Before we get started, has anyone aside from myself noticed that there is no funding to fly members from, the Stellat’en First Nation, Saik’uz First Nation, Cheslatta Carrier Nation, McLeod Lake Indian Band, Saulteau First Nations, Kitselas First Nation, West Moberly First Nations, Lheidli T’enneh First Nation, Nadleh Whut’en Indian Band, Burns Lake Indian Band, Blueberry River First Nations, Halfway River First Nation, Doig River First Nation, Wet’suwet’en First Nation, Yekooche First Nation, Nee Tahi Buhn Indian Band, Skin Tyee First Nation, Witset First Nation, Nak’azdli Whut’en, Haisla Nation around the province to speak about First Nations rights? This is a list of all of the indigenous communities in the pipelines path, all of them approved the LNG project. The only opposition comes from a few house chiefs, and not from any community within the Wet’suwet’en Nation.
Yet here we have half a dozen anarchists being flown all over Canada to stop a pipeline First Nations want, and have the right to say yes to.
So really the Unist’ot’en anarchists and their supporting chiefs get all the headlines, but do not represent First Nations, they actually represent the Tides Foundation in America, who prefer the jobs go to the USA instead of Canada.
Let’s take it from the top, it all begins with an absence of information as opposed to full disclosure, and the reason is obvious, the truth won’t sell very well. It begins with the land itself, the area they are claiming as theirs. We will let you examine the evidence first hand.
The first problem is Canada cannot give it to them unless the other claimants, drop their claim to the territory. Wet’suwet’en represents five communities: Hagwilget, Moricetown, Skin Tyee, and Nee Tahi Buhn and Wet’suwet’en First Nation. Wet’suwet’en traditional territory is in the Bulkley River area in northwest BC. There are approximately 3,160 Wet’suwet’en members, and not the dozen or so protestors we keep seeing in the press.
Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs have overlapping and/or shared territory with its First Nation neighbours: Carrier Sekani, Gitxsan, Tsimshian, and Lake Babine.
As we have stated in previous articles the negotiators, the hereditary chiefs “quit” in 2009. How can you ever can you resolve territory disputed by other First Nations by quitting? Sort of like kids with a tantrum refusing to play unless it goes their way.
So let’s just call that the first Wet’suwet’en roadblock they place on themselves in the quest for settled land claims.
Now let’s move on to the fabled and now legendary woman the anarchists keep quoting, in particular the line by Christine Holland who was the former Knedebeas of the Unist’ot’en. Today, the Unist’ot’en Head Chief Knedebeas is Warner William.
(Corrected version based on an anonymous contribution)
Warner William inherited the name Noostel from Ben Holland in 1972 who was a son of Jim and Christine Holland. Christine Holland who was still alive then carried the Knedebes name. Warner inherited the name Knedebes after Christine died in 1980. Jim and Christine’s children were: Amelia, Cecelia, Norma, Cecelia 2, Tommy, Tina, Ben, Gordie, Betty and Joe. The Christine I am talking about is a legend in these parts and was the matriarch many refer to this day. She never lived in Smithers, only the Houston area. History of Houston details her story quite well, as she was legendary.
The confusion was caused by there being two Christine Holland’s living in the Bulkley Valley at the same time.
There was also another Christine Holland that was married to a German by the name of Herb Buchholtz, Ggunek (Hummingbird) Dec. 24. 1931 – January 20, 2017
Christine was born in Smithers, the oldest of five children. Her mother was Esther Baptiste of the Laksilyu (small frog) clan; her father was Joshua Holland of the Tsayu (beaver) clan. Her grandparents, Jean Paul and Sarah Baptiste refused to be relocated to Moricetown; the reserve established at their homestead on Babine Lake Road is named after them.
(We do appreciate reader input)
The anarchists keep repeating the so called last words of Christine Holland as their mantra to justify what they do out at the Morice River. The now famous quote “My grandmother Christine Holland gave us specific directions to protect our lands – that is exactly what we intend to do,” says hereditary chief Knedebeas – Warner William”
Now that we know who the players are, the next question is about evidence to ownership of land, not in theory but in facts. In part it brings us full circle to quitting negotiations, not in particular with Canada but more specifically with other First Nations.
Now if you’re really serious in regards to the truth you will have to read the entire transcript that in and of itself is the legal standing of the Unist’ot’en family or clan. This is the only evidence to date in regards to the land claimed under the name of Christine Holland that exists as a legal document. This is the part of the Delgamuukw evidence as it pertains to the Unist’ot’en claim.
(As a point of interest the name Unist’ot’en is just one on near half a dozen ways this name has been spelled, the current one is just the latest edition, during the Delgamuukw trial it was referred to as Oonis to d’en.
You radical hoodlums would be wise to read it so you know the truth, regardless of what you tell others, you might even learn something about your forefathers. It’s a relatively easy read only 40 pages of testimony in order to know exactly what the government has on record about ownership. Pay close attention to the absence of activity by Christine Holland and her ancestors in regards to this testimony.
There is very little if any history prior to the 60’s, so we are talking about relatively recent history only. Almost all of the oral history given is about modern day history in regards to trapping before the fur trade collapsed.
We have some additional evidence here as well, but it also points to more proof of traversing land than owning it.
What made the Delgamuukw so unique under Canadian law was the admission of oral evidence, yet almost all of the evidence given in this testimony was from an era where history was already being recorded.
Here is the most important quote describing the outcome of this file.
“In 1997, the Supreme Court of Canada issued an important decision, Delgamuukw v. British Columbia, that considered Aboriginal title to Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en traditional territories. The Supreme Court of Canada decided that a new trial was required to determine whether Aboriginal title had been established for these lands, and to hear from other Indigenous nations which have a stake in the territory claimed. The new trial has never been held, meaning that Aboriginal title to this land, and which Indigenous nation holds it, has not been determined.”
When you read the transcript, to me it’s as clear as mud that they can use this to lay claim to such a vast tracts of land, to me they failed in a massive way, they will have to go to court again to prove what they failed to do in the Delgamuukw trial.delgamuukw-1.0019808
OK in summery here is what we do know from reading the transcript.
During the trial era, being December 1988 that family members were building a cabin and trap line in the Gosnell Creek area, meaning there was not one already, here it is explicitly saying it was new and they might get federal funding for the cabin.
Pay close attention to questions about Goohlaht’s territory on page 7, then note the response of Warner William in regards to Pack Lake, Poplar Lake, and then Talbiits Kwe on page 9 and into the top of 10.. I might remind you that his memory was a lot sharper 30 years ago than it is today, so it begs the question of why he knew so little in 1988?
On page 13 Warner identifies that he and others have designated trap lines in the Morice River area, and if anyone trespassed, you simply shoot them. (Cold blooded murder for trespassing) We are talking about after 1964 here, not 100 years or more ago. On the same page he narrates about a game warden, so were talking recent days not ancient history.
This was a time when the fur trade peaked in value, trapping was a lucrative living during that time, and trespassers were stealing your income. So it was much more about the fur trade from settlers than it was about the land itself. Watch how repeatedly they refer to registered trap lines.
Page 17 refers to the boundary between Knedebeas and Gyologyet trap line territories, again we are talking about modern history, in the 1960’s
Note on page 26
“Did you ever drive out to the end of the road by Gosnell Creek and point out to Mr. George the various features? Do you understand my question?”
Clearly the logging roads were already built at this time, not by the Wet’suwet’en but by non-aboriginal residents of the Bulkley Valley mostly from Houston. I can understand that Freda Huson considers this ancient history, with her archeological discoveries, but seriously us old timers are not all dead yet, we do know the truth.
So far all of the claims are based on driving roads into the areas made by local non-aboriginal residents.
Again reference page 27 where Warner William says
“We went to Wedzen Kwe. That’s that lake, that little lake you were talking about below Herd Dome. Q Oh, I see. So that time you went up — you went up Gosnell Creek a little bit? A Yeah. Q All right. And after you came back after that drive out there with Mr. Mitchell, you — you told Mr. George what the boundaries were? A Yup. Q And you gave him some place names? A Yeah. Q And was that back in ’84 or ’85 as well? A I don’t know when that would be. Q All right. But at some point between when you drove out there with Mr. Mitchell and when you met with Mr. George in 1988, either you or Mr. Mitchell told Mr. George about the features out there and about the place names? ”
We are talking about 1984 and 1985 and this hearing is in 1998, agreeing on this land is yours, that will be mine.
Then on page 28
“About a week before Sylvester died, he and Alfred Mitchell went out to the territory, they parked on the road, south of Wedzen Kwe, the highest point. From there they could see all the hills and mountains, he told Alfred the boundary names and hill names but Alfred can’t remember them.”
Again we are talking not about our ancestors staking out claims on land we are talking about our peers in today’s society agreeing on who gets what territory.
On page 29
“Can you tell me 12 approximately what date that was? A That was during the summer. I don’t know what day. I know they went, Alfred drove for Dad. Q Summer of 1988 or summer of 1987? A Probably ’87. ”
Also on page 29
“Just the weekend. And what would you do when you were up there? Checking out for beaver tracks, going beaver trapping in the spring time, check the area where there is beaver. And then Alfred knows that area, and then when we were skidooing up there, like we went upstream on river once when it was cold winter, so we took the chance but we went on river with skidoo.”
Again we are doing oral history of modern day times.
On page 30 some history, but very vague
“All right. Now, did you know that Houston Tommy had a trapline registered at the eastern part of your territory around Chisolm Lake? I will use the Wet’suwet’en term which is spelt N-E-T-S-O-O-W-I-L-D-Z-E-S, new word, B-E-N, which I believe is Netsoowildzes Ben. Did you know that that was also called Chisolm Lake? That’s a lake just north of the Morice River towards the eastern end of your territory; is that right? Do you want me to have Mr. Mitchell pronounce that for you? A Okay. THE TRANSLATOR: Netsoowildzes Ben. A That’s the area Mat Michell was on, that’s Houston Tommy, that’s Mary Michell’s dad. “
Now on page 31 we see that trapping rights were willed by previous owners to others. Clearly we are not talking about land claims we are talking about registered traplines.
“Now, you mentioned that this was Neg’edeld’es? Yeah. Can you explain how that worked on this territory? Who was the Gilseyhu person that was the parent that gave the right to these other people to register the trapline there? Tommy. See, like, my dad was in the same position across Moricetown. He was Neg’edeld’es till before he died. He willed it back to Caspit and that’s how these guys did it too. All right. Now, do you know — when you say “Tommy”, do you mean Houston Tommy or are you talking about Tommy Coo who you mentioned before? Houston Tommy.”
Page 32 yields some interesting twists about passing on territory, but bearing in mind the usage of the word territory appears to be synonymous with registered trap lines.
Registered as in registered with Canadian authorities.
“Q All right. And his son — or rather, his daughter, Helen, is Gilseyhu; is that right? A Wife. Q Oh, his wife is Gilseyhu. All right. And do you know if his wife is registered on the line? A I don’t know. Q All right. Now, with Neg’edeld’es, to take the example where it’s Gilseyhu territory, the father is a Gilseyhu and his son is in another clan? A Yup. Q And under Neg’edeld’es, the son acquires the right to hold the territory for a certain period of time; is that right? A Yeah. Q When does the son’s right to hold the territory end? When his father dies? A Yeah.
Page 24 gets to some very specific questions about owner vs caretaker of the Gosnell Creek territory.
“Well, Oonis to d’en family, there is Tiljoe, Laytons, Joseph, they are granddaughters. They have a big family, that’s why I said it belongs to all of us. Q Okay. And do you, as Noostel, take care of the Gosnell Creek territory? A When we meet with Sarah, she said I lived right in the area, I can be in charge of both area. And also Sarah comes visit us, like if she is not here. Q Okay. And do you tell Sarah Layton news about what’s happening on the Gosnell Creek territory? A Yeah. Q And did your father, Sylvester William, when he was trapping on that territory, report to you regarding that territory? A Yeah, he shows me how much he catch.”
I will let you all come to the collusion on your own if the above warrants handing over 22,000 square kilometres of land to 5 chiefs to redistribute to whom they see fit? Below are some very important quotes that do apply to this case.
No wonder the judge in the DELGAMUUKW V. BRITISH COLUMBIA declared that they have established that they rightfully have some land, but never establish what, where or how much land.
“In 1997, the Supreme Court of Canada issued an important decision, Delgamuukw v. British Columbia, that considered Aboriginal title to Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en traditional territories. The Supreme Court of Canada decided that a new trial was required to determine whether Aboriginal title had been established for these lands, and to hear from other Indigenous nations which have a stake in the territory claimed. The new trial has never been held, meaning that Aboriginal title to this land, and which Indigenous nation holds it, has not been determined. Regardless of the outcome of any such trial in the future, the RCMP is the police agency with jurisdiction.”
“It is important to recognize that the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed that provincial laws and regulations will continue to apply in the Tsilhqot’in Nation aboriginal title area, subject to section 35 of the Constitution Act,”
“Since continuity of relationship also applies to the future, lands subject to Aboriginal title cannot be put to uses that are “irreconcilable with the nature of the occupation of that land and the relationship that the particular group has had with the land which together have given rise to aboriginal title in the first place” (par. 128). For example, a group successfully claiming Aboriginal title to land that was occupied as a hunting ground may not use the land in such a way as to destroy its value for hunting.”
“In the Chief Justice’s view, these considerations are also relevant to the inalienability of lands held pursuant to Aboriginal title, in that alienation would terminate both entitlement to occupy the land and any special relationship with it. Inalienability suggests that the lands in question are more than a commodity. Rather, they hold inherent value for the community with Aboriginal title and cannot be put to uses by that community that would destroy that value”
That said in the last quote, they have failed to prove that as well, they have an opportunity, if they wish to play their cards in court, but it could dash all hopes and dreams as well, winning is not assured by any means. The primary question the judges will have to answer is on the issue of defending land or traplines, and if they did not recognize the sovereignty of Canada, why would they register the traplines?
If owning a trapline the same thing as owning the land? I seriously doubt any judge will see it that way. Having a cabin near a trapline was also a normal thing that was done in the past, it also does not constitute ownership of land. Going by the transcript, there was even funding from the goverment to pay for these cabins.
Could today’s protests be an admission they already lost the claim?
(map added Mar 7th 2019) (also see Wet’suwet’en Land Claims Overlap)
As a long-time local it’s very interesting to read what other long-time residents have written about our shared history. After getting an anonymous comment regarding a book I had not yet read, it was amazing how quickly another old timer loaned me a copy.
Reading the history of Houston in context of our First Nations it was not surprising to read much of it was very much the same as my own recollections. It confirms they were not freeloaders but hard working folks who trapped, working in logging, worked on farms and did whatever all settlers did in the Bulkley Valley. Another issue is the marriages crossed over so many cans and tribes, that no evidence existed that clan boundaries were even considered, let alone enforced.
It did not matter what clan you were from, or even that you were First Nations in the 40’s to 60’s it was simply known as land to hunt or fish from, crown land. Also read In the words of Lucy Rose Verigin (nee Bazil)
There is a complete absence of any kind of claim on land, instead it confirms what I wrote earlier, that it was all about registered traplines, they were like farms, and they were assets. Unlike the hooligans they trapped for a living, not as a means to be an anarchist.
In fact one thing that is very evident in the book, that First Nations respected governments of the day and government authority as much as all of the early pioneers of the Bulkley Valley. They were kind, gently and an honest group of people trying to earn a living by working hard, something we can all respect them for.
Others have pointed out, they now are the silent Unist’ot’en, with no say in their own land, completely due to the invading force of anarchists aligned with environmental organization both in and outside of Canada.
If this returns to court, will the courts also allow the oral history as passed on by local residents who were here and were witness to what happened here as well?
Also Read : Wet’suwet’en – Truth before Reconciliation
Thank you for taking the time to read this article.
In the event we are using copyrighted material, we are doing so within the parameters of the Fair Dealing exception of the Canadian Copyright Act.
See our Copyright Notice