A question of Legitimacy in the Office of Wet’suwet’en

A question of Legitimacy in the Office of Wet’suwet’en

Reading a recent article by the The Globe and Mail written by Wendy Stueck and Brent Jang, I felt the desire to to say a number of things, the first is that this article represents a more than rare piece of what journalism is supposed to be, posting facts about what others say and do, and leaving thier own opinion at home before heading in to work. Leave opinion to people like myself who write opinion pieces so clearly anyone reading them can separate journalism from opinions.. Great piece of collaborative work in journalism, it was like a breath of fresh air, thank you.

There are two issues I wish to expound on;

First: we have not dealt with the legitimacy of Hereditary Chiefs speaking for the Wet’suwet’en.

Second: is the mistake outsiders in particular media think Molly Wickham can speak for the Wet’suwet’en, there are no white mans laws that say they should or should not listen to certain people other than we all know that a servant in the Queens house cannot speak for the Queen. I will deal with this issue after we deal with the first issue.

Stating the obvious the Wet’suwet’en Nation (meaning every man woman or child of Wet’suwet’en ancestry) is only one nation out of 198 nations. One very important issue brought up by the article written by by Wendy Stueck and Brent Jang deals with who represents each First Nation in dealing with each other or with provincial and federal governments. They correctly pointed out that other First Nations have made a decision to follow one or the other methods. I shared two examples below from that article.

For one example, the Heiltsuk First Nation, located on B.C.’s central coast around Bella Bella, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in 2002, since updated, that outlines how hereditary and elected leaders can work together. “We work together through that MOU to help make decisions on behalf of our people,” said Heiltsuk hereditary chief Harvey Humchitt, whose hereditary name is Wigvilba Wakas.

The Squamish Nation, based in southwest B.C., took a different governance route. It moved away from hereditary leadership when it voted in 1976 to support its elected system, which took effect in 1981. The Squamish Nation’s elected band council has jurisdiction over both on-reserve and off-reserve issues.

The Wet’suwet’en Nation has never been given the option to choose who speaks for them, unlike many other First Nations groups who offered its own people the right to decide by way of voting on it. Thus it would be fair to say that some, not all Herditary Chiefs and some, not all of their clans sub-chiefs unilaterally declared themselves as the sole governing body of the Wet’suwet’en Nation. It would also be fair to say that a very large number of Wet’suwet’en citizens want to vote on this matter, however the majority of Herditary Chiefs have decided that its not negotiable.

The Office of Wet’suwet’en was created by some of the Herditary Chiefs while others were excluded from the decision making. At no time in the history of the Wet’suwet’en Nation was there ever a vote held to confirm the authority of the Herditary Chiefs as a final team of decision makers. Most certainly the Delgamuukw did neither grant them the authority or deny them the right to speak for the Wet’suwet’en Nation. The court recognized the litigation as bought on by hereditary chiefs known as appellants. The ‘Delgamuukw v. British Columbia.’ never stated anywhere that the hereditary chiefs are the only decision-makers on their lands, nor did the court declare the hereditary chiefs to be exclusive decision makers of the land.

It was Gitxsan lawyers that pointed out, the authority on land claims is 100% the jurisdiction of the community, the community in short is the citizens of a nation, in this case the Wet’suwet’en Nation. The Wet’suwet’en chiefs are part of the cultural system, but they are not the owners of aboriginal land, that belongs to the people, and the people are represented by those they vote to decide issues for them.

This is not about the old Indian Act, its also not about who created the band office, its about the right to vote for who will lead you, who will be accountable for funds held in trust for the people. The right for people to choose who will represent them. Radical activists like to refer to band councils as representing federal goverment, if their brains were not so severely polluted with self interest and radical ideologies they would respect the vote of the citizens. How can you respect the people when you disrespect the people they elect?

Let me quote verbatim what they said “Sterritt was a witness in the Delgamuukw court case and was on the stand for more than 30 days. He fears the chiefs who signed the agreements have undermined key legal principles that came out of their victory. In Delgamuukw, the courts said that “Aboriginal title is held communally.” This means that the land belongs to the Gitxsan Nation as a whole and not just to hereditary leaders. Therefore, decisions regarding the land have to be made communally.”

So in a nutshell this proves the Office of Wet’suwet’en does not hold any authority at all unless it comes from Wet’suwet’en people, or using another word “nation.”

Both the Office of Wet’suwet’en and the Herditary Chiefs have had over a year to answer to its people on that issue, but instead of doing so they chose silence as their response. More recently the Wet’suwet’en Matrilineal Coalition’s legal counsel has taken the following steps on its behalf:

  • Provided written notification challenging the validity of a June 3, 2020 “MOU” signed by federal and provincial ministers and certain other parties allegedly on behalf of the Wet’suwet’en to the federal and provincial governments.
  • Provided written notification of the wrongful exclusion of female heredity leaders to the Office of the Wet’suwet’en (the “OW”).
  • Launched human rights complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission and BC Human Rights Commission against the federal and provincial ministers alleging gender discrimination.
Photo by Carla Lewis Photography

 

Now we have the Government of British Columbia and the Federal Government negotiating with Frank Alec who is being challenged over a stolen title, the Chief Woos title belongs to Darlene Glaim who was unceremoniously turfed out by Violet Gellenbeck and 5 of the 13 Herditary Chiefs (note a few positions were vacant). There is nothing, not a single precedent in Wet’suwet’en law that provides other Hereditary Chiefs chiefs the right to strip another Hereditary Chief of their title. I want to make this point extremely clear, these five chiefs publicly stated it was their decision to do so.

House Chief titles are held for life and after the death of the holder are passed to someone in the matrilineage,” said Gloria George, who is Smogelgem, the head hereditary chief (House Chief) of the Wet’suwet’en’s Sun House. “Titles are only removed in the most extreme scenarios such as murder… we are not ‘stripped’ like bark off a tree.

George was given her House Chief title at a ceremony in 2009. She says the actions of the male chiefs goes against the traditions and protocols of the Wet’suwet’en system for feasts and granting titles, which are an important part of the First Nation’s political system for governing and managing its diverse Clans and Houses.

“When a severe action such as stripping a name is contemplated, we would have to discuss it in our house and with other houses at length. We would make sure we had input from the entire house and other clans especially the father and grandfather clans. We would make sure that we kept everyone informed of the decisions as we went along.”

“In all my life I have never heard of anyone being legitimately stripped of their hereditary name,” she said.

It was inappropriate, agreed Darlene Glaim, who is Woos, head House Chief of Grizzly House.

“Matters related to a house should never be discussed at the Office of the Wet’suwet’en which is meant to conduct administrative tasks for the Wet’suwet’en,” she said. “House Chiefs from outside a house cannot just take another House Chief’s name. Each name is connected to a house territory so it is not appropriate for other House Chiefs to get involved in such a manner.”

 

Now I wish to take this story one step deeper before we move on to Molly Wickham whom has the name Sleydo’ and it was no accident that Mable Forsyth who has the traditional name of Timberwolf was present when Rita George who holds the name  “Gulaxkan”  (The Bear That Sleeps All Winter Long) spoke, we will get to that later.

Mable Forsyth played a major role in the “things that happened” out of sight mostly, yet important enough that everyone needs to know. In the last two decades it seems that this lady, now an elder or matriarch herself seems to be the popular person to pick when there is a grand event in Smithers as an official visual representation of respect to the First Nations people who live here. There was a time when she also taught the leather-working class at the Coast Mountain College.

Maybe some locals will remember her as the person who won a judgment against the R.C.M.P  let me quote the following.

Mabel Forsythe has to lay on a feast for her family to purge her shame. Royal Canadian Mounted Police Constable Patricia Harrish will help pay for it. Judge Harry Boyle made that part of his ruling in a $3,400 judgment for Forsythe and her daughter, Nancy, against Harrish, 24, and Gordon Elmore. Boyle found that the rookie constable investigated the Forsythes on “skimpy” evidence after Elmore reported theft of a radio from the store he manages in Smithers in northwestern British Columbia. Harrish searched Mabel Forsythe in public. Traditions of the Gedumden Indian tribe of which she is a hereditary chief require the feast to restore her dignity. “I hope this teaches them a lesson,” Forsythe said. “Many Indians tell me they’ve been badly treated by police but they’re too scared to stand up for themselves.

Another version of the same story can be found in the book Eagle Down is Our Law.

Editors Note: Gordon Elmore was the owner of Studio 4 in Smithers, who had a history of giving more to the First Nations community than any other business in Smithers, he was never racist and had many friends in the then Moricetown community. And many of the community still consider he was a friend to them to this day. That said it was the failure of the police to establish theft that was the cause of the failed charges in this incident. He always provided the sound equipment for all their baseball games and outdoor events at no charge.

Mabel Forsythe grew up in Smithers and understandably her roots are here in a town we all share, but there is another issue in play, Mabel Forsyth is a matriarch and never was a Hereditary Chief. To become a hereditary chief according to Wet’suwet’en laws and often preached by the office chiefs as well, is that to become one you have to be an active participant in the feast hall, and on that level just in case my memory was failing me, other matriarchs who did attend regularly say she was only occasional in attendance as she lived in Smithers.

Mabel Forsythe lived and continues to live in Smithers, not because of being disenfranchised as many aboriginals were in the early days, but as a personal choice. Part of that choice also means giving up participation in the feast hall system.

Now nothing about what I have written about Mabel Forsythe would even matter other than in my opinion she was being played as a pawn by some male hereditary chiefs. How else could someone with no real stature in the feast hall suddenly sponsor the replacement of Darlene Glaim (Chief Woos) with Frank Alec who is now negotiating on behalf of the Wet’suwet’en Nation through the Office of the Wet’suwet’en. Oh and if that was not a  mouthful, then add a double header, Mabel Forsythe was also the sponsor for Molly Wickham as an adoptee into the Gidimt’en clan. This considering that Darlene Glaim was her (Mabel’s) official Herditary Chief, so now a subordinate is choosing the replacement for the Chief Woos title?

Photo by Carla Lewis Photography

More questions than answers, to host feast a like this would cost a lot more today that the $3500,00 back in 1987, so who paid for it? Was it paid for by the Office of Wet’suwet’en?

I asked a local matriarch the question of costs today, and she said “When I got my name I tallied 10k, materials, sugar, food, gifts and cash in the pot. When a person gets a name they have to buy a ton of sugar themselves to pass around, now days people collect $ for it they cheap their way out and there a series of 4 feasts to complete the name. 1) smoke party to announce your a candidate for the name 2) transfer of the name 3) drying the stone 4) pay for your seat ( have to do that at each potlatch you attend for each clan until you cover all the clans

A Court Services Online Reports the following, understand these are not judgments but rather appearances.

Its not the only thing wrong here, none of the modern day Hereditary chiefs follow traditional laws, all Herditary Chiefs that testified at the Delgamuukw trials are now deceased and its a whole new kind of chief that is replacing them, mostly not traditional.

 

There was a time when only those given names were above disrepute, that no longer seems to hold water.

Now all modern day Herditary chiefs were purchased names by people working as contractors or employees of the modern day industries. In particular I wish to point out that modern day Herditary Chiefs I mean (post Delgamuukw) as Delgamuukw turned or changed how everyone thinks about territory. In the past being in charge of territory was mostly an issue of responsibility, where as post Delgamuukw its now the commercial land value within the territory. Nobody knows that better than those who contracted directly as part of the industry.

Both Chief Knedebeas (Warner William) and Chief Kloum Khun (Alphonse Gagnon) also his brother Chief Dtsa’hyl (Adam Gagnon) who also calls himself a Herditary Chief were also logging contractors for Canfor Corporation. Then comes another question regarding Lucy Gagnon as manager of Moricetown (now Witset) later Witset executive director. What role did she play in getting the funds these contractors need to get their business off the ground? Consider that the funds were largely funds from both federal and provincial governments. Also read Fake Chiefs and Deadbeat Dads. In regards to logging contracts from a legal court document.

Even the Office of Wet’suwet’en got into logging for cash,  “ The plaintiff, Mr. Gagnon, resides in Moricetown, British Columbia. A lifelong resident of the area, he is a Wing Chief of the Fireweed Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation. He is also an experienced carpenter, road builder, and logger. Mr. Gagnon was Acting General Manager of the defendant, Wet’suwet’en Enterprises Ltd (“WEL”) for the year 2000, and is a past president of WEL’s board of directors.

The defendant, WEL, is a company owned beneficially by the Wet’suwet’en First Nation. Its board members are appointed by the hereditary chiefs of the five Wet’suwet’en clans. WEL’s mandate is to facilitate economic development for the Wet’suwet’en by among other things, pursuing resource-sharing opportunities. For instance, WEL was empowered to contract with forest product companies such as Houston Forest Products Ltd. (“HFP”) for the harvest and sale to HFP of logs cut from Wet’suwet’en lands.

Wet’suwet’en Enterprises Ltd was owned by the Office of Wet’suwet’en

 

Below is a quote from Rebel Media that appears to be accurate.

Frank Alec is a wife beater. In 1999 he was charged and pled guilty to domestic assault, which he committed in 1998. Frank was sentenced to nine months of incarceration, but managed to avoid hard time by serving his punishment “in the community.” Alec’s trial and subsequent sentencing was not held in a traditional courtroom, but rather in a “sentencing circle.” Elders and community members ruled that Alec’s punishment for criminal assault against his young wife amounted to a simple curfew and 150 hours of community service over the course of three years.

I would dare say the its time the Wet’suwet’en Nation voted on who will lead them in negotiations with Canada and British Columbia, we need leadership with clean criminal and civil records so its membership knows they are being led by honest leaders. So on the issue of the legitimacy of the Office of Wet’suwet’en looks more like an epic fail at this point.

Look at the court reports and ask yourself, do you want them handling the money that belongs to the entire nation?

Its time to have a vote by the citizens of the Wet’suwet’en Nation

 

 

 

On the legitimacy of Molly Wicham speaking for the Wet’suwet’en or the Gidimt’en Clan, Molly was an “adult” adopted member of the Gidimt’en Clan by appointment by Mable Forsyth and she was given what the Wet’suwet’en refer to as a baby name, she was named Sleydo’.

I am not faulting people who live hundreds of miles away from the Bulkley Valley and Lakes District but one thing I am certain about is that someone who is not Wet’suwet’en, even if adopted may not speak for either their clan or nation. Refer to another article we wrote titled “Molly Wickham is not a Wet’suwet’en” “Molly’s father is as white as the rest of white man settlers always being lectured for abuse by Molly herself. She is in fact a “professional protestor” earning a very lucrative income at the expense of society. Molly Wickham is not a Wet’suwet’en at all, Molly is part Gitxsan and Stellat’en, and has a husband who is Haida. She comes from the House of Spoox a Gitxsan house in Hagwilget on her mothers side and has a Caucasian father.

One of the most insane arguments always brought up by radicals like Molly, Cody, Freda and every one of the protestors, their supporters like Violet Gellenbeck and a number of the Hereditary chiefs is the implied racist terms like “settlers” or “whites” when that very same blood runs richly through their veins. How can you be a proud First Nations person and at the same time condemn half or more than half of your own essential blood that flows in your viens, even if you have just one drop of aboriginal blood in you, can you say you are ashamed of your own heritage. Yes if you have white blood in you, then you in every way shape or form you are also a “settlers” or “whites” by exactly the same rule that determines you are aboriginal. Then you have Violet Gellenbeck and her sisters all supporting the radicals while all married a white man, while condemning “settlers” or “whites” this is called people who do not respect the Wet’suwet’en culture, because they fail to respect themselves.

Rita George also mentions this to Molly when they met Nov 11th 2020 on Remembrance Day.

Rita George – is  “Gulaxkan”  (The Bear That Sleeps All Winter Long) an 80 year old matriarch of the Wet’suwet’en. Rita George belongs to the elected Wet’suwet’en First Nation, which is part of the Wet’suwet’en Nation. She is both a band member and part of the hereditary system. Rita George was entrusted by the  Wet’suwet’en community to help translate the landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision in Delgamuukw. That case established for the first time that aboriginal title had not been extinguished.

Without a doubt after reading this transcript it should become abundantly clear that Molly Wickham is not a defender of the Wet’suwet’en, but rather one of the largest threats to it. How can she speak for a Nation that she has no respect for?

Please read this transcript. for the coninuation of this article Respecting the Wet’suwet’en culture

 

 




Thank you for taking the time to read this article.
signed,
"Two Feathers"




 

 

 

COPYRIGHT NOTICE


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

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*