Moricetown Band council unanimously resolved to return the name of their village to its original name, Witset.
“The Witsuwit’en have been on a journey to self-determination, reasserting their sovereignty of this land; as part of that journey, they are regaining control of their identity,” read a media release from the Band.
It was one of their first acts in office. Chief Victor Jim commented in the release that this was an important decision to make, and gave several reasons that he felt would sway the council members.
“Father Morice never asked us permission to change the name of the village,” said Jim. “And he was a tyrant; he made us gather up all our regalia and burn it. That can never be forgiven.”
The release said the word ‘witset’ means “the people of the first village.”
It went on to read that, “the only question posed by the councillors was how to properly manage such a big change, since the impact would be great, both in the village and as part of our collective reputation.”
Band executive director Lucy Gagnon explained in the release that council is only required to sign an official Band Council Resolution (BCR) and to send it to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) for approval. Once approval is granted, the village can begin changing over all signage.
This suggestion was first proposed four years in a Council meeting and has been a popular notion since then, read the release. Band members have also been circulating petitions on this proposal.
Once the motion passed, according to the release, councillors commented that they would also like to change the names of local rivers and lakes that were renamed by Father Morice, including Morice Lake and the Bulkley River. It said the Bulkley River was originally named Widzin Kwa, but was renamed the Morice River temporarily until incoming settlers renamed it the Bulkley River.
The Band plans on sending the completed BCR into INAC this week.