Hereditary chiefs unhappy with Wet’suwet’en’s pipeline agreement

“We have not been consulted, at all,” says hereditary head chief.

In December 2014, the Wet’suwet’en First Nation signed an agreement with the province for the proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline project. With approximately 240 members, the Wet’suwet’en First Nation will receive approximately $2.8 million from the province out of the agreement. However, not everyone is happy about this decision, nor with the way the decision was made.

“All hereditary chiefs are opposed to this [pipeline agreement],” said Jeff Brown, Hereditary Chief of the Gitdumden Clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation.

According to Brown, the decision to sign the pipeline agreement was made entirely through Wet’suwet’en’s elected officials, and did not include any consultations with community members nor with the hereditary chiefs.

“We have never been consulted, at all” he said. “We would’ve liked to be on the planning stage of each development, and without that, there won’t be any approval of the hereditary chiefs.”

The hereditary chiefs are not the only ones unhappy with Wet’suwet’en’s pipeline agreement. According to Carla Lewis, a member of the Gitdumden Clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation and a registered band member of Wet’suwet’en First Nation, many band members, especially off-reserve, heard about the pipeline agreement for the first time through a press release.

“There was considerable shock and outrage expressed in social media as people heard the news,” she said.

In the story ‘Early pipeline warnings’ published in the Lakes District News’ Feb. 20, 2013, Chief Ogen said she was planning on holding consultations with community members for major decisions.

“I don’t make decisions for myself, by myself,” Chief Ogen told Lakes District News in February 2013. “I have to talk with our elders, our hereditary chiefs, and our council members; we’ve been doing our due diligence in our community ensuring that people understand what this process is about and how it’s going to impact us.”

However, Brown said Chief Ogen has not done what she had promised, and that she is in fact “avoiding contact” with hereditary chiefs.

Lewis also mentioned Chief Ogen hasn’t answered her requests to find out if there were any land use or social economic studies done prior to making this pipeline agreement.

“In decisions as big as this that impact and implicate all of us, consultation should consist of an informed membership making informed decisions,” said Lewis. “I have no idea if they have done any studies, and in this case, there should have at least been a referendum.”

Lewis added that contemporary issues such as clear cut logging, mining, climate change, overpopulation and pipelines need to be carefully weighed and analyzed to ensure that impacts are fully understood.

“Pipelines, whether they are oil or gas, pose a significant impact to our environment, and the oil and gas industry itself is greatly contributing to climate changes which we can already see in our villages,” said Lewis. “We need to all be working together to halt climate change and the over-exploitation of fossil fuels.”

Chief Karen Ogen did not respond to Lakes District News by press time.