A Wet’suwet’en hereditary subchief who helped translate a seminal Supreme Court decision that laid the foundation for greater control for Indigenous communities over their land says she opposes the blockades that have been roiling the country.
Rita George also said Thursday that she and other matriarchs have been feeling sick about the conflict and how it has split their community. She said the opposing hereditary chiefs and some of the people around them – including outside activists who have embedded themselves in the protest camp – have disrespected ancient feast-house traditions of how to treat one another.
Ms. George said it caused her great pain to have to exercise her leadership by speaking out against some of her own and particularly those outsiders who have turned her northern British Columbia community into a battleground over issues of climate change policy, resource extraction and reconciliation.
“I want the world to know why I am stepping forward as a matriarch,” the trim, curly-haired 80-year-old said in an emotional interview at the Pleasant Valley Cafe in Houston, B.C. “The world thinks the matriarchs are behind all the protests going on and that’s not true. None of the matriarchs were contacted.”
A group of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to construction of the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline have been mounting a years-long campaign to have the project halted. The pipeline is needed to feed natural gas to an eventual LNG facility, an $18-billion export terminal slated for Kitimat that carries the economic hope of the region.