Wet’suwet’en First Nation is currently under siege in northern British Colombia. Why are the Indians protesting? Why is this group of Indians trying to “stop” development? This is how mainstream media is framing this attack on First Nations.
Mainstream media portrays this issue as one where the great developmental gods have decreed that a pipeline and economic development trump a handful of ungrateful, lawless Indians. From the Indigenous point of view, the truth is that the original peoples were here first. The truth is that Canada and British Colombia cannot reconcile prior land and resource ownership of First Nations with honour or fairness. The truth is that there will be no peace or security until the original owners voice their perspectives.
This outstanding land issue was resolved when the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs took Canada to court to establish their inherent and unceded aboriginal title. This aboriginal title issue took years to go through the Canadian court system before a decision was finally reached or decided in Delgamuukw (1997). For whatever reason, British Colombia has and continues to be an unwilling partner in the negotiation of equitable land sharing mechanisms with the original landowners.
Who or what is a hereditary chief? There has been confusion over the term hereditary chief because this term comes from the original governance systems of Indigenous peoples pre-colonization. Mainstream Canadians and media are only familiar with Indian Affairs sanctioned chiefs and are not aware that the true governance systems of First Nations people have been compromised. In hereditary or original governance systems, the duties of leadership are different than the pretend authority exercised by Indian Affairs leaders or chiefs.
A hereditary chief follows the laws of the Creator. A hereditary chief or true Indigenous leader follows the ancestral ways that have always existed for their people. A hereditary chief speaks for the land, the waters, the plants, and the animals.
The Wet’suwet’en are following the “rule of their law”. They are following their teachings to steward the land for all living beings. The second tier in the “rule of law” being followed is International law with specific references to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. If Wet’suwet’en own laws are too philosophical or spiritual for a spiritless, capitalist society to acknowledge, then the Wet’suwet’en have also pursued Canadian legal recognitions. They are following the “rule of law” as defined by Canada.
The Royal Proclamation enshrined in the Canadian Constitution along with Section 35 provides for the resolution of aboriginal title. The Wet’suwet’en are following these constitutional laws and they have taken the time to also go through the Supreme Court. Apparently this is not adequate. Premier John Horgan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would have Canadians believe that the injunction or ruling of a tiny provincial court trumps Canada’s own constitution and Supreme Court ruling. It is ironic because Canada is insisting that the Wet’suwet’en follow a BC court ruling and allow Costal GasLink to build a pipeline for fracked gas to LNG in Kitimat. It is ironic because the Wet’suwet’en have been to a higher court to establish their aboriginal title claim.
How is John Horgan’s “rule of law” at the British Colombia provincial level, superior to a Supreme Court of Canada ruling? Trudeau has made this same statement. How is it that this is the “rule of law” that must be followed? Is there one law for the Indigenous and another for the provinces walking hand in hand with industry? Aside from the misleading “rule of law” references, there are other ironic circumstances visible from the Wet’suwet’en camp in Unist’oten. For instance, the RCMP’s role in the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Inquiry was repeatedly questioned and policing agencies were unwilling to be part of the Inquiry. This serious issue was unable to secure police participation. Here, close to the Wet’suwet’en territory, Indigenous women have gone missing along the trail of tears.
The police systems have been unable to assist or shed light on the women that have gone missing in this area. Yet when there is an issue involving Indigenous women, the matriarchs who are the keepers of the home fires and future generations, the RCMP are readily able to respond. When the Wet’suwet’en matriarchs defend their land, the RCMP has no problem arresting mothers, grandmothers, daughters- all the Indigenous women who are protecting their ancestral lands. Isn’t that ironic?
Another irony is in the framing of this issue with the Indigenous as protestors. The Indigenous are protectors. They are the protectors of the land, waters and life that will help all future generations.
Across Canada and on the global stage, there are similar events that are synching to support the Wet’suwet’en people. These global events are also calling for a stop to unnecessary development where the mysterious corporate gods must be appeased. Mainstream media is challenging these events by saying the Indigenous or people protesting in other locations are not the Wet’suwet’en. This is colonized thinking.
We are related to the land and as human beings, we are related to one another on a cosmic level. Therefore, it is the Indigenous who are trying to protect life. They are standing and holding a line even to save those who would condemn them.
This is the final irony. Currently, Prime Minister Trudeau is on a global mission to gain support for Canada’s bid to secure a seat on the UN Security Council. Holding this seat means that Canada would help safeguard peace and security at a global level. Is it possible for Canada to pursue international recognition when they cannot internally maintain peace with the Indigenous or deal with outstanding land issues with honour and fairness? Is it possible for Canada to present themselves as democratic leaders when they are able to undermine their own laws and continue attacking the very people who agreed to share “Canada”?