B.C. chief says they didn’t give up rights for gas pipeline to be built

Hereditary chief: no elected band council or Crown authority has jurisdiction over Wet’suwet’en land

Drummers play as Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Namoks (John Ridsdale), front left, enters the room as Indigenous nations and supporters gather to show support for the Wet’suwet’en Nation before marching together in solidarity, in Smithers, B.C., on Wednesday January 16, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

No elected band council or Crown authority has jurisdiction over the land, a Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief told a crowd of supporters and First Nations leaders gathered in the territory that has become a battleground for Indigenous sovereignty.

Chief Na’Moks said agreements signed by pipeline builder Coastal GasLink are illegitimate and the support shown by those gathered, and by many people around the world, proves the Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders do not stand alone.

READ MORE: RCMP to review actions at Wet’suwet’en pipeline protest camps

“Our rights to those lands have never been extinguished,” Na’Moks said during the gathering on Wednesday.

First Nations leaders from across British Columbia travelled to Smithers for the rally to show their support for the hereditary chiefs, after RCMP enforced a court injunction last week allowing the natural gas pipeline company access into the territory.

Following the rally, chiefs and supporters marched along part of Highway 16, which cuts through the Wet’suwet’en territory.

Chiefs and elected council members from several B.C. First Nations, including Haida, Gitxsan, Babine Lake and Lax Kwa’laams, stepped up to share their stories of resistance against industry and frustration with the application of Canadian laws during the gathering.

Wayne Christian of the Secwepemc nation told the crowd that “legislative genocide” had been waged against Indigenous Peoples for generations, referring to colonial and Canadian laws he said have been used to take away land and deny rights.

He said reconciliation cannot occur “at the end of a gun.”

Several leaders spoke about conflicts they have had with industry and cases where Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have shown them support that they now want to return.

Harvey Humchitt, a hereditary chief with the Heiltsuk First Nation in Bella Bella, where a tug ran aground spilling diesel and lubricants into the waters, said it only takes one incident to cause devastation.

Murray Smith of the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation said Na’Moks supported members of his nation trying to protect eel grass from industry at Lelu Island, and again when they appeared before the United Nations to appeal for their authority to be recognized.

“You are in charge of your land, make no mistake about it. We are in charge of our land. And at times, we need to rely on each other for support,” he said.

The natural gas pipeline would run through Wet’suwet’en territory to LNG Canada’s $40-billion export facility in Kitimat, B.C.

The company said it has signed agreements with the elected councils of all 20 First Nations along the route, including some Wet’suwet’en elected council members who say they are independent from the hereditary chief’s authority and signed deals to bring better education, elder care and services to their members.

However, any who oppose the pipeline says the company has noauthority without consent from the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

The hereditary chiefs say elected bands administer the reserves while they have authority over 22,000 square kilometres of traditional territory.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Northern Health saw 14 cases in one day earlier this week, the highest in one day since the beginning of the pandemic. (Image courtesy CDC)
Northern Health sees highest number of COVID-19 cases in one day

Oct. 27 saw 14 cases reported, the biggest single-day total since the beginning of the pandemic

This weapon was seized by Houston RCMP after a traffic stop Oct. 14 (Houston RCMP photo)
Guns, cash and suspected narcotics seized

Seizure follows traffic stop on Oct. 14

Medical staff at Bulkley Valley District Hospital urge everyone to continue to follow public health guidelines to combat the spread of coronavirus. (File photo)
COVID-19 and influenza update from Bulkley Valley medical staff

Local MDs urge vaccinations and mask wearing to combat virus duo

This photo of approximately 10 years ago shows Laureen Fabian, on the left, and daughter Caterina Andrews. Fabian went missing last October and her daughter is looking for answers. (Contributed photo)
Laureen Fabian’s disappearance remains a mystery

It’s been a year since she went missing

“We have to make a call out to address this now so our people don’t have to feel fearful,” said Tribal Chief Mina Holmes. (Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Facebook photo)
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council seeks Indigenous-led task force in northern B.C. hospitals

Request made in an open letter to federal minister Carolyn Bennett

Sooke’s Paul Larouche enjoys gold panning along the Sooke River, looking for small treasures. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
VIDEO: Island man finds niche audience by gold-panning on YouTube

Paul Larouche, 29, with over 215,000 subscribers, opens up about his journey

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

CBSA. (Black Press Media File)
4 sentenced in B.C. steroid smuggling, distribution ring that spilled into U.S.

Canadian Border Services Agency announced the results of a lengthy investigation it called ‘Project Trajectory’

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Search and Rescue Technicians carry a stretcher to the CH149 Cormorant during a 442 Squadron Search and Rescue Exercise in Tofino on February 28. (Photo by: Cpl Joey Beaudin, 19 Wing Imaging, Comox)
Father and son found dead after weeklong search near Pemberton

The father and son had set out for a day of mushroom picking last Thursday

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A full moon rises over Mt. Cheam on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)
Rare full moon, Daylight Saving makes for a uniquely spooky Halloween – despite COVID-19

We can’t host costume parties but this weekend is still one for the history books

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

A study by SlotsOnlineCanada notes there is at least 88 hours of top-rated horror movies for Canadians to consume this Halloween. (Unsplash)
Spooks and Chill study reveals Canada’s favourite horror flicks

88 hours of top-rated horror movies can fill COVID-19 Halloween

Most Read