Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief Smogelgem has announced that Thursday’s bahlat reaffirms the position of the hereditary chiefs that Coastal GasLink and the RCMP must leave the Morice Forest Service Road. The road, which cuts through unceded Wet’suwet’en territory, provides access to an area where the company wants to construct part of its planned 670-kilometre gas pipeline.
The RCMP “must never return to inflict trauma on our people ever again,” reads the post shared by Smogelgem on social media. It also states that the bahlat reinforced the hereditary chiefs’ position that the B.C. and Canadian governments must engage in face-to-face meetings with the Wet’suwet’en.
“The resolve of our people is unwavering,” Smogelgem commented on the post.
The bahlat, or feast, is the traditional forum for decision-making by the Wet’suwet’en. It brings together members of the nation’s clans and house groups, and is integral to an Indigenous governance model whose existence and authority predates Canada’s legal system. The Canadian government banned the bahlat — more commonly known as potlatch in English — from 1884 to 1951 in an attempt to destroy Indigenous authority.
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have been steadfast in their opposition to the Coastal GasLink pipeline route. Following the granting of an injunction to Coastal GasLink in December, the Wet’suwet’en Nation issued an eviction notice to the company in January. Starting Feb. 6, police began a major operation to clear Wet’suwet’en people and their supporters from areas along the Morice Forest Service Road.
Meanwhile, protests, blockades and rail closures continue across the country. A week after it began, the solidarity movement shows few signs of slowing down.
The Gitxsan rail blockade in New Hazelton, B.C., has been removed to allow for discussions with the provincial and federal governments, while federal minister Marc Miller spent Saturday in talks with the Mohawk of Tyendinaga, who reportedly told him they are not actually blocking the tracks and the shutdown of rail traffic is precautionary on the part of CN.