Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Ontario, Feb. 14: A truck with flags and posters stand near the closed train tracks on Day 9 of a rail blockade in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in northern B.C.
Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press
The latest

  • There is no quick fix to the Wetsuweten pipeline feud, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday after much of Canadas rail network was suspended because of solidarity protests with B.C. chiefs. You need to know we have failed our Indigenous peoples over generations, over centuries, Mr. Trudeau said, adding that we also are, obviously, a country of laws. And making sure that those laws are enforced, even as there is, of course, freedom to demonstrate free and to protest.”
  • Via Rail cancelled all passenger service and Canadian National Railway Co. started shutting down its eastern network on Thursday due to protest blockades. Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Friday that hes deeply concerned about the economic impact, but stressed the need for dialogue, citing this as the reason a blockade near New Hazelton in B.C. was lifted Thursday. He said he hoped an ongoing blockade on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory which has cut off the main Toronto-to-Ottawa route could also be resolved.
  • The protests began last week after RCMP enforced an injunction and arrested people for allegedly violating an exclusion zone near a pipeline construction site on Wetsuweten territory. Several hereditary chiefs oppose the pipeline, but it was approved by five elected Wetsuweten band councils and 15 other First Nations. Heres a primer on how the Wetsuweten Nation governs itself and why the pipeline has been so divisive within it.

The backstory
Jan. 9, 2019: A blockade stands near the Unist’ot’en camp near Houston, B.C.
Jimmy Jeong/The Globe and Mail
In early 2019, a forestry road near Houston, B.C., was the scene of a tense standoff between RCMP and members of the Wetsuweten Nation. At issue were Coastal GasLinks plans to build a pipeline through Wetsuweten territory, part of a $6.6-billion project to bring natural gas from northeastern B.C. to Kitimat on the coast. Five elected Wetsuweten band councils supported it, but hereditary chiefs remained opposed.
At two Wetsuweten camps, Unistoten and Gitdumden (also spelled Gidimten), blockades obstructed Coastal GasLinks path to build the pipeline. RCMP set up roadblocks and arrested people to enforce an injunction allowing workers to use the road. Days later, the threat of more conflict was averted by an agreement that the RCMP would leave Unistotens healing lodge alone and allow the Wetsuweten to trap in the backcountry unimpeded.
In the year since then, Coastal GasLink cleared some land to make room for construction workers camps, but disputes over the pipeline and trapping rights continued to escalate in the area. Coastal GasLink said staff found trees partly cut down on a road to Unistoten. A Wetsuweten house group gave Coastal GasLink an eviction notice and cancelled the deal reached the year before. Eventually Coastal GasLink put construction on hold. In December, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled that the anti-pipeline group had harmed Coastal GasLinks interests, but talks between the pipeline opponents and the B.C. government delayed the RCMP from enforcing the new injunction. On Feb. 5, talks broke down, and in the ensuing days, the RCMP moved in and made several arrests.
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ALASKA
Site of protests near Morice River
Houston
Kitimat
ALTA.
16
97
0
80
KM
Morice River
Kamloops
Coastal GasLinks
pipeline project
Morice R. Forest Service Rd.
TC Energys
existing gas
transmission
system
0
1
KM
JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL
source: b.c. rcmp; thetyee.ca
ALASKA
Site of protests near Morice River
Houston
ALTA.
Kitimat
16
97
0
80
KM
Morice River
Kamloops
Coastal GasLinks
pipeline project
Morice River Forest Service Rd.
TC Energys
existing gas
transmission
system
0
1
KM
JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, source: b.c. rcmp;
thetyee.ca
ALASKA
Site of protests near Morice River
Houston
ALTA.
Kitimat
16
97
0
80
KM
Morice River
Kamloops
Coastal GasLinks
pipeline project
Morice River Forest Service Rd.
TC Energys
existing gas
transmission
system
0
1
KM
JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, source: b.c. rcmp; thetyee.ca
The national backlash
Since the RCMPs first wave of arrests on Feb. 6, solidarity protests in B.C. and across the country have called for their withdrawal from Wetsuweten territory. Protest sites have included the Port of Vancouver, public-transit rail lines in Vancouver and Montreal, the offices of federal cabinet ministers and the Justice Department building in Ottawa.
The biggest disruption by far has been a blockade on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory near Belleville, Ont., which severed the main rail link between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. In response, Canadian National Railway Co. began shutting down its entire eastern network on Feb. 13, and in response, Via Rail suspended all intercity rail travel in Canada. The blockaders were served with a court injunction but deny they have damaged or blocked anything on the railway. Enforcing injunctions is up to provincial solicitors-general, the federal Transport Minister says.
Vancouver, Feb. 13: A woman uses a bullhorn to make an announcement as protesters occupy B.C. Attorney-General David Eby’s constituency office.
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press
Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Ontario, Feb. 13: Jocelyn Wabano-Lahtail holds two maps on the closed train tracks at a solidarity blockade.
Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press
Ottawa, Feb. 12: Pro-Wet’suwet’en demonstrators block an Ottawa intersection.
Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press
A Wetsuweten whos who
John Ridsdale, also called Namoks, is one of the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation.
Jimmy Jeong/The Globe and Mail
Within the Wetsuweten Nation, the pipeline dispute hinges on an old question many First Nations in Canada face: Whether authority over resource development lies with elected band councils, hereditary leaders or both. Five elected Wetsuweten band councils, whose authority is coded in the federal Indian Act, signed agreements with Coastal GasLink, along with 15 other B.C. elected band councils that accepted the pipeline. But the Wetsuweten also have a system of five matrilineal clans and 13 houses, each of which has at least one hereditary chief. Together, the chiefs oversee traditional territories that, like many First Nations lands in B.C., were never ceded by treaty.
Two house chiefs supported the pipeline, only to have their titles stripped by other chiefs. Eight of the house chiefs say the risk of environmental damage to the land is too great to allow the pipeline, and are part of the movement against it. This includes Warner Naziel, chief of the Laksamshu clans Sun House, who is the defendant in a lawsuit by Coastal GasLink along with his former partner, Freda Huson. Coastal GasLink accuses them of being the ones behind the Unistoten camp, which is affiliated with a Gilseyhu house, Dark House.
WETSUWETEN NATION
The Wet’suwet’en Nation comprises five clans
and 13 house groups in the British Columbia
Interior.A non-profit society, the Office of the
Wetsuweten, represents the interests of
hereditary chiefs in the area.
Wetsuweten Hereditary Chiefs
GIL_SEYHU
Clan name
(Big Frog Clan)
Goohlaht
Yex Tsa witant
House name
(Thin House)
Knedebeas
Unistoten
is affiliated
with
Dark House
(Dark House)
Samooh
Kayex
(Birchbark House)
GITDUMDEN
LAKSILYU
(Small Frog Clan)
(Wolf and Bear Clan)
Wah Tah Kwets
Woos
Kwen Beegh Yex
Cassyex
(House Beside the Fire)
(Grizzly House)
Hagwilnegh
Gisdaywa
Gen egh l_a yex
Kaiyexweniits
(House of Many Eyes)
(House in the Middle
of Many)
Wah Tah Keght
Tsee Kal Ke yex
Madeek
(House on a Flat Rock)
Anaskaski
(Where it Lies
Blocking the Trail)
TSAYU
LAKSAMSHU
(Beaver Clan)
(Fireweed and Owl Clan)
Kloum Khun
Kweese
Medzeyex
Djakanyex
(Beaver House)
(Owl House)
Namox
Smogelgem
Tsa Ken yex
Tsaiyex
(Rafters on
Beaver House)
(Sun House)
Note: In this version of the chart, the order of the
clans has been stacked due to space considerations.
JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL
SOURCE: wetsuweten.com
WETSUWETEN NATION
The Wet’suwet’en Nation comprises five clans and 13
house groups in the British Columbia Interior.
A non-profit society, the Office of the Wetsuweten,
represents the interests of hereditary chiefs in the area.
Wetsuweten Hereditary Chiefs
GIL_SEYHU
Clan name
(Big Frog Clan)
Goohlaht
Yex Tsa witant
House name
(Thin House)
Knedebeas
Unistoten
is affiliated
with
Dark House
(Dark House)
Samooh
Kayex
(Birchbark House)
LAKSILYU
GITDUMDEN
(Small Frog Clan)
(Wolf and Bear Clan)
Wah Tah Kwets
Woos
Kwen Beegh Yex
Cassyex
(House Beside the Fire)
(Grizzly House)
Hagwilnegh
Gisdaywa
Gen egh l_a yex
Kaiyexweniits
(House of Many Eyes)
(House in the Middle
of Many)
Wah Tah Keght
Tsee Kal Ke yex
Madeek
(House on a Flat Rock)
Anaskaski
(Where it Lies
Blocking the Trail)
TSAYU
LAKSAMSHU
(Beaver Clan)
(Fireweed and Owl Clan)
Kloum Khun
Kweese
Medzeyex
Djakanyex
(Beaver House)
(Owl House)
Namox
Smogelgem
Tsa Ken yex
Tsaiyex
(Rafters on
Beaver House)
(Sun House)
Note: In this version of the chart, the order of the
clans has been stacked due to space considerations.
JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: wetsuweten.com
WETSUWETEN NATION
The Wet’suwet’en Nation comprises five clans and 13 house groups in the British
Columbia Interior. A non-profit society, the Office of the Wetsuweten, represents
the interests of hereditary chiefs in the area.
Wetsuweten Hereditary Chiefs
GILSEYHU
LAKSILYU
GITDUMDEN
Clan name
(Big Frog Clan)
(Small Frog Clan)
(Wolf and Bear Clan)
Goohlaht
Wah Tah Kwets
Woos
Yex Tsa witant
Kwen Beegh Yex
Cassyex
House name
(Thin House)
(House Beside the Fire)
(Grizzly House)
Knedebeas
Unistoten
is affiliated
with
Dark House
Hagwilnegh
Gisdaywa
Gen egh l_a yex
Kaiyexweniits
(House of Many Eyes)
(House in the
Middle of Many)
(Dark House)
Wah Tah Keght
Samooh
Madeek
Tsee Kal Ke yex
Kayex
Anaskaski
(House on a Flat Rock)
(Birchbark House)
(Where it Lies
Blocking the Trail)
TSAYU
LAKSAMSHU
(Beaver Clan)
(Fireweed and Owl Clan)
Kloum Khun
Kweese
Note: In this
version of
the chart, the
order of the
clans has been
stacked due to
space consider-
ations.
Medzeyex
Djakanyex
(Beaver House)
(Owl House)
NaMoks
Smogelgem
Tsa Ken yex
Tsaiyex
(Rafters on
Beaver House)
(Sun House)
JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: wetsuweten.com
WETSUWETEN NATION
The Wet’suwet’en Nation comprises five clans and 13 house groups in the British Columbia Interior.
A non-profit society, the Office of the Wetsuweten, represents the interests of hereditary chiefs in the area.
Wetsuweten Hereditary Chiefs
LAKSILYU
TSAYU
LAKSAMSHU
GITDUMDEN
GILSEYHU
Clan name
(Big Frog Clan)
(Small Frog Clan)
(Beaver Clan)
(Fireweed and Owl Clan)
(Wolf and Bear Clan)
Kloum Khun
Goohlaht
Wah Tah Kwets
Kweese
Woos
Yex Tsa witant
Kwen Beegh Yex
Djakanyex
Cassyex
Medzeyex
House name
(Thin House)
(House Beside the Fire)
(Grizzly House)
(Beaver House)
(Owl House)
Knedebeas
Unistoten
is affiliated
with
Dark House
Hagwilnegh
NaMoks
Smogelgem
Gisdaywa
Gen egh l_a yex
Tsa Ken yex
Kaiyexweniits
Tsaiyex
(House of Many Eyes)
(Rafters on
Beaver House)
(Sun House)
(House in the Middle
of Many)
(Dark House)
Wah Tah Keght
Samooh
Tsee Kal Ke yex
Kayex
Madeek
(House on a Flat Rock)
(Birchbark House)
Anaskaski
(Where it Lies Blocking
the Trail)
JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: wetsuweten.com
WETSUWETEN NATION
Unistoten is affiliated with Dark House, one of 13 hereditary house groups under the Wetsuweten Nation in British Columbias
Interior. A non-profit society, the Office of the Wetsuweten, represents the interests of hereditary chiefs in the area.
Wetsuweten Hereditary Chiefs
LAKSILYU
TSAYU
LAKSAMSHU
GITDUMDEN
GILSEYHU
Clan name
(Big Frog Clan)
(Small Frog Clan)
(Beaver Clan)
(Fireweed and Owl Clan)
(Wolf and Bear Clan)
Kloum Khun
Goohlaht
Wah Tah Kwets
Kweese
Woos
Yex Tsa witant
Kwen Beegh Yex
Djakanyex
Cassyex
Medzeyex
House name
(Thin House)
(House Beside the Fire)
(Grizzly House)
(Beaver House)
(Owl House)
Knedebeas
Unistoten
is affiliated
with
Dark House
Hagwilnegh
NaMoks
Smogelgem
Gisdaywa
Gen egh l_a yex
Tsa Ken yex
Tsaiyex
Kaiyexweniits
(House of Many Eyes)
(Rafters on
Beaver House)
(Sun House)
(House in the Middle
of Many)
(Dark House)
Wah Tah Keght
Samooh
Tsee Kal Ke yex
Kayex
Madeek
(Birchbark House)
(House on a Flat Rock)
Anaskaski
(Where it Lies Blocking
the Trail)
JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: wetsuweten.com
The legal issues at stake
Land claims: The pipeline opponents case hinges on the 1997 Delgamuukw decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, which involved land claims by the Wetsuweten and Gitxsan people. It upheld Indigenous peoples rights to lands never ceded by treaty, but didnt answer specific questions of title by the Wetsuweten or Gitxsan.
Artifacts: The chiefs have also pinned their legal arguments on stone artifacts they say were unearthed at Camp 9A, a site on the construction route. B.C. government protocols require a perimeter around sites where heritage objects are found. There is no doubt that the artifacts are authentic, but legal action by Coastal GasLink has disputed whether they were really found there or planted to prevent construction. The Globe and Mails Brent Jang interviewed more than 20 people familiar with the case and examined court records to piece together the timeline of how the artifacts were found and the debate about what should happen to Camp 9A.
More reading
Opinion
Gina Starblanket and Joyce Green: What is happening on Wetsuweten territory shows us that reconciliation is dead
Ken Coates: Dont confuse support for the Wetsuweten hereditary chiefs with the spirit of Idle No More
Robyn Urback: Where are the solidarity protests for the First Nations that support Coastal GasLink?
Andrew Coyne: Duty to consult? Fine. But how? And with whom?
Editorial: A protest is a constitutionally protected right. A railway blockade isnt
In depth
In Wetsuweten territory, torn loyalties over the future of a nation and a pipeline
The Globes coverage of the 2019 Wetsuweten standoff
Im here in support of the Wetsuweten people: Portraits of protest at the anti-pipeline camp in B.C.
Protests erupt across the country in showdown over B.C. natural gas pipeline
Indigenous land rights: The big picture
This pipeline is challenging Indigenous law and Western law. Who really owns the land?
Compiled by Globe staff
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Based on reporting from Brent Jang, Justine Hunter, Wendy Stueck and The Canadian Press
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