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Give the Wet’suwet’en space to conduct their law-making, away from barricades – Policy Options

by ahnationtalk on February 24, 202091 Views

February 24, 2020

In 1986, in preparation for the Delgamuukw land rights trial that would be held in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, an all clans feast was held in in Wet’suwet’en territory, in the northwestern central interior of the province. The feast was organized to help establish that there were no overlaps in territorial claims between the Gitskan and Wet’suwet’en, who were the key plaintiffs; and further, to ensure no overlap of territorial claims between the Gitskan and Wet’suwet’en’s tribal neighbours the Babine, Nisga’a and Carrier. The chiefs representing the various hereditary groups or “Houses” in the Gitskan and Wet’suwet’en nations, verbally marked out their territories during the feast, describing the bounds of each of their territorial boundaries, and demonstrating how those boundaries bumped up against the territories of the House chiefs to the north, south, east and west. They described the features of their territories as unique territorial markers that were echoed in the symbols and patterning of their chiefly robes, masks, and in crests on the walls of their lodges and feast houses. For example, if there was a mountain top where white ptarmigan – a kind of bird – lived exclusively, the chief whose house included that mountain would have a crest of white ptarmigan feathers.

Wet’suwet’en law is not conducted on the barricade. Wet’suwet’en authority over land is properly exercised in the Feast House. It is there, in a public forum, that decisions about land use are made, and the boundaries of House territories are affirmed. From a practical and policy-oriented perspective, what is needed is now is not patience but action. Not military action nor police action, but traditional Indigenous action in the form of another all clans feast.

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