• Indigenous Climate Action

With Love for the Land, Law and the Wet'suwet'en way

Updated: Jun 22, 2019

“What we did was not extraordinary. What we did was what our ancestors have been doing for thousands of years,” Molly Wickham described to a full house at the Friendship Centre in Wet’suwet’en country (also known as Smithers, British Columbia) last month. Molly is with the Gidumt’en clan, she’s a mother, and governance director with her nation and she was one of 14 people arrested at the Gidumet’en checkpoint on January 7, 2019.

Steadfast and heartfelt, Molly continued describing their actions, “We upheld our law. We knew we were in the right, we were doing the right thing for our children. We’re doing the right thing for our great-grandchildren. We’re doing the right thing by our ancestors, what they wanted us to do, how they envisioned us to stand up and be proud of who we are and to know that our law is the supreme law of this land.”

The gathering of solidarity brought together hereditary and elected leaders from across the North and Coastal regions, and as far as the Secwepemc nation who know all too well the responsibility to defend their lands and way of life. “The land is us and we are the land, we know that,” declared Wayne Christian, Secwepemc Tribal Chief who also talked about how healing the territory can be. “Wherever you go in your territory, no matter where you are on Turtle Island and around the world, our ancestors have been here for thousands of years.”

Like all natives, the Wet’suwet’en are deeply connected to their Motherlands in a way that shapes who they are. Like all Indigenous peoples, the Wet’suwet’en must fulfil a responsibility to live in balance with their yintah -- their territory -- because it is the land that gives life. Like all land in the country called Canada, the Wet’suwet’en have never ceded nor surrendered their rights or jurisdiction. It is their inherent responsibility to continue living as they always have, as Wet’suwet’en people. This connection to the natural world is what connects all Indigenous peoples.

“Because the land is healing. It’s at the center of who we are as Indigenous people. Without our connection to the land through generations of our culture and language, we would be nothing.” – Ayla Brown, Heiltsuk Elected Councillor

Walking on their yintah, listening to the soothing Wedzin Kwa river, it’s absolutely clear why all five Wet’suwet’en clans have opposed pipelines invading their territory. Standing in this powerful place, there’s a visceral understanding of their strength as individuals and as a nation: They are the heirs and title holders in this area. It is their responsibility to honour their past and ensure the wellbeing of their future. For centuries, this powerful place has sustained them, nourished their spirits, and made them who they are.

Emotions are high, the politics are challenging, and this issue is still very alive. Even still, there are a few indisputable facts:

  • This is not really about a pipeline. Coastal GasLink is merely a symptom of centuries of colonization, Western dominance and capitalism.

  • Canada is failing. Canada has committed to reconciliation, land conservation, and has set goals to address climate change. What has happened in Wet’suwet’en territory in the past month has demonstrated that Trudeau’s government is unwilling to put words into action in this country.

  • This is not a new story. From Oka, to Athlii Gwaii and more recently the Elsipogtog Mi’kmaq, Indigenous people challenge colonization and extraction with unwavering conviction and love.

  • It’s not over. These words were echoed throughout the gathering, and without a doubt, Indigenous people will continue to rise together and do what is right for our children and grandchildren. We must remain resolute for the living beings that need healthy lands, air, and waters.

Here’s how you can help:

Want to learn more?

Eriel Deranger, ICA Executive Director statement to media

Watch the full Gathering of Solidarity online

Check out photos of the Wet’suwet’en Support Rally and Unis’tot’en Camp

We can all learn from Wet’suwet’en laws, National Observer

Rita Wong, January 8, 2019

There are two kinds of Indigenous governance structures, but Canada has bene listening to just one, CBC News

Carey Newman, January 11, 2019

What you haven’t heard from inside the battle of Gidimt’en checkpoint, The Star Vancouver

Jesse Winter, Perrin Grauer, Alex McKeen, January 12, 2019

The Unist’ot’en stand-off: How Canada’s “prove-it” mentality undermines reconciliation, West Coast Environmental Law

Eugene Kung & Gavin Smith, January 16, 2019

Hereditary Leaders from Across BC Stand Behind Wet’suwet’en and the Assertion of their Traditional Laws

Office of the Wet’suwet’en, January 16, 2019

©2020 by Indigenous Climate Action.