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Coastal GasLink, owned by TransCanada Corp., names Warner Naziel, left, and Freda Huson, shown here in Vancouver on April 7, 2014, as two of the defendants in the court case.

DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

A Wet’suwet’en Nation chief who took over a hereditary position from an Indigenous woman because she supports the Coastal GasLink pipeline is defending the decision to strip away her title, saying he has been groomed since childhood for a leadership role.

Warner Naziel said he and other hereditary chiefs, including his uncle who recommended him, acted properly when they removed the title Smogelgem from Gloria George. Ms. George and two other Indigenous women, Theresa Tait-Day and Darlene Glaim, were stripped of their hereditary titles for backing the $6.2-billion natural gas pipeline project.

Mr. Naziel said his parents and grandparents “were preparing me far in advance” to become a hereditary chief. “From the age of 3 or 4 years old, I would sit at my mother’s feet at each feast while my grandmother sat nearby, learning what was happening and being told how things were working,” Mr. Naziel said.

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He made the comments in an affidavit in B.C. Supreme Court, dated Feb. 20, to assert that Ms. George is wrong in assuming she had been entitled to automatically inherit Smogelgem from her late brother, Leonard George, under Sun House of the Laksamshu clan.

“One of his sisters, Gloria George, a member of our clan, decided she wanted the name, although she was not active in our feasts,” Mr. Naziel said in his 11-page affidavit, arguing that Ms. George did not follow protocol. “The proper protocol for receiving a head chief’s name includes consulting with the clan to determine whether they approve of your taking the name, announcing your intention to take the name at a smoke feast and then holding a feast specifically for that purpose.”

Mr. Naziel, who is an artist and carver, filed his affidavit in response to Coastal GasLink’s court application for an interim injunction to dismantle the Unist’ot’en protest camp’s blockade in the B.C. Interior. Unist’ot’en is affiliated with Dark House, one of 13 Wet’suwet’en hereditary house groups.

The blockade on the bridge came down on Jan. 11, four days after the RCMP arrested 14 protesters at a police checkpoint along a remote B.C. logging road that leads to the Unist’ot’en camp. Coastal GasLink is now seeking to obtain a permanent injunction because the interim one granted by the court in December will expire in May.

Coastal GasLink, owned by TransCanada Corp., names Mr. Naziel and Freda Huson as two of the defendants in the court case. Mr. Naziel and Ms. Huson lived together for a decade as a common-law couple. They separated last month.

Mr. Naziel said he and Ms. Huson, a spokeswoman for Unist’ot’en and Dark House, moved in the summer of 2010 to the site of what would become Unist’ot’en camp. “Shortly after this, Freda and I moved our main sleeping quarters out to the cabin,” Mr. Naziel said. “My role at camp was based in me being Freda’s partner."

He said the camp expanded and added a healing lodge in 2014-15: “It is traditional in Wet’suwet’en culture for someone who has experienced trauma to go and spend time on the land.”

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Mr. Naziel said Ms. George crossed the line when she aligned her herself with Coastal GasLink. “After we realized that she was representing herself to government and industry, including Coastal Gaslink, as both having the authority of a head chief and also the backing of the clan, our clan held a feast and formally rescinded the name Smogelgem," said Mr. Naziel, who laid claim to the title in 2016. “All of the hereditary chiefs of my clan, including me, witnessed this and spoke.”

But Ms. George said in a recent interview with The Globe and Mail that she acted appropriately when she patiently waited several years before inheriting Smogelgem, after her brother Leonard died in 2007. “The title was my brother’s and before my brother, it was my mom’s cousin, and before that, it was my mom’s great uncle,” Ms. George said.

She pointed out that Mr. Naziel’s roots are in Owl House, but the Smogelgem title is under Sun House.

Leonard George, in his hereditary role as Smogelgem, was one of the plaintiffs in the historic court case known as Delgamuukw, in which Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs claimed ownership of their unceded territories in British Columbia. In the landmark 1997 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Indigenous people have valid claims to ancestral lands that were never ceded by treaty.

Ms. Glaim, who held the hereditary title Woos, and Ms. George did not return requests for comment on Tuesday.

Ms. Tait-Day said the hereditary house chiefs are the ones who overstepped their bounds and should be disciplined. “The male hereditary chiefs have no authority to remove any one of their names,” Ms. Tait-Day said. “They should be supportive of women.”

She said she plans to rectify the situation so that the male chiefs recognize her right to hold the hereditary title of Wi’hali’yte.

The three Indigenous women said in recent interviews that they have been ostracized behind the scenes since forming the Wet’suwet’en Matrilineal Coalition (WMC) and want to bring their case into the public light. The women formed WMC in 2015, believing the fledgling group could address the need for a collective decision-making body to bridge the wide gap between hereditary chiefs opposed to the pipeline and elected band councillors on reserves who support the project.

The women have felt the repercussions of being shunned and have been excluded from important gatherings.

Mr. Naziel’s uncle, Alphonse Gagnon, filed an affidavit last week to vouch for his nephew. Mr. Gagnon said that in 1998, he took over the hereditary title Kloum Khun under Owl House of the Laksamshu clan. “I suggested to the clan, as was my right, that the name Toghestiy should pass to my nephew, Warner Naziel,” Mr. Gagnon said.

Mr. Gagnon said his nephew is an expert on hereditary governance and earned the wing chief (sub-chief) title of Toghestiy under Owl House.

“Although I am now Smogelgem, I still hold the name Toghestiy,” Mr. Naziel noted.

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WET’SUWET’EN NATION

The Wet'suwet'en Nation comprises five clans

and 13 house groups in the British Columbia

Interior. A non-profit society, the Office of the

Wet’suwet’en, represents the interests of

hereditary chiefs in the area.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs

GIL_SEYHU

Clan name

(Big Frog Clan)

Hereditary

title

Goohlaht

Yex T’sa wit’ant’

House name

(Thin House)

Knedebeas

Unist’ot’en

is affiliated

with

Dark House

Yex T’sa wil_

k’us

(Dark House)

Samooh

Kayex

(Birchbark House)

GITDUMDEN

LAKSILYU

(Small Frog Clan)

(Wolf and Bear Clan)

Wah Tah Kwets

Woos

Kwen Beegh Yex

Cassyex

(House Beside the Fire)

(Grizzly House)

Hagwilnegh

Gisday’wa

G’en egh l_a yex

Kaiyexweniits

(House of Many Eyes)

(House in the Middle

of Many)

Wah Tah K’eght

Tsee K’al K’e yex

Madeek

(House on a Flat Rock)

Anaskaski

(Where it Lies

Blocking the Trail)

TSAYU

LAKSAMSHU

(Beaver Clan)

(Fireweed and Owl Clan)

Kloum Khun

Kweese

Medzeyex

Djakanyex

(Beaver House)

(Owl House)

Namox

Smogelgem

Tsa K’en yex

Tsaiyex

(Rafters on

Beaver House)

(Sun House)

Note: In this version of the chart, the order of the

clans has been stacked due to space considerations.

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: wetsuweten.com

WET’SUWET’EN NATION

The Wet'suwet'en Nation comprises five clans and 13

house groups in the British Columbia Interior.

A non-profit society, the Office of the Wet’suwet’en,

represents the interests of hereditary chiefs in the area.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs

GIL_SEYHU

Clan name

(Big Frog Clan)

Hereditary

title

Goohlaht

Yex T’sa wit’ant’

House name

(Thin House)

Knedebeas

Unist’ot’en

is affiliated

with

Dark House

Yex T’sa wil_

k’us

(Dark House)

Samooh

Kayex

(Birchbark House)

LAKSILYU

GITDUMDEN

(Small Frog Clan)

(Wolf and Bear Clan)

Wah Tah Kwets

Woos

Kwen Beegh Yex

Cassyex

(House Beside the Fire)

(Grizzly House)

Hagwilnegh

Gisday’wa

G’en egh l_a yex

Kaiyexweniits

(House of Many Eyes)

(House in the Middle

of Many)

Wah Tah K’eght

Tsee K’al K’e yex

Madeek

(House on a Flat Rock)

Anaskaski

(Where it Lies

Blocking the Trail)

TSAYU

LAKSAMSHU

(Beaver Clan)

(Fireweed and Owl Clan)

Kloum Khun

Kweese

Medzeyex

Djakanyex

(Beaver House)

(Owl House)

Namox

Smogelgem

Tsa K’en yex

Tsaiyex

(Rafters on

Beaver House)

(Sun House)

Note: In this version of the chart, the order of the

clans has been stacked due to space considerations.

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: wetsuweten.com

WET’SUWET’EN NATION

The Wet'suwet'en Nation comprises five clans and 13 house groups in the British

Columbia Interior. A non-profit society, the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, represents

the interests of hereditary chiefs in the area.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs

GILSEYHU

LAKSILYU

GITDUMDEN

Clan name

(Big Frog Clan)

(Small Frog Clan)

(Wolf and Bear Clan)

Hereditary

title

Goohlaht

Wah Tah Kwets

Woos

Yex T’sa wit’ant’

Kwen Beegh Yex

Cassyex

House name

(Thin House)

(House Beside the Fire)

(Grizzly House)

Knedebeas

Unist’ot’en

is affiliated

with

Dark House

Hagwilnegh

Gisday’wa

Yex T’sa wil_

k’us

G’en egh l_a yex

Kaiyexweniits

(House of Many Eyes)

(House in the

Middle of Many)

(Dark House)

Wah Tah K’eght

Samooh

Madeek

Tsee K’al K’e yex

Kayex

Anaskaski

(House on a Flat Rock)

(Birchbark House)

(Where it Lies

Blocking the Trail)

TSAYU

LAKSAMSHU

(Beaver Clan)

(Fireweed and Owl Clan)

Kloum Khun

Kweese

Note: In this

version of

the chart, the

order of the

clans has been

stacked due to

space consider-

ations.

Medzeyex

Djakanyex

(Beaver House)

(Owl House)

Na’Moks

Smogelgem

Tsa K’en yex

Tsaiyex

(Rafters on

Beaver House)

(Sun House)

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: wetsuweten.com

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