Wet’suwet’en people disagree about Pacific Trail Pipelines project

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The Pacific Trail Pipelines project is pitting the Wet’suwet’en people against each other.

Some are opposed to a section of the 463-kilometre gas pipeline crossing their traditional territories in northwest B.C.

But others welcome the joint venture of Chevron Canada and Apache Canada Ltd. as a means to escape poverty.

They’re bound by old ancestral ties, but divided over modern resource development.

“We’re all Wet’suwet’en,” Chief Karen Ogen told the Straight in a phone interview.

Ogen leads the erstwhile Broman Lake Indian Band. Currently known as the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, her community is a partner in the pipeline project, one of many planned for B.C.’s nascent liquefied natural gas industry.

“We have a choice to either maintain the status quo in our community, keep things as they are, keep the social issues and people on high rates of income assistance, or we could look at this as an opportunity to move our nation forward,” she said.

According to Ogen, the Pacific Trail Pipelines project offers jobs and skills training.

Now in her second term, Ogen recalled that before she was first elected chief in July 2010, the Wet’suwet’en First Nation had already signed a deal with the proponents of the pipeline.

“I have 241 members to look out for and look out for their best interest,” Ogen said.

The Wet’suwet’en First Nation is part of the larger Wet’suwet’en nation.

According to the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, which represents the traditional governance system of hereditary chiefs, there are five communities of Wet’suwet’en people. In addition to the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, there are the Hagwilget, Moricetown, Skin Tyee, and Nee Tahi Buhn.

In a statement released on December 17, 2013, the hereditary chiefs affirmed their opposition to gas and oil pipelines

“We have a responsibility to all living things and to the unborn generations,” David de Wit, natural resource manager of the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, stated. “The health and well being of the people and Yintah ‘traditional land’ are paramount. It does not take a pipeline rupture or spill to have an impact to our Title and Rights.”

In the statement, De Wit also added, “Just the proposed construction alone will impact the water quality, fish habitat and wildlife abundance. We have never stated that we are against resource development, however, after careful consideration weighing the risks and potential benefits, We are opposing proposed pipelines on our Yintah.”

The Office of the Wet’suwet’en did not make a representative available for an interview by deadline.

According to Warner Naziel, a Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief widely known as Toghestiy, his clan, the Likhts’amisyu, as well as his wife’s clan, the Unist’ot’en, are no longer associated with the Office of the Wet’suwet’en.

“They were in the business of signing smaller agreements with mining companies without consulting the membership, so the Unist’ot’en stepped away, and the Likhts’amisyu clan, both stepped away from the table a few years ago,” Toghestiy related in a phone interview with the Straight.

While the two clans have some disagreements with the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, they’re both opposed to the Pacific Trail Pipelines.

Toghestiy and his wife, Freda Huson, occupy a camp built on the pipeline’s route. They and their supporters have vowed to stop the pipeline from going through.

Toghestiy noted that the Wet’suwet’en First Nation’s name tends to give the impression that “they’re the actual Wet’suwet’en nation, but they’re not”.

“They’re just a small band,” Toghestiy said.

Chief Ogen is aware about what Toghestiy and his group are doing.

“Everybody has the right to their opinion, and I respect their position,” Ogen said.

As for her stance on the Pacific Trail Pipelines, Ogen is firm: “It will provide a sustainable living for our community members.”

Comments (4) Add New Comment
Leo Biblitz
I'm curious to know whether natives claiming an interest in land rich in resources feel any obligation to share the bounty with people in developing nations where such resources are scarce or non-existent?

Shouldn't developing nations have access to oil, which is used in ... well ... just about everything from shampoo to appliances and construction materials? Should they not enjoy the same quality of life available to us in Canada, including aboriginals?

Do those of us who possess an embarrassment of riches have no obligation to share?

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@Leo
The Alberta Tar Sands Wealth is not shared with us, their Pipeline wanted a Free path as in Zero Royalties to BC to ship the Oil to Communist China.

Alberta Tar Sands has a Net Zero Royalty to Canada once you figure in all the Rebates (in the Billions) from the Federal Government back to Big Oil Corporations.

Compare that vs the Norway Model where they keep 80% of the Wealth for their Citizens vs Canada that gives away a one time Resource Extraction to Big Oil, how stupid is that?
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Eric Doherty
Freda Huson held a media conference about this very important issue yesterday. Fracked gas has about the same carbon footprint as coal, so this is a hugely important climate justice fight. A 5-minute video is available at http://www.mediacoop.ca/video/bc-preparing-injunction-against-unistoten-...
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The time to wake up is upon us
Ogen has clearly been 'compromised', and like so many others is choosing $$$ over EVERYTHING else. Leo above is correct, oil IS currently used in the process and manufacture of absolutely everything. The question is why? When we KNOW it to be so harmful to our environment which in turn makes it absolutely harmful to us, why do we continue to use it in things like (as Leo suggests) shampoos, building materials, etc. when many alternatives that are environmentally friendly exist. Especially considering the fact that me KNOW we have passed peak oil (that is the halfway point of the supply), so we have used more oil than what is left in the ground. Common knowledge and standard (evil) Capitalism has already demonstrated that as supply becomes less and less, demand and price will quickly skyrocket (which is what 'they' have been planning). Once gasoline makes its way up to $10 per litre, all transportation will come to an abrupt stop. Planes will not fly, TRUCKS will not transport your goods (i.e. food) to the stores. The shelves WILL BE EMPTY. Most companies will be forced to layoff they staff. With no money and no food things will become desperate. And as planned, almost everyone with a mortgage (and just think about how many that is) will be unable to make payments. Property values will drop dramatically and the big banks will own every one of your homes. Food, water, power & gas (thanks to Smart Meters) will all be rationed, and most will be forced into doing whatever they are told to continue receiving the necessities of life. The info is all out there folks. The experts have predicted it, the proof is out there, and believe it or not, 'they' have even publicly hinted and suggested all this.

The natives have always had the right idea of life on earth. You must work with the land and respect the land and nature as was intended. It is so vital to our survival and existence. Ms. Ogen seems to have forgotten her roots and is disrespecting her ancestors memory. We must ALL go back to the basics and survive in 'community living'. If we don't, nature has ALWAYS had a way of balancing things out. And between nature's power and the 'top 2%' making the decisions, guess who's going to come out on the losing end?? For a solution to all our problems, everyone involved must have Patience, Understanding, and Respect, to become better Enlightened.
Peace and Love to all.
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