Letter from Hereditary Chiefs to Chief Luggi – Response to elected chiefs

To insure all of the Wet’suwet’en remain part of the conversation and open to every member of the Wet’suwet’en Nation. We have posted the letter online for all members to read, Below it we will post our own thoughts on what was said.




Counterpoint One

Now we begin by “assuming” the legitimacy of the existing Herditary Chiefs, we would like to point out that we believe that a large percentage of those chiefs are illegitimate as well a large number of them are also NOT Herditary but purchased titles. Why would the Wet’suwet’en Nation want to hand the keys of the kingdom to illegitimate chiefs? The second issue here is the existing Herditary Chiefs were selected only by Wet’suwet’en members living west of Smithers (Moricetown and Hagwilget) There is no representation by Herditary Chiefs east of Smithers.

On page one letter states “The B.C. Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada recognized that the hereditary Wet’suwet’en chiefs were the ones who had the right to bring the Wet’suwet’en claim for title to the Courts.

That claim is a bogus twist of words, what the court did actually say was, I quote verbatim below. As anyone can see it merely recognized the claimants of the case, it comes without any assurance of permanent authority. In fact the judgement excludes the Herditary Chiefs as individual owners of the land. It is really the follow up Affirmation Agreement they are after.

In 1984, 35 Gitxsan and 13 Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs instituted proceedings against the Province of British Columbia. They claimed, both individually and on behalf of their respective Houses, ownership (unextinguished Aboriginal title) and resulting jurisdiction (entitlement to govern by Aboriginal laws) over separate portions of territory in northwest British Columbia totalling 58,000 square kilometres.

What does exist is that the court said it belongs to the people, the community, please read verbatim what Judges, Lamer C.J. and Cory, McLachlin and Major JJ wrote in their final declaration. (source)

Aboriginal title is sui generis, and so distinguished from other proprietary interests, and characterized by several dimensions. It is inalienable and cannot be transferred, sold or surrendered to anyone other than the Crown.  Another dimension of aboriginal title is its sources:  its recognition by the Royal Proclamation, 1763 and the relationship between the common law which recognizes occupation as proof of possession and systems of aboriginal law pre‑existing assertion of British sovereignty. Finally, aboriginal title is held communally.

and again on line 115 
A further dimension of aboriginal title is the fact that it is held communally.  Aboriginal title cannot be held by individual aboriginal persons; it is a collective right to land held by all members of an aboriginal nation.  Decisions with respect to that land are also made by that community.  This is another feature of aboriginal title which is sui generis and distinguishes it from normal property interests.

This is conclusive evidence that indicates the membership itself is the rightful owners of the land, note specifically the part that says “Aboriginal title cannot be held by individual aboriginal persons” and Herditary Chiefs are individual persons.

Counterpoint Two

An often quoted quotation is, the devil is in the detail. In this instance it most certainty is, what was not disclosed in the MOU is that due to the absence of absolute or sole authority of the Herditary Chiefs regarding land claims, they want the MOU to declare that they and only they meaning the Herditary Chiefs could or would be allowed to negotiate land claims on behalf of the Wet’suwet’en people. If indeed the Hereditary Chiefs were not being led by the Office of Wet’suwet’en, there would be no need for its existence, its very existence is for a small group, the old gang of 5 plus two stolen Herditary titles, making it a majority of 7 to retain control. (Note see the original signatures on the MOU, the same seven I refer to here.)

Here is verbatim what the Office Chiefs really want from this MOU “We want to confirm that, after the signing of the MOU, there is a three-month time period to negotiate an Affirmation Agreement which will formally recognize and affirm the Wet’suwet’en Houses as the title holders and the Wet’suwet’en Aboriginal rights and title throughout the Yintah.”

The goal of the Office Chiefs is to get that Affirmation Agreement that puts goverment into a binding contract to only do business with the Office chiefs.


Now lets look at what a Memorandum of Understanding really is.

“A memorandum of understanding is a document used to articulate an agreement between two or more parties. … Unlike contracts, however, a memorandum of understanding is not intended to be a legally binding agreement. As a result, parties can typical avoid the agreement with no legal consequences.

In another communication the claim was made that 450 Wet’suwet’en members voted in support of this MOU. Lets talk about that a bit, how many voted no? Were they put on a spot to publicly say yes or no, insuring they might be under pressure to tow the party line? If you are serious about making the claim that you have a majority in support of the MOU then why not prove people like me wrong by holding a referendum, a referendum would silence people like me, I would respect the outcome as the true voice of the people.

Counterpoint Three

I want to bring truth to the table, and I love noble statements, having said that I really was impressed by this one, as it is a perfect example of why the meeting regarding the MOU should be done by referendum and not by way of feast hall meetings. The quote below was from April 24 & 25, 2010 – ALL CLANS FEAST. I did underline the most important reason why I object to the feast hall method the chiefs are now taking.

“Kloum Kuhn (Alphonse Gagnon) – I want to talk about some of the issues that we are going to be faced with. It is dealing with the hereditary system. When we come up with solutions, it is final. I was concerned about doing this business feast style.

By this process, we silence a lot of our members; it is generally the chiefs that speak.

I must listen when my members speak, I’m not a dictator if they want to say something, and I do not over rule them. I want my members to speak. Others have their concerns. We must discuss this before we get into trouble.”

Counterpoint Four

The Office Chiefs are correct when they say “As this appears to be a key to your requests for delay, it is critical to recognize that the MOU does not alter Wet’suwet’en Aboriginal rights and title. If it did do that, there would be a need for much fuller engagement not only within the Wet’suwet’en but also by Canada and British Columbia.”

However as I said earlier, the devil is in the detail, namely a commitment to get both BC and Canada to sign a contract insuring the Office Chiefs as the only people who can speak to Wet’suwet’en land claims. Dictatorships are dangerous and it is why the Supreme Court did not hand the chiefs the keys to the kingdom, but rather they gave the keys to the Wet’suwet’en Nation, the people.

The original MOU NOTE: the same 7 members we refereed to (Office Chiefs) are the only signatures here as well.

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  1. The hereditary chiefs letter states they consulted with more than 450 members of the Wet’suwet’en – there was no indication of the level of support in the clan meetings. How many members of the nation are there? It would seem that a referendum would be the most appropriate way to resolve your internal governance issues and more forward as a united nation.

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