Wet’suwet’en discuss proposed deal but no timeline on ratification, says Hereditary Chief Hagwilnegh

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Hagwilnegh says individual house meetings are underway to discuss a draft arrangement on rights and title that the hereditary chiefs, the province, and the federal government reached on Mar.1.

Neither the chiefs nor the government have released details of the proposed agreement until Wet’suwet’en people can review the document for approval. There is still no timeline on when this will happen. Hagwilnegh (Ron Mitchell) played a part in the discussions – he described them as positive.

“We came to a place where we should have been 23 years ago, we should have continued – we should have started this talk 23 years right after the decision came down December 11, ’97,” stated Hagwilnegh.

In 1997, Hagwilnegh was a translator in the Delgamuukw Gisday’wa Supreme Court of Canada case.  Here Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan Elders presented their case for the land in their traditional languages.  At the time he was in his early thirties – he learned the extensive history of the area by translating testimony.

Together the nations won in a historic Supreme Court case but needed to go back to B.C. courts to be heard over again – an event that never happened. The proposed agreement is writing that next chapter.

is producing a three part story on Delgamuukw. Read part one:

The Delgamuukw decision: Putting the Wet’suwet’en conflict in perspective

Coastal GasLink is back to work on the pipeline on the contested Morice West Forest Service Road near Houston B.C.

Earlier in the week at B.C. legislature, Premier John Horgan said the pipeline will be built. Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs still stand in opposition to the pipeline.

Five elected Wet’suwet’en band councils which support the Coastal Gaslink project in the territories released a statement calling to be heard in the feast hall.

“They are clan members. When we are in the feast hall we don’t say they are band council from so and so. For example, if some leaders are sitting on that side they are Gidimt’en, we recognize them as Gidimt’en,” said Hagwilnegh.

The governance system with the feast hall was in place before colonial contact. It is important in this battle for the land along with the current occupation, hunting, trapping, and other traditional uses of the land.

There have been individual house feast meetings to provide clarity to members. Still, no set day has been confirmed for the larger community feast hall meeting to review the document and decide what response to take back to the senior government officials.

As for the blockades that are still happening around the country, Hagwilnegh understands they are standing in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en, but it is not his place to tell other leaders what to do in their territory.

“As a chief, I don’t have any control of what happens outside our nation. We didn’t go out and tell them put up blockades, that’s not our way. What they do, I can’t say – I can’t tell them to stop,” explained Hagwilnegh.


Video Journalist / Kitimat Village, B.C.

Lee is a video journalist with APTN News, who shoots, reports and edits stories out of northern British Columbia. As a member of the Haisla Nation, Lee is proud to call Kitimat Village home again after living on Vancouver Island for 18 years. He has a passion for storytelling and looks forward to sharing stories through the lens of First Nations people.