FROM THE EDITORS: Wetʼsuwetʼen is a First Nations people living in British Columbia, Canada. They call themselves Wetʼsuwetʼen, which means “People of the Wa Dzun Kwuh River.” For hundreds of years, the Hereditary Chiefs of Wet’suwet’en have maintained, without assigning or subject to any treaty, the use and occupation of the 22,000 square kilometers of their territory. Under Canadian Aboriginal Law they have full constitutional jurisdiction to control access to their territory.
At the beginning of 2019, Coastal GasLink’s, a natural gas construction and extraction corporation, planned the construction of a pipeline that, according to them, would cross the Wetʼsuwetʼen territory. The Hereditary Chiefs opposed and the Wetʼsuwetʼen people set up a couple of camps to prevent the illegal transit of Coastal GasLink’s into their territory. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has intervened in favor of the corporation on different occasions, and the Supreme Court, ignoring the constitutional and legal rights of the Wetʼsuwetʼen people, has ruled in favor of the corporation, despite the Wetʼsuwetʼen territory has never been ceded, nor has it been part of any treaty, and has always been in the possession of the Wetʼsuwetʼen people.
Earlier this year, the traditional authority of the Hereditary Chiefs issued an eviction order against the Coastal GasLink’s company, which has already caused irreparable damage such as the destruction of Wetʼsuwetʼen archeological sites, and now intends to appropriate part of the territory and strip the community of its land rights.
The Wetʼsuwetʼen people call on the international community to show solidarity with their legitimate struggle to preserve, protect and defend their land and territory, their culture and the laws that give them rights.
Next, we reproduce the communiqué of the Community and the Hereditary Heads of Wet’suwet’en, which decrees the eviction of the Coastal GasLink Corporation from the Wet’suwet’en lands, in accordance with the Wet’suwet’en First Nations Law.[penci_video url=”https://youtu.be/lnpztCgP_oU” align=”center” width=”” /]
Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs representing all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation have issued an eviction notice to the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline company. The eviction of CGL is effective immediately, and applies to “Camp 9A” on Dark House territory, as well as the neighbouring Gidimt’en, Tsayu, and Laksamshu clan territories. Hereditary chiefs have gathered on Gidimt’en and Gilseyhu territories to monitor the eviction.
Coastal Gaslink has violated the Wet’suwet’en law of trespass, and has bulldozed through our territories, destroyed our archaeological sites, and occupied our land with industrial man-camps. Private security firms and RCMP have continually interfered with the constitutionally protected rights of Wet’suwet’en people to access our lands for hunting, trapping, and ceremony.
Canada’s courts have acknowledged in Delgamuukw-Gisdaywa v. The Queen that the Wet’suwet’en people, represented by our hereditary chiefs, have never ceded nor surrendered title to the 22,000km2 of Wet’suwet’en territory. The granting of the interlocutory injunction by BC’s Supreme Court has proven to us that Canadian courts will ignore their own rulings and deny our jurisdiction when convenient, and will not protect our territories or our rights as Indigenous peoples.
Anuc ‘nu’at’en (Wet’suwet’en law) is not a “belief” or a “point of view”. It is a way of sustainably managing our territories and relations with one another and the world around us, and it has worked for millennia to keep our territories intact. Our law is central to our identity. The ongoing criminalization of our laws by Canada’s courts and industrial police is an attempt at genocide, an attempt to extinguish Wet’suwet’en identity itself.
We reaffirm that Anuc ‘nu’at’en remains the highest law on Wet’suwet’en land and must be respected. We have always held the responsibility and authority to protect our unceded territories. Protection of our yintah (traditional territories) is at the heart of Anuc ‘nu’at’en, and we will practice our laws for the future generations.
The Wet’suwet’en have always controlled access to our territories. At Unist’ot’en Village, a Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) protocol has been practiced over the past ten years whenever access to the territory is requested by someone outside of Dark House membership. Dark House has not been able to implement this protocol since the enforcement of the interim injunction in January 2019. This protocol aligns Wet’suwet’en law with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which guarantees Indigenous peoples the right to obtain free, prior, and informed consent for development on our territories.
We expect Coastal GasLink to peacefully comply with our eviction notice, and ask that British Columbia uphold its commitment to implement UNDRIP and instruct RCMP to respect our rights and refrain from interference in Wet’suwet’en law.
Jen Wickham, Gidumt’en Clan
View the Letter from Chiefs to Coastal Gaslink: