This is republished from a public Facebook post created by Chad Norman Day on his personal Facebook page. Mr. Day is the acting president of the Tahltan Central government and has served in this role for six years. He is the father of four Tahltan/Wet’swuet’en children who were born raised and still reside in Smithers.
I pray that all First Nations could organize themselves effectively and validate, amend or replace their pre-contact laws/practices/institutions and communicate such decisions openly and honestly, with both their own citizens and others, so that everyone can move forward with certainty.
If the Wet’suwet’en Nation as a collective opposes the Coastal GasLink pipeline project, I support them.
If the Wet’suwet’en Nation as a collective supports this project, I support them.
If the Wet’suwet’en Nation has multiple governments arguing over who has authority and does not have decision-making processes in place for their citizens to make nation-based decisions, it’s difficult to support anyone.
People need to remember that “Indigenous Law” or “Indigenous Culture” is like any other culture, society or laws—they continually change as the people, environment and modern-day realities change around them. Adapting to the environment is as human as it gets for all cultures and communities around the world.
Arranged marriage was a common Indigenous practice for many of us in the past, and it changed. Arranged murders or banishments were too, and those changed. Many other practices and laws changed, while others remained through the collective behaviour and decisions of the people.
Often times we see individuals “cherry-pick” a portion of traditional culture to support their argument or view, without acknowledging that the cultural practice in question was utilized in conjunction with many other cultural practices that no longer exist or were replaced. When some laws or practices change permanently, it can impact everything in the society/community, just as removing some species from an ecosystem can change everything.
It all comes back to internal governance, which takes a lot of effort, commitment, discipline and resources. Many First Nations struggle as they are in a constant balancing act of trying to succeed in modern-day society while attempting to revitalize or maintain culture, often with limited resources. It’s very challenging and complicated.
I have said it many times and will say it again here:
Reconciliation comes in many forms. We need to find reconciliation amongst ourselves and become healthy individuals first, followed by pursuing reconciliation internally within our own communities, before we can achieve reconciliation with third parties such as neighbouring First Nations, outside colonial governments (municipal, provincial, federal etc.) or with Industry.
This Wet’suwet’en conflict is deeply rooted in their own internal conflicts and uncertainties. The same internal issues thrive with most First Nations in British Columbia and it’s the result of historically forced assimilation and colonization. What happened in the past was awful and unfair, but we need to overcome it as First Nations people. No one is going to do that work for us; we must create our own laws and institutions again for our communities, children and future.
As someone with four Wet’suwet’en children that I love more than anything in this world, I pray the Wet’suwet’en people come together as one to create respectful and fair decision-making processes amongst themselves that the people can collectively respect, uphold and implement. This way they can be united when faced with opportunities or challenges within their homelands.
I wrote this piece with nothing but the utmost respect and love for the Wet’suwet’en people and all the other Indigenous people out there having similar internal struggles.
Chad Norman Day