I see, in an article in the Globe and Mail, that “The federal and B.C. governments have reached a proposed arrangement with the Wet’suwet’en Nation to recognize its hereditary governance system, but a resolution to a pipeline dispute remains elusive … [and] … Talks between hereditary chiefs and senior government officials focused during the weekend on the future status of the Wet’suwet’en’s unceded traditional territory covering 22,000 square kilometres in British Columbia, and defining those boundaries … [and while the current festering sore, the pipeline dispute, was not resolved] … The deal was hailed as a milestone for Indigenous rights and title, but details of the arrangement weren’t released on Sunday as they require approval from Wet’suwet’en members.“
Who will speak for the members of the Wet’suwet’en nation?
There are elected councils that represent the Wet’suwet’en bands on reserves, do they get a say? Will there be a free vote amongst all the people in which they will say how they want to be governed? Or have the (eight out of 13) hereditary chiefs who oppose the Coastal GasLink project or were federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and Scott Fraser, B.C.’s Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation hornswoggled into a deal that solidifies the hereditary chiefs’ control?
I think I might grasp some of the distinctions between the reserves, represented by the elected councils and the rights of the hereditary chiefs to speak about the use of “unceded traditional territory,” but it seems to me that all levels of government should be striving to advance the authority of elected representatives and to limit that of hereditary chiefs.
I understand that the hereditary system has been in use for hundreds, perhaps even thousands of years. It seems to be a fairly natural system that existed in ancient Babylonia, imperial China, classical Greece and Rome and which persists, even today, in the Middle East. It did some wonderous things … it also produced Caligula, King John, Vlad in Impaler and Louis XIV. It is not a system we should want to strengthen in the 21st century.
It appears, to me, that there is a power struggle going on between some of the hereditary ⇐ Wet’suwet’en chiefs and the elected councils, led by people like Karen Ogen ⇒ who, generally, support resource development and pipelines. I’m not sure what all the issues are: political power and money are the sorts of things that normally cause that kind of friction.
What I am sure of is that Canadians, and our governments, ought to be working with elected leaders to advance the interests of all indigenous peoples.