TORONTO — Protests across the country in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have prompted questions surrounding the difference between these chiefs and elected band councils — and the answer is complicated.
Essentially, the hereditary chiefs oversee the management of traditional lands and their authority predates the imposed colonial law, which formed the elected band council.
While the band council is in support of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, the hereditary chiefs are not.
“(The band council has) done their due diligence and they want to be part of this economic initiative, create jobs for their people, be part of the economy, and they balanced the environment and the economy,” National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations told CTV’s Power Play earlier this week.
“In the ancestral territory lands of the Wet’suwet’en peoples, it’s the hereditary chiefs and their clans and their big houses that have the jurisdiction,” Bellegarde added. “That’s the piece that’s missing, so when Coastal GasLink and governments come in, they didn’t bring the Wet’suwet’en nation and the proper people in place to deal with their ancestral lands.”