Tag Archives: Hereditary chiefs

Indigenous leaders to gather in support

Photo: UBCIC

Hereditary chiefs opposed to a natural gas pipeline in Wet’suwet’en territory in northern B.C. are holding a gathering of solidarity on Wednesday that is expected to attract Indigenous leaders from across the province.

Chief Judy Wilson, secretary treasurer of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said she was planning to attend the meeting and other members of the group had already flown to Smithers.

“I’m heading up there to support the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and the people, the clans, in their fight to protect their land,” Wilson said.

She said the difficulty that the hereditary chiefs have had in getting their authority recognized by industry and government is familiar.

Elected band councils are based on a colonial model of governance, she said. Under the tradition of her Secwepemc First Nation in the B.C. Interior, title belongs to all of the people within the nation.

“Collectively, people hold title for our nation,” she said.

Coastal GasLink says it has signed agreements with all 20 elected First Nations bands along the pipeline route to LNG Canada’s $40-billion export facility in Kitimat, B.C.

But the project has come until scrutiny because five hereditary clan chiefs within the Wet’suwet’en say the project has no authority without their consent.

While elected band councils are administrators of their reserves, the hereditary chiefs say they are in charge of the 22,000 square kilometres comprising Wet’suwet’en traditional territory, including land the pipeline would run through.

Members of the First Nation and supporters were arrested last week at a checkpoint erected to block the company from accessing a road it needs to do pre-construction work on the project, sparking protests Canada-wide.

On Thursday, the hereditary chiefs reached at deal with RCMP, agreeing that members would abide by a temporary court injunction by allowing the company and its contractors access across a bridge further down the road, so long as another anti-pipeline camp is allowed to remain intact.

Hereditary Chief Na’Moks told reporters that the chiefs reached the agreement to ensure the safety of those remaining at the Unist’ot’en camp, but remain “adamantly opposed” to the project.

The interim court injunction will be in place until the defendants, including residents and supporters of the Unist’ot’en camp, file a response in court Jan. 31.

A Facebook page for the Wet’suwet’en Access Point on Gidumt’en territory posted an alert on Sunday calling for rolling actions across the country.

It referred to the 1997 Delgamuuk’w case, fought by the Wet’suwet’en and the Gitsxan First Nations, in which the Supreme Court of Canada recognized that Aboriginal title constituted an ancestral right protected by the constitution.

“As the Unist’ot’en camp says, ‘This fight is far from over. We paved the way with the Delgamuuk’w court case and the time has come for Delgamuuk’w II,’ ” the statement says.

The ruling in the Delgamuuk’w case had an impact on other court decisions, affecting Aboriginal rights and title, including the court’s recognition of the Tsilhqot’in nation’s aboriginal title lands.

The Canadian Press


Haida Clan Strips Titles From Two Hereditary Chiefs For Supporting Northern Gateway Pipeline

Darin Swanson, head chief of the Yahgulaanaas/Janaas clan at the ceremony where two hereditary chiefs were stripped of their titles. Ernest Swanson, his nephew is to the left holding a staff.

Darin Swanson, head chief of the Yahgulaanaas/Janaas clan at the ceremony where two hereditary chiefs were stripped of their titles. Ernest Swanson, his nephew is to the left holding a staff.

National Post, August 18, 2016

VANCOUVER — The extraordinary decision by a Haida clan to strip two of its hereditary chiefs of their titles for secretly supporting Enbridge Inc.’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline is being closely watched by First Nations across Canada.

The rebuke, which was delivered last week in an elaborate ceremony witnessed by more than 500 people, came as the Haida nation rejected what they say is a growing trend by companies to enlist the support of hereditary chiefs as a way of claiming broad First Nations support.

“This is an absolutely huge decision and I think it is a wake-up call to the hereditary system of governance and leadership,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

“I think First Nations across the province and throughout Indian country in general are paying attention to these developments.”

On Aug. 15, members of the clan stripped Carmen Goertzen and Francis Ingram of their titles, effectively removing them as representatives of two houses, the Yahgulaanaas Janaas of Daadens, and the Iitjaaw Yaahl Naas. Goertzen, a well-known Haida artist, had held the position for 25 years. Ingram had only been appointed a year ago.

The men were part of a group of eight, including two other hereditary chiefs, who signed a letter to the National Energy Board in March supporting Northern Gateway’s request for a time extension to its proposal for the oil transport pipeline. Earlier this summer the federal government overturned Northern Gateway’s application, leaving the company with only one more “faint hope” opportunity.

Members from a coalition of First Nations groups protest Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline in April 2012.

Members from a coalition of First Nations groups protest Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline in April 2012.

Goertzen, Ingram and the others, including four men who the Haida Nation says do not hold any hereditary position, formed a group called Hereditary Chiefs of North Haida Gwaii LLP.

But Darin Swanson, head chief of the Yahgulaanaas Janaas clan, said the community never knew the men had signed on to support Enbridge and that their endorsement made it look as if the Haida at large had reversed its opposition to the project.

“I don’t think anyone in a clan can tell people who they can work for,” Swanson said, “but when you are a hereditary chief leader you have responsibilities to your clan and you have to consult with them on important issues like this.

“As hereditary leaders they didn’t do that. Everything was a big secret up till now,” he said. “At the end of the day they are crawling into bed with Enbridge. It is almost up to the point that Enbridge is accepting them as (representing) the consultation on the whole of Haida Gwaii.”

Attempts by Postmedia to contact Goertzen and Ingram were unsuccessful. But in an interview with Vice News, which broke the story, Ingram denied asking for an extension, even though he signed the letter. Goertzen acknowledged that Enbridge had paid the men fees to attend a meeting but that he had his community’s best interests at heart.

“To meet with them, we’ve been paid per diems, and we’ve had a few meetings, not even four days,” he told VICE News. He said his clan members were “blowing stuff out of proportion.”


Hereditary Chiefs Of Lelu Island Responded To Port Authority

Photo: Council of Canadians

Photo: Council of Canadians

The hereditary chiefs of Lelu Island have responded to a Prince Rupert Port Authority demand they halt protest camp construction.

Hereditary chiefs, Simoyget Yahaan (Donnie Wesley) and Gwishawaal (Ken Lawson) have officially responded to demands from the Port of Prince Rupert, that occupiers of Lelu Island in protest of the proposed Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal, halt construction activities.

A letter signed by both chiefs is addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, Transport Minister Marc Garneau, and New Democrat Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen.

Wesley and Lawson say, “given the seriousness of issues at hand,” they are choosing not to directly reply to the Port Authority’s demands – instead asking the federal government if it agrees with the cease and desist letter.

The letter also asks Trudeau, “specifically do you support the actions of the Prince Rupert Port Authority, acting on behalf of  your government, to try to remove a peaceful camp on Lelu Island under the threat of legal action and the potential pursuit of legal costs should we not comply?”

Wesley and Lawson also ask the Prime Minister if the port’s demands are, “an adequate and/or legally satisfactory execution of (the) government’s duty to consult and accommodate with Aboriginal people in Canada?”

Since last summer, a group of protestors have been occupying the island and have begun constructing a protest camp.

In the original news release on Monday morning, President and C-E-O Don Krusel says the port is exercising its right as administrator of federal crown lands on Lelu, and is instructing the protestors to stop construction activities.

The release says the port has reserved the right to require that existing structures be dismantled and all contents be removed from the island.

The port’s Commuications Manager Michael Gurney says the structures pose a risk of damage to the proposed project as well as raising safety concernes.

“The letter that was delivered this morning to the individuals on the island and to the organizers specifically requests that they seize construction activities on the island, it also reserves the right of the Port Authority to request in the future that they disassemble or remove the structures that are currently standing on the island and remove the materials from the island as well,” added Gurney.


Gitxsan chiefs blockade highway to protest government’s LNG project approvals