Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, dressed in full regalia as they prepared to enter the Houston Community Hall, were surprised when TransCanada and B.C. government representatives hurriedly left a meeting.
The meeting, which was held on June 13, 2016, was organized by a group called the Wet’suwet’en Matrilineal Coalition.
The chiefs ceremoniously interrupted the meeting to extend an invite to their Bahlats, or traditional feast, in Moricetown on June 30 to discuss LNG and traditional governance issues.
Hereditary Chief John Ridsdale said they have not yet received a response from the provincial government nor the pipeline proponent.
“They had a moderator there, so as we were in the parking lot putting on our regalia, he had come out and asked [if] we wished to be on the agenda. As chiefs, we stated, ‘no, we’re here to make a statement,’ and also to invite them to our feast so we can do our business our way,” explained Ridsdale.
“As we finished explaining that to him, he went inside and within a couple minutes there goes [negotiator] Katie Scott from Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, along with the pipeline proponents that were there. They went to their vehicles hurriedly, extremely hurriedly, and got in their vehicles and left.”
The government and company officials returned after the chiefs left, according to Ridsdale.
“We elected to leave the meeting as it was our understanding that the issues to be discussed were governance issues among the Wet’suwet’en people and we didn’t feel it was our place to stay,” responded TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink spokesperson Shela Shapiro in an e-mail. “Our role was to present info about the project.”
She added that the company has not yet received a formal invite to the Moricetown feast.
The chiefs were there in part to stress that they did not believe the Matrilineal Coalition speaks for the Wet’suwet’en.
“The chiefs had met about it because it was brought to us previously, and we told them we don’t want anything to with the First Nations financial board because they’re basically going to lend us money to go and ruin our territory, and we’re here to protect our territory,” said Ridsdale. “So they started up this entity and public perception that they represent the Wet’suwet’en, and they don’t.”