Saturday, November 24, 2012

Which Part of “Wet’suwet’en Territory” Don’t They Understand?

In northern British ColumbiaCanada, members of the indigenous Wet’suwet’en nation on November 21st chased surveyors off their territory, confiscated equipment, and established a roadblock to prevent further activities connected with an oil pipeline set to run through their lands.  The pipeline in question is the Pacific Trails Pipeline, a project by Apache Canada.  First Nations groups in the region have been galvanized by the controversy over the environmentally destructive Northern Gateway Pipeline planned by Enbridge, Inc., to run from Alberta’s tar sands to Kitimat, B.C.  The Wet’suwet’en group, representing “the Unis’tot’en clan” (i.e., the “C’ilhts’ekhyu,” or Big Frog Clan, one of the nation’s five descent groups), said through a spokesperson, Freda Huson, that it “has been dead-set against all pipelines slated to cross through their territories.”  A Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief who confronted the surveyors, Toghestiy (his English name is Warner Naziel), of the Likhts’amisyu (Fireweed) clan, concurred, stating, “The surveyors claimed they were working on a contract for Apache, an American oil and gas company.  Apache is the leading partner in the Pacific Trails Pipeline project which intends to connect shale gas fields in Northeastern B.C. with L.N.G. terminals in Kitimat.  ... The Unis’tot’en and Grassroots Wet’suwet’en have consistently stated that they will not allow such a pipeline to pass through their territory.”

The Wet’suwet’en (previously known to anthropologists as the Bulkley River Carrier, speakers of a Dene (Athapaskan) language) and a neighboring nation, the Gitxsan, were plaintiffs in a groundbreaking land-claims suit in the 1980s and ’90s, Delgamuukw v. the Queen, which asserted that the two nations’ land-holding matrilineal extended families, under their chiefs, were absolute owners of their home territories.  The Gitxsan (as reported earlier in this blog) have been divided on the question of the Enbridge project, as have other First Nations along the proposed route.  Huson explained, “Apache’s claim that they have support from 15 out of 16 First Nation groups is extremely misleading.  They are following the government’s direction to not deal with Hereditary Chiefs who are the legitimate title holders of these lands.  Instead, they are attempting to deal with Indian Act governments who have no jurisdiction off of their Indian Reservations.  The Supreme Court of Canada’s Delgamuukw decision explicitly shows that they are breaking their own laws.”

Wet’suwet’en territories in British Columbia
[You can read more about the Tsimshian, Gitxsan, Nisga’a, etc., as well as sovereignty and independence movements both famous and obscure, in my new book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas just published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar.  The book, which contains 46 maps and 554 flags (or, more accurately, 554 flag images), is available for order now on Amazon.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even if you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this interview for more information on the book.]

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