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Sunday, 1 March 2020

Terms to Know Regarding the Wet'suwet'en Stand Against the Coastal GasLink Rout

There has been lots of news coverage on the Wet'suwet'en peoples' stand against the Coastal GasLink pipeline, and lots of information to get through. As is often the case I didn't understand what was going on just from the first article I saw about it (or second, or third...), but a member of a Facebook group with family in the middle of it all kindly shared lots of resources to help me out.

While I was going through articles, I came across a lot of different terms and names, and decided to scrap a summary of the news itself in favour of a vocab and people list instead:

TC Energy (formerly TransCanada) - The company making the pipeline.

LNG Canada - the people who selected TC Energy to fulfill the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline.

Royal Dutch Shell plc - the people who own LNG Canada

Wet’suwet’en Nation - the 22,000 square km of unceded traditional territory held by the Wet'suwet'en since pre-colonial times.

The Wet’suwet’en First Nation - the 700-member reserve band village (thanks Merv Ritchie who commented on the referenced article)

Unist'ot'en - One of five Wet’suwet’en clans. Years ago they established a gated camp along the planned pipeline rout.

"The 22,000 square km of Wet’suwet’en Territory is divided into 5 clans and 13 house groups. Each clan within the Wet’suwet’en Nation has full jurisdiction under their law to control access to their territory" -

Elected chiefs - Elected chiefs also serve the community in an authoritative role, however their powers only extend as set out in the Indian Act (1876) by colonial federal government, including jurisdiction over reserves.

Band councils - Like elected chiefs, the role of elected band council was created under the Indian Act (enacted in 1876) by colonial federal government.

Hereditary chiefs (sometimes called house chiefs) -  the responsibility of hereditary chief is a position held according to traditional Wet'suwet'en governance. The jurisdiction of hereditary chiefs vary between groups, however hereditary chiefs are the Title Holders of the Wet'suwet'en land. (For more details: affirmation in 1997 by the Supreme Court of Canada, in the decision of Delgamuukw v. British Columbia).

unceded land - land where powers over it has not been legally handed over to colonial government.

Reconciliation - “. . . Reconciliation is about establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in this country. In order for that to happen, there has to be awareness of the past, an acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to change behaviour.” - The Truth and Reconciliation Committee (

United Nations Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) - passed into British Columbia provincial law in November 2019. "UNDRIP clarifies the rights of Indigenous Peoples to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent regarding projects that impact their lands and livelihoods. It also clarifies that Indigenous Peoples will not be forcefully removed from their lands." -

     While there was a lot of "what's happenings" to read about, it took a while to sift through to understand why or just how this conflict came about.
      A key point that I did not initially understand is that consultation with 20 First Nations did actually take place, and representatives from all 20 signed in agreement with the rout. However, the actual title holders to the Wet'suwet'en land did not sign. All five hereditary Wet'suwet'en chiefs -the title holders of part of the land that they are planning to put the pipeline on- are unanimously opposed.


Written 2020-02-29

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