Hereditary and elected Wet’suwet’en leaders from Burns Lake, Hagwilget and Moricetown gathered to reconcile differences within the nation at a meeting in Smithers last week.
The meeting was attended by chiefs and councillors from the Burns Lake Band, Hagwilget Village Council, Moricetown Band, Wet’suwet’en First Nation band, Nee Tahi Buhn Indian Band, Skin Tyee Nation and the Office of the Wet’suwet’en (OW). The gathering, organized by Wet’suwet’en First Nation Chief Karen Ogen, was the first time leaders from the six bands and the OW had come together for several years.
Hereditary Chief Na’Moks, whose English name is John Ridsdale, said the meeting was held to improve communication between groups within the Wet’suwet’en Nation, which he said had been divided by government conduct.
“I believe the way that industry and government have conducted themselves, they put a wedge in between us and now we have to remove that wedge,” he said.
Although some Wet’suwet’en leaders have disagreed over deals with industry and government, Na’Moks said this meeting was focused on reconciliation. The program included a series of presentations on case law and landmark rulings on First Nations rights and land title.
“It’s a good reminder to everybody that there is case law and communal decision-making,” said Na’Moks.
Hereditary chief Madeek (Jeff Brown) believes adhering to traditional Wet’suwet’en customs is the best path forward.
“The only way we are going to be able to come to any agreement is through the feast hall,” he said.
“We’re having feasts, but you don’t get everybody at a feast. Sometimes they only go whenever is possible for them to be there but that is our governance.”
The leaders resolved to meet again in other Wet’suwet’en territories to help keep the relationship strong.