Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs continue to spread word about pipeline conflict


While the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline is underway, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have embarked on a cross-Canada tour to build solidarity against the pipeline. 

“The message simply is if we all use our voices properly, we can make a difference,” said Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Na’Moks in Kahnawà:ke, just outside of Montreal. 

About 30 community members showed up at the 207 Kahnawà:ke longhouse for ceremony and talks with the chiefs on Saturday. So far, hereditary chiefs say that discussions have highlighted how much they have in common with other First Nations. 

Kahnawà:ke marks the fourth stop on their cross-country tour. Back in 2020, the Mohawk community blockaded railways in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en resistance to the CGL pipeline and RCMP presence in their territory. 

“It must be noted that what we do is to protect [the land] for everybody. We always say for the betterment of all, we don’t say just for the betterment of the Wet’suwet’en,” said Na’Moks. 

20 councils

Even though 20 elected band councils have approved construction of the pipeline, Na’moks says hereditary chiefs remain opposed to the pipeline to protect traditional Wet’suwet’en territory, or yintah, due to environmental and sovereignty concerns. 

“We come here to make sure that everybody understands that we can all stand together. In our territories, they’re proposing a pipeline that’ll add to the catastrophes that we’re living in,” said Na’Moks. 

Hereditary Chief Gisdaywa said that their visit to Aamjiwnaang First Nation, located in Ontario’s “Chemical Valley,” reminded him of the urgency of their mission. 

“There’s a lot of places where they told the Natives there they’re not going to pollute the river there, and to this day they can’t even drink the water,” said Gisdaywa. 

He said he’s worried Wet’suwet’en territory will have the same fate. 

Kitimat

“I’d like to see the Natives from Kitimat go to where we were the other day, up by the river. They can’t drink the water there, and there’s pipelines everywhere. They’re living on a time bomb there, and there’s nothing the Natives can do about it there,” said Gisdaywa. 

“Where we come from we drink out of our rivers, our creeks and our lakes. There are not many places on this planet that you can actually do that. We need to stand up and protect what is left,” said Na’Moks. 

Na’Moks and Gisdayway also spoke about the effects of continued police presence on Wet’suwet’en yintah, including an interruption of traditional activities.  

“Smithers, Burn’s Lake, those cops are OK. It’s out in the territory we don’t want. Because we can’t hunt, get our wood, just go out there and enjoy the scenery, we can’t do that, they’re there, asking what we want,” said Gisdaywa. 

“You see on the news, they have dogs, assault rifles, the army, all that. When that truck convoy went to Ottawa, all white people, where were the dogs and animals, hey? None,” he added. 

Blockades

Na’Moks said they were visiting to share their experiences — not advise on future actions, like blockades.  

“You know in our law it’s actually illegal for us to tell another nation what to do? That’s an act of war. We will never direct another nation. Canada is trying to direct us. They are another nation. We are a nation,” said Na’Moks. 

Na’Moks said he hopes the situation will resolve itself peacefully and that police will be out of the Yintah soon.  

Emelia holds a BA in Global Political Economy from the University of Manitoba. Prior to joining the APTN News team in Montreal, she was a reporter and editor for The Manitoban and has worked as a freelance writer. Fournier is a member of the Métis Nation.