Flags at the District of Houston administrative building were lowered in 2021 following the news that the remains of as many as 215 children were found buried on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. (File photo)

Flags at the District of Houston administrative building were lowered in 2021 following the news that the remains of as many as 215 children were found buried on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. (File photo)

Houston council seeks help in building Indigenous relationships

Wants ‘clear direction’ from the province

The District of Houston council is looking to the provincial government for help in building relationships with the local Indigenous community.

This relationship-building is listed as a high priority for a planned session with senior officials from the province’s Indigenous relations and reconciliation ministry when local governments meet next month in Whistler.

The annual convention of the Union of B.C. Municipalities has also become the venue for local governments to press home issues of local importance with senior governments and business representatives.

Briefing notes prepared for council indicate the complexity of the governing structures of the Wet’suwet’en people.

“Our community is uniquely situated where we would like to work closely with the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, and the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, and local families,” the notes state.

“We do not have clear direction on who we are obligated to consult with, and how we can respectfully engage in reconciliation and strengthen relationships with all parties.”

The Office of the Wet’suwet’en, based in Smithers, is not a band council but it is an organization governed through the Wet’suwet’en house system focusing on land and resource use, fisheries and wildlife as well as social services within the Wet’suwet’en traditional territory.

The Wet’suwet’en First Nation, formerly the Broman Lake Band, is an Indian band under the Indian Act with an elected council and chief councillor responsible for governance within the band’s reserve lands.

Council’s briefing notes also bring up the conflict south of Houston where one of the Wet’suwet’en house groups opposed to the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline crossing its traditional territory have sought to block construction.

Members of the Gidimt’en clan and its supporters have frequently clashed with the RCMP who are acting under a Supreme Court ordering banning any obstruction of pipeline construction.

Other First Nations from northeastern B.C., where the pipeline begins, to Kitimat, where it ends, have signed business and benefits agreements with Coastal GasLink.

One of the key Gidimt’en hereditary leaders, John Ridsdale who also goes by Namoks, also sits on the board of directors of the Office of the Wet’suwet’en.

“The development of the Coastal GasLink pipeline has increased challenges and divisions within the region, and we have limited capacity, resources and support in determining paths forward,” the briefing notes emphasize.