Wet’suwet’en chiefs arrive in Winnipeg to raise awareness about their battle for land sovereignty

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs were greeted by Winnipeg Indigenous leaders on Tuesday, as they passed through Manitoba on their nation-to-nation tour raising awareness about their fight against a pipeline project in British Columbia.

The hereditary chiefs are on an 18-day nation-to-nation tour to spread awareness about their battle for land sovereignty back in B.C., where some members of the Wet’suwet’en nation are occupying a Coast GasLink construction site.

The proposed $6.6-billion-dollar pipeline will stretch 670 kilometres, and deliver natural gas to the Dawson Creek area in northern B.C.

“My biggest worry is that once that pipeline goes through, we’re not going to be able to drink that water anymore. It’s going to be contaminated. Another thing we’re so worried about is our fish,” hereditary chief Janet Williams said.

B.C.’s provincial government and all 20 elected First Nations councils along the pipeline route approved the project, including the Wet’suwet’en nation, but the hereditary chiefs say the project needs their consent, too.

Wet’suwet’en law, which predates the Indian Act, says that the hereditary chiefs would have authority over the 22,000 square kilometres of traditional territory that the pipeline would pass through.

Kateri Saabe Ikwe Phillips from Hollow Water First Nation spoke at the event Tuesday afternoon.

Since 2019, Phillips has been involved in a group of dedicated land defenders at Camp Morningstar on the east side of Lake Winnipeg. 

The sacred camp was erected in response to a proposed silica sand mine nearby, which would they say would threaten a community trapline and the environment.

“The hereditary chiefs stand here as people who were not consulted when it came to the major project in their area. And we as Camp Morningstar stand here today, too, as community members who were not consulted,” Phillips said.

She came to listen to the hereditary chiefs on Tuesday to show solidarity, and let people know that land defenders are not giving up.

“To stand together in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en and Camp Morningstar is very important just to show to others that we’re still here, that we are still fighting, and that we are still speaking up for the land.”

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