Large Rally in Smithers in Support of Wet'suwet'en Chiefs

John Crawford

Hundreds of supporters and hereditary chiefs from around British Columbia gathered in Smithers yesterday to show solidarity with the hereditary chiefs of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation who are fighting the construction of a natural gas pipeline through their traditional territory.

Coastal GasLink says it has signed agreements with all 20 elected band councils along the planned pipeline route, but hereditary chief Na'Moks says the hereditary chiefs hold authority over 22,000 square kilometres of land in the territory.

"I am not an elected official, an elected official never speaks for the Wet'suwet'en or any indigenous people -- there is no consent for them to speak on our behalf, they've never requested us to give that permission to them," he explained.


Chief Na'moks says the hereditary chiefs' authority over the land has never been extinguished and pointed to the 1997 Delgamuuk'w decision in the Supreme Court of Canada recognizing the existence of aboriginal title.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B-C Indian Chiefs says the dispute centres on the rights of the Wet'suwet'en to live in peace and practice traditions on the land.

"We know that small candle of flame that you had at the checkpoint has grown into a prairie fire across this country and around the world -- and the issue is human rights," he told Wednesday's rally.



[PHOTOS from Unist'ot'en Camp Facebook Page]

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