Marching down Highway 16 in February 2019 in Smithers. B.C., chiefs gather in Smithers to support Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ position on Unist’ot’en camp and opposition to Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline. (Chris Gareau photo)

Wet’suwet’en agree to sign memorandum on rights and title with B.C., Ottawa

Details surrounding the deal have not been released and remain confidential

The Wet’suwet’en have come to an agreement with the federal and provincial governments when it comes to future title negotiations and settling Indigenous territorial claims, according to one of the clans’ hereditary chiefs.

“The Wet’suwet’en People have reached consensus and have agreed to sign a memorandum of understanding between the federal government and province of B.C. to resume the full management of our Yintahs (lands) using our governance system,” Hereditary Chief Smogelgem said in a tweet on Saturday (April 28).

Further details of what the memorandum entails have not been released.

The agreement to sign the document does not resolve the ongoing conflict over the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline.

In February, the dispute reached heightened tension when the RCMP enforced a court-ordered injunction and subsequently raided a number of encampments along a forestry road just west of Houston, sparking solidarity protests and transport disruptions across the country.

A number of Indigenous peoples, matriarchs and allies were arrested in the process.

WATCH: First Nation supporters march to Premier John Horgan’s MLA office

Beyond the construction of the pipeline project, the dispute also involves other unsettled land rights and title issues, including who has the right to negotiate with governments and corporations, the fact that the land is not covered by a treaty and remains unceded, and a 1997 court case that recognized the hereditary chiefs’ authority and the exclusive right of the Wet’suwet’en peoples to the land but did not specify the boundaries.

ALSO READ: Wet’suwet’en and B.C. government have been talking Aboriginal title for over a year

Shortly after the court order was enforced, the hereditary chiefs and federal and provincial ministers entered days-long discussions, before coming to a proposed agreement in early March.

During that time, Coastal GasLink halted construction but has since resumed work along the route.

At the time, Chief Woos, one of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders, called the draft a milestone for everyone involved but said the “degree of satisfaction is not what we expected.”

He stressed that the hereditary chiefs remain opposed to the pipeline in their traditional territory.

“We are going to be continuing to look at some more conversations with B.C. and of course with the proponent and further conversation with the RCMP,” Woos said. “It’s not over yet.”

READ MORE: Confusion surrounds terms of RCMP withdrawal

In a statement Monday (April 28), the Gidimt’en clan said that they had hoped discussions between hereditary leaders and government officials would “end the conflict on the ground” in the region.

“Although this is a step in the right direction, CGL [Coastal GasLink] continues to trespass on Wet’suwet’en territory in direct violation of the eviction order enforced by the Hereditary Chiefs on January 4th, 2020,” the statement reads.

“The details of Wet’suwet’en title discussions are not public, however, we can expect the success or failure of the ratification process to be announced by the nation within the next few months.

“Until then, we continue to oppose this project and demand that CGL and RCMP get out and stay out of Wet’suwet’en yintah.”

– with files from The Canadian Press

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