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Near New Hazelton, B.C.: Gitxsan supporters setup a blockade on Highway 16 in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Jimmy Jeong/The Globe and Mail

The latest

  • Another pro-Wet’suwet’en blockade halted train service at a critical junction on the Toronto-to-Chicago railway corridor on Tuesday, a day after Ontario Provincial Police took down a Tyendinaga Mohawk blockade near Belleville, Ont., to reopen the Toronto-to-Ottawa route. The group at the Bayview Junction, dubbed Wet’suwet’en Strong: Hamilton Solidarity, said police had served them an injunction, but they “happily burned” it.
  • The OPP arrested 10 people at the Tyendinaga blockade on Monday morning, releasing them on a promise to appear in court later and face unspecified charges. The arrests triggered protests in Ottawa and renewed rail and highway blockades from New Hazelton, B.C., to Montreal’s Mercier Bridge, in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the construction of a pipeline on their territory.
  • In Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney blamed the blockades of the past three weeks for Tech Resources Ltd.'s decision to shelve its Frontier mine project, and he promised new legislation to punish “anyone who riots on or who seeks to impair critical economic infrastructure, including railways.”
  • A second Wet’suwet’en hereditary subchief is denouncing the hereditary leaders at the heart of the dispute. “These five so-called hereditary chiefs, who say they are making decisions on behalf of all Wet’suwet’en, do not speak for the Wet’suwet’en,” Gary Naziel said. This echoes what Rita George, a hereditary subchief and expert in Wet’suwet’en law, said last Thursday. For a primer on Wet’suwet’en governance, go here.


The backstory in B.C.

Jan. 9, 2019: A blockade stands near the Unist'ot'en camp near Houston, B.C.

Jimmy Jeong/The Globe and Mail

In early 2019, a forestry road near Houston, B.C., was the scene of a tense standoff between RCMP and members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation. At issue were Coastal GasLink’s plans to build a pipeline through Wet’suwet’en territory, part of a $6.6-billion project to bring natural gas from northeastern B.C. to Kitimat on the coast. Five elected Wet’suwet’en band councils supported it, but hereditary chiefs remained opposed.

At two Wet’suwet’en camps, Unist’ot’en and Gitdumden (also spelled Gidimt’en), blockades obstructed Coastal GasLink’s path to build the pipeline. RCMP set up roadblocks and arrested people to enforce an injunction allowing workers to use the road. Days later, the threat of more conflict was averted by an agreement that the RCMP would leave Unist’ot’en’s healing lodge alone and allow the Wet’suwet’en to trap in the backcountry unimpeded.

In the year since then, Coastal GasLink cleared some land to make room for construction workers’ camps, but disputes over the pipeline and trapping rights continued to escalate in the area. Coastal GasLink said staff found trees partly cut down on a road to Unist’ot’en. A Wet’suwet’en house group gave Coastal GasLink an eviction notice and cancelled the deal reached the year before. Eventually Coastal GasLink put construction on hold. In December, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled that the anti-pipeline group had harmed Coastal GasLink’s interests, but talks between the pipeline opponents and the B.C. government delayed the RCMP from enforcing the new injunction. On Feb. 5, talks broke down, and in the ensuing days, the RCMP moved in and made several arrests.

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Dawson

Creek

ALASKA

Site of protests near Morice River

Houston

Kitimat

ALTA.

Prince

George

16

BRITISH

COLUMBIA

Banks

Island

97

Unist’ot’en

Camp

0

80

KM

Morice River

Kamloops

Morice River

Bridge

Coastal GasLink’s

pipeline project

Morice R. Forest Service Rd.

TC Energy’s

existing gas

transmission

system

0

1

KM

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

source: b.c. rcmp; thetyee.ca

Dawson

Creek

ALASKA

Site of protests near Morice River

Houston

ALTA.

Kitimat

Prince

George

16

BRITISH

COLUMBIA

Banks

Island

97

Unist’ot’en

Camp

0

80

KM

Morice River

Kamloops

Morice River

Bridge

Coastal GasLink’s

pipeline project

Morice River Forest Service Rd.

TC Energy’s

existing gas

transmission

system

0

1

KM

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, source: b.c. rcmp;

thetyee.ca

Dawson

Creek

ALASKA

Site of protests near Morice River

Houston

ALTA.

Kitimat

Prince

George

Haida

Gwaii

16

BRITISH

COLUMBIA

Banks

Island

97

Unist’ot’en

Camp

0

80

KM

Morice River

Kamloops

Morice River

Bridge

Coastal GasLink’s

pipeline project

Morice River Forest Service Rd.

TC Energy’s

existing gas

transmission

system

0

1

KM

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, source: b.c. rcmp; thetyee.ca

The blockades

Since early February, solidarity protests across Canada have called for the RCMP and Coastal GasLink to fully withdraw from Wet’suwet’en territory. Protest sites have included the ports of Vancouver and Halifax, public-transit rail lines in Vancouver and Montreal and Canada-U.S. border crossings in Ontario and B.C.

But the biggest disruption by far has been a blockade near Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in Ontario, which severed the main rail link between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal for 19 days. With no way to get trains through, Canadian National Railway Co. temporarily shut down its entire eastern network, and Via Rail suspended nearly all intercity rail travel in Canada and laid off 1,000 employees on Feb. 19. After more than two weeks of negotiation between the Tyendinaga blockaders and Ontario Provincial Police, the OPP moved in en masse on Feb. 24 and arrested several people, releasing them on a promise to appear in court later. Those arrests triggered new blockades and highway disruptions from New Hazelton, B.C., to Montreal’s Mercier Bridge, as well as demonstrations in Ottawa.

Tyendinaga, Feb. 24: Police officers make an arrest during a raid on the blockade site.

Chris Helgren/Reuters

Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Feb. 24: A youth lights a fire on train tracks just after the first Canadian National Railway Co. train passed after the blockade was cleared.

Chris Helgren/Reuters

Ottawa, Feb. 24: A drummer yells as people march on Wellington Street in Ottawa during a rally in solidarity with the Tyendinaga and Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

A Wet’suwet’en who’s who

John Ridsdale, also called Na'Moks, is one of the hereditary house chiefs of the Wet'suwet'en Nation.

Jimmy Jeong/The Globe and Mail

Who governs the Wet’suwet’en? The pipeline dispute hinges on an old question many First Nations face: Whether authority over resource development lies with elected band councils, hereditary leaders or both. Five elected Wet’suwet’en band councils, whose authority is coded in the federal Indian Act, signed agreements with Coastal GasLink, and 15 other B.C. elected band councils that accepted the pipeline. But the Wet’suwet’en Nation also has five hereditary clans, under which there are 13 houses, or subgroups. Each subgroup has the position of house chief, also known as head chief, and secondary leaders known as wing chiefs. Nine of 13 hereditary house-chief positions are filled, and four are vacant. Eight house chiefs have said they oppose Coastal GasLink, while the ninth has taken a neutral position.

Who opposes the pipeline opponents? Two house chiefs supported the pipeline, only to have their titles stripped by other chiefs. Some wing chiefs have spoken out against the anti-pipeline house chiefs, including Rita George (who is both a part of the elected Wet’suwet’en First Nation and the hereditary system) and Gary Naziel, who says several hereditary chiefs and matriarchs have been bullied for criticizing the anti-pipeline chiefs.

WET’SUWET’EN NATION

The Wet'suwet'en Nation comprises five clans

and 13 house groups in the British Columbia

Interior. A non-profit society, the Office of the

Wet’suwet’en, represents the interests of

hereditary chiefs in the area.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs

GIL_SEYHU

Clan name

(Big Frog Clan)

Hereditary

title

Goohlaht

Yex T’sa wit’ant’

House name

(Thin House)

Knedebeas

Unist’ot’en

is affiliated

with

Dark House

Yex T’sa wil_

k’us

(Dark House)

Samooh

Kayex

(Birchbark House)

GITDUMDEN

LAKSILYU

(Small Frog Clan)

(Wolf and Bear Clan)

Wah Tah Kwets

Woos

Kwen Beegh Yex

Cassyex

(House Beside the Fire)

(Grizzly House)

Hagwilnegh

Gisday’wa

G’en egh l_a yex

Kaiyexweniits

(House of Many Eyes)

(House in the Middle

of Many)

Wah Tah K’eght

Tsee K’al K’e yex

Madeek

(House on a Flat Rock)

Anaskaski

(Where it Lies

Blocking the Trail)

TSAYU

LAKSAMSHU

(Beaver Clan)

(Fireweed and Owl Clan)

Kloum Khun

Kweese

Medzeyex

Djakanyex

(Beaver House)

(Owl House)

Namox

Smogelgem

Tsa K’en yex

Tsaiyex

(Rafters on

Beaver House)

(Sun House)

Note: In this version of the chart, the order of the

clans has been stacked due to space considerations.

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: wetsuweten.com

WET’SUWET’EN NATION

The Wet'suwet'en Nation comprises five clans and 13

house groups in the British Columbia Interior.

A non-profit society, the Office of the Wet’suwet’en,

represents the interests of hereditary chiefs in the area.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs

GIL_SEYHU

Clan name

(Big Frog Clan)

Hereditary

title

Goohlaht

Yex T’sa wit’ant’

House name

(Thin House)

Knedebeas

Unist’ot’en

is affiliated

with

Dark House

Yex T’sa wil_

k’us

(Dark House)

Samooh

Kayex

(Birchbark House)

LAKSILYU

GITDUMDEN

(Small Frog Clan)

(Wolf and Bear Clan)

Wah Tah Kwets

Woos

Kwen Beegh Yex

Cassyex

(House Beside the Fire)

(Grizzly House)

Hagwilnegh

Gisday’wa

G’en egh l_a yex

Kaiyexweniits

(House of Many Eyes)

(House in the Middle

of Many)

Wah Tah K’eght

Tsee K’al K’e yex

Madeek

(House on a Flat Rock)

Anaskaski

(Where it Lies

Blocking the Trail)

TSAYU

LAKSAMSHU

(Beaver Clan)

(Fireweed and Owl Clan)

Kloum Khun

Kweese

Medzeyex

Djakanyex

(Beaver House)

(Owl House)

Namox

Smogelgem

Tsa K’en yex

Tsaiyex

(Rafters on

Beaver House)

(Sun House)

Note: In this version of the chart, the order of the

clans has been stacked due to space considerations.

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: wetsuweten.com

WET’SUWET’EN NATION

The Wet'suwet'en Nation comprises five clans and 13 house groups in the British

Columbia Interior. A non-profit society, the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, represents

the interests of hereditary chiefs in the area.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs

GILSEYHU

LAKSILYU

GITDUMDEN

Clan name

(Big Frog Clan)

(Small Frog Clan)

(Wolf and Bear Clan)

Hereditary

title

Goohlaht

Wah Tah Kwets

Woos

Yex T’sa wit’ant’

Kwen Beegh Yex

Cassyex

House name

(Thin House)

(House Beside the Fire)

(Grizzly House)

Knedebeas

Unist’ot’en

is affiliated

with

Dark House

Hagwilnegh

Gisday’wa

Yex T’sa wil_

k’us

G’en egh l_a yex

Kaiyexweniits

(House of Many Eyes)

(House in the

Middle of Many)

(Dark House)

Wah Tah K’eght

Samooh

Madeek

Tsee K’al K’e yex

Kayex

Anaskaski

(House on a Flat Rock)

(Birchbark House)

(Where it Lies

Blocking the Trail)

TSAYU

LAKSAMSHU

(Beaver Clan)

(Fireweed and Owl Clan)

Kloum Khun

Kweese

Note: In this

version of

the chart, the

order of the

clans has been

stacked due to

space consider-

ations.

Medzeyex

Djakanyex

(Beaver House)

(Owl House)

Na’Moks

Smogelgem

Tsa K’en yex

Tsaiyex

(Rafters on

Beaver House)

(Sun House)

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: wetsuweten.com

WET’SUWET’EN NATION

The Wet'suwet'en Nation comprises five clans and 13 house groups in the British Columbia Interior.

A non-profit society, the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, represents the interests of hereditary chiefs in the area.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs

LAKSILYU

TSAYU

LAKSAMSHU

GITDUMDEN

GILSEYHU

Clan name

(Big Frog Clan)

(Small Frog Clan)

(Beaver Clan)

(Fireweed and Owl Clan)

(Wolf and Bear Clan)

Hereditary

title

Kloum Khun

Goohlaht

Wah Tah Kwets

Kweese

Woos

Yex T’sa wit’ant’

Kwen Beegh Yex

Djakanyex

Cassyex

Medzeyex

House name

(Thin House)

(House Beside the Fire)

(Grizzly House)

(Beaver House)

(Owl House)

Knedebeas

Unist’ot’en

is affiliated

with

Dark House

Hagwilnegh

Na’Moks

Smogelgem

Gisday’wa

Yex T’sa wil_

k’us

G’en egh l_a yex

Tsa K’en yex

Kaiyexweniits

Tsaiyex

(House of Many Eyes)

(Rafters on

Beaver House)

(Sun House)

(House in the Middle

of Many)

(Dark House)

Wah Tah K’eght

Samooh

Tsee K’al K’e yex

Kayex

Madeek

(House on a Flat Rock)

(Birchbark House)

Anaskaski

(Where it Lies Blocking

the Trail)

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: wetsuweten.com

WET’SUWET’EN NATION

Unist’ot’en is affiliated with Dark House, one of 13 hereditary house groups under the Wet’suwet’en Nation in British Columbia’s

Interior. A non-profit society, the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, represents the interests of hereditary chiefs in the area.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs

LAKSILYU

TSAYU

LAKSAMSHU

GITDUMDEN

GILSEYHU

Clan name

(Big Frog Clan)

(Small Frog Clan)

(Beaver Clan)

(Fireweed and Owl Clan)

(Wolf and Bear Clan)

Hereditary

title

Kloum Khun

Goohlaht

Wah Tah Kwets

Kweese

Woos

Yex T’sa wit’ant’

Kwen Beegh Yex

Djakanyex

Cassyex

Medzeyex

House name

(Thin House)

(House Beside the Fire)

(Grizzly House)

(Beaver House)

(Owl House)

Knedebeas

Unist’ot’en

is affiliated

with

Dark House

Hagwilnegh

Na’Moks

Smogelgem

Gisday’wa

Yex T’sa wil_

k’us

G’en egh l_a yex

Tsa K’en yex

Tsaiyex

Kaiyexweniits

(House of Many Eyes)

(Rafters on

Beaver House)

(Sun House)

(House in the Middle

of Many)

(Dark House)

Wah Tah K’eght

Samooh

Tsee K’al K’e yex

Kayex

Madeek

(Birchbark House)

(House on a Flat Rock)

Anaskaski

(Where it Lies Blocking

the Trail)

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: wetsuweten.com

The legal issues at stake

Land claims: The pipeline opponents’ case hinges on the 1997 Delgamuukw decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, which involved land claims by the Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan people. It upheld Indigenous peoples’ rights to lands never ceded by treaty, but didn’t answer specific questions of title by the Wet’suwet’en or Gitxsan.

Artifacts: The chiefs have also pinned their legal arguments on stone artifacts they say were unearthed at Camp 9A, a site on the construction route. B.C. government protocols require a perimeter around sites where heritage objects are found. There is no doubt that the artifacts are authentic, but legal action by Coastal GasLink has disputed whether they were really found there or planted to prevent construction. The Globe and Mail’s Brent Jang interviewed more than 20 people familiar with the case and examined court records to piece together the timeline of how the artifacts were found and the debate about what should happen to Camp 9A.

More reading

Opinion

Blair Stonechild: The deeper reason behind Indigenous resistance to pipelines

Jennifer Klinck and Madelaine Mackenzie: Why protest matters for the Wet’suwet’en resistance

Adam Pankratz: The rule of law cuts both ways. Some Coastal GasLink protesters are ignoring that

Corey Shefman: Stop using the ‘rule of law’ as a weapon against Indigenous peoples

Ken Coates: Don’t confuse support for the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs with the spirit of Idle No More

In depth

In Wet’suwet’en territory, torn loyalties over the future of a nation and a pipeline

‘It’s the people who decide’: Who’s leading the pro-Wet’suwet’en blockades, and who’s not

Indigenous land rights: The big picture

Analysis: Outside of pipeline tensions, signs of reconciliation progress in B.C.

This pipeline is challenging Indigenous law and Western law. Who really owns the land?


Compiled by Globe staff

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Based on reporting from Brent Jang, Justine Hunter, Wendy Stueck, Eric Atkins, Bill Curry, Karen Howlett, Les Perreaux, Colin Freeze and The Canadian Press


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