact: Office of the Wet’suwet’en (250) 847-3630.


We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Community Events, March 2017

Add an Event