Today, Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and the provincial and federal governments signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that recognizes Wet’suwet’en rights and title throughout the Yintah and sets out a process to negotiate an agreement on how to implement them.
Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs; Scott Fraser, B.C.’s Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation; and Carolyn Bennett, federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, signed the MOU on May 14, 2020, via videoconference. The MOU was signed virtually to respect guidelines from public health officials to protect the health and well-being of people and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The MOU commits Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and the provincial and federal governments to negotiate a series of agreements that will resolve matters of rights and title outstanding for decades since the 1997 Supreme Court of Canada Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa ruling. Any formal agreements reached as a result of negotiations will require approval by each of the parties.
As outlined in the MOU, the three parties will now begin negotiating an agreement on a path to implement Wet’suwet’en rights and title. Topics to be discussed will include Nation reunification, revenue-sharing, compensation, land and resources, child and family wellness, water, fish, land-use planning and decision-making.
Planning is currently underway to establish both internal Wet’suwet’en and external engagement processes to ensure transparency and openness throughout the negotiations. Wet’suwet’en clan members and elected representatives, neighbouring First Nations, municipal governments and other interested parties who live and work in the Yintah, will be included.
The MOU and all future agreements will uphold the Aboriginal rights and title recognized and affirmed by Section 35 of the Constitution and align with B.C.’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.
- Wet’suwet’en means people of the Wedzin Kwe River (Bulkley River). Yintah means territory. Dinï’ze means male Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief. Inuk Nuatden means Wet’suwet’en laws.
- The Wet’suwet’en Yintah is located in the central Interior of B.C. around Smithers, Burns Lake, Broman Lake and François Lake.
- Wet’suwet’en Nation is comprised of five clans: Gilseyhu (Big Frog) Laksilyu (Small Frog), Gitdumten (Wolf/Bear), Laksamshu (Fireweed) and Tsayu (Beaver).
- The clans are divided into 13 Houses and each House is represented by a Hereditary Chief.
- There are six independent Wet’suwet’en band councils, each represented by an elected Chief and council: Hagwilget First Nation Government, Nee Tahi Buhn Band, Skin Tyee Nation, Ts’ilh Kaz Koh First Nation, Wet’suwet’en First Nation and Witset First Nation.
- Memorandum of Understanding between Canada, British Columbia and Wets’suwet’en: http://ow.ly/D8lL30qG6JS
- Office of the Wet’suwet’en: https://www.wetsuweten.com/
- B.C. Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation: http://ow.ly/Xyi430qE6LH
- Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada: http://ow.ly/Rr9A30qE6M8