1. Who are the Wet’suwet’en?
The Wet’suwet’en are a First Nations people whose territory occupies a large portion of the central interior of BC. They are a branch of the Dakelh or Carrier nation.
They speak Witsuwit’en and along with the Carrier nation are both in the Athabaskan Language Family.
The Wet’suwet’en are made up of five separate clans:
- Gilseyhu (Big Frog)
- Laksilyu (Small Frog)
- Gitdumden (Wolf/Bear), also spelt Gitumden
- Laksamshu (Fireweed)
- Tsayu (Beaver clan)
They operate under the jurisdiction of the Office of the Hereditary Chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en which is not formally recognized by the BC Government.
2. Resources and land-use deals
Back in 2012, the Wet’suwet’en set up the Unist’ot’en checkpoint.
It’s located near the work site for the future $6.2-billion TransCanada Coastal GasLink pipeline.
The pipeline would run about one kilometer south of the Unist’ot’en camp and they prepared a checkpoint to stand in opposition to the project they did not agree to.
It was set up to prevent construction on their traditional land which is located around the Morice River Bridge or the area accessed by the Morice West Forest Service Road near Houston, B.C.
Since 2009, according to the Office of the Wet’suwet’en:
Natural Resources are mandated by the hereditary clan leaders to assert the title, rights and interests of the clans with respect to the sale, use and development of natural resources on 22,000 kms2 of traditional clan territories. – Office of the Wet’suwet’en
This raises a key issue about jurisdiction and the nation to nation relationship between the Wet’suwet’en and the Government of Canada.
The pipeline plan was shut down by the five Wet’suwet’en clans who are opposed to building the pipeline to Kitimat through their land.