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Press Releases

Release: Gitxsan Concerned About Policing Over Indigenous Issues And Stand With Wet’suwet’en Neighbours To Urge Bc Government To Withdraw Police Enforcement And Resolve Peacefully

As the Wet’suwet’en Nation prepares to defend its rightful jurisdiction against the Coastal GasLink Pipeline project and invasion made by the RCMP, the Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs- as they have done since the historic case at Delgumuukw/Gisday’wa – extends its full support to its neighbour nation. The Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs will be keeping a close watch on the activity of the RCMP to ensure they are resolving these land issues peacefully and collaboratively.

READ THE FULL RELEASE HERE

Newsletters

JULY/AUGUST 2019 Newsletter

We have a mission to keep adding chiefs to the table and since our last update in January we have added another six chiefs (including myself) to the Gitxsan Government. The Gitxsan government has always been here and we are established. Now it’s just meeting of the minds, bringing us together and working together to have a stronger position on issues like jurisdiction over our Annats.

Read more…

Press Releases

RELEASE: Gitxsan Chiefs Extend Fishing Ban to 2020 & Urge Canada, BC and Ministries to Step Up

“A temporary fish ban by DFO is not solving the issue; it’s merely putting a band aid on it.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

HAZELTON, BC – JULY 26, 2019A management committee called ‘Crisis Management Team’ has been created by the Gitxsan Chiefs which focuses on addressing the fish crisis. In doing so, the Chiefs have denied the public and fish permit holders access to fish the fisheries tenure/Anaat (cultural fishing holes) for 2019, first announced in May.

Today the Gitxsan Chiefs that make up the Crisis Management Team announced that they will extend the fish closure to the 2020 fishing season in response to what they believe is Department of Fisheries & Oceans (DFO) mismanagement of the fisheries along the Skeena River.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is supposed to be announcing that there is a food fishery closure notice for Skeena FSC sockeye on the evening of Sunday July 28th. Depending upon the estimated returns of Skeena Sockeye past the Tyee Test Fishery between now and then this decision could change. Further to this, DFO is expected to also close recreational fishing for all species of Salmon in River. They have chosen to reduce the Chinook recreational fishery catch from 2 Chinook to 1 in Marine area 4 and portions of 3 and 5. Pending a formal announcement, this information may change.

DFO uses data from the Tyee Test Fishery to determine fish counts and when fish counts are lower in volume that is what dictates fish closures issued by DFO.

The Gitxsan Crisis Team states that these measures are not enough: “A temporary fish ban by DFO is not solving the issue; it’s merely putting a band aid on it. We’ve fished these rivers our whole lives and we know when we have a fish crisis on our hands. With impacts of development along our rivers such as highways, railways, agriculture, mines and clear cutting to name a few – these are additional external factors that play a role in declining fish stocks which have been continually deteriorating over the past century,” says Brian Williams, Chair of Gigeenix (Up River Chiefs).

The Gitxsan Chiefs that form part of the Crisis Management Team ask for a number of items to be addressed:

First, Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRO) issues fishing permits and cutting permits for clear cut logging. The issue is the overcutting that causes drought in the streams resulting in fish habitats being destroyed by logging. The Crisis Management Team needs a plan to address the damage caused by government issued permits.

Second, we don’t rely on Tyee Test Fishery (measurement to count fish stock) to close fishing to the public and permit holders – we know our fish are in crisis and we require more meaningful participation from BC and Canada during our Crisis Management Meetings. Simply coming to the table is not enough. We ask both governments to assign proper levels of authority and to bring the right decision makers to the table.

Lastly, DFO had agreed to make arrangements to invite the Sports Fishery Advisory Council (SFAC) to today’s meeting. We encourage their participation and we want them to be a part of the solution and require collaboration.

The Crisis Management team is committed to addressing this issue in collaboration with all stakeholders. The committee’s mandate also includes collaboration with other First Nations, as part of the Skeena Nations Fish Forum Protocol. As this is a matter that affects the future of the whole region, the Crisis Team is calling on the governments of Canada and BC to step up to honour their commitments to truth and reconciliation by working with the Gitxsan to address this matter of vital importance to our people.

ABOUT THE GITXSAN

The diverse Gitxsan Nation, in Northern BC, is made up of four clans and House Groups called Huwilp led by Simgiigyet who hold the governance authority (Daxgyet). The traditional society is governed by a system of laws (Ayook) and oral histories (Adaakw), all carried out in feast hall (Lilliget).  The Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en people made history and headlines in 1997 when, on appeal, together they sought the first comprehensive account of aboriginal rights and title in Canada in the Delgamuukw court decision. The Gitxsan Nation covers 33,000 sq. km in Northwest BC; it is estimated that there are 14,000 people of Gitxsan heritage throughout the world.

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MEDIA CONTACTS

Gwiiyeehl Brian Williams, Chair of Gigeenix (Up River Chiefs)
Work: 250-842-6780 | bwilliams@gitxsan.ca Sakum Higookw Vernon Smith, Representative of Gyeets (Down River Chiefs)
Work: 250-849-5308 Niisgimiinuu Robert Campbell (Member of Up River Chiefs)
Work: 250-842-5199
Press Releases

Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs Prohibit All Recreational And Sport Fishing In 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

HAZELTON, B.C., April 29, 2019 – Since September 2017, in a historic milestone for the Gitxsan, 38 Hereditary Chiefs – dubbed the Huwilp Government – have been working together to protect the salmon habitat, as salmon are integral to the diet and culture of the indigenous peoples in the Skeena Watershed. The Chiefs are enforcing individual Indigenous rights to the fisheries and bringing awareness for the traditional Gitxsan fisheries tenure (Anaat) along the Skeena River. Central to the Chiefs’ working together, and building on the 2018 ban, is a recreational and sport fishing ban for all license/permit holders in the 2019 season.

“All persons holding recreational fishing permits and/or fish guiding licenses are no longer allowed to trespass in Gitxsan territory. People need to know that when they fish here, they are trespassing in controlled territory,” says Brian Williams, Chair of Gigeenix (Up River Chiefs).

An advisory committee called ‘Crisis Team’ has been created by the Chiefs to focus on discussing public access to fisheries tenure/Anaat for the year 2020. The committee’s mandate also includes an advisory role with stakeholders like BC and Canada and collaboration with other First Nations dealing with the salmon crisis, as part of the Skeena Nations Fish Forum Protocol.

The Crisis team is collaborating with the government to create a future process where all recreational fishers require permission from individual Chiefs to fish on the river. While the ban marks the beginning of an ambitious journey, the process fully respects the Daxgyet of the Simgiigyet and adheres to the tenets of the traditional system (Ayook, Adaakw and Lilliget).

“Our fish are in crisis and this is an ongoing situation with a track record that has been going downhill. We have to do something. The next step we talk about is to find a path to turn this around and banning recreational and sports fishers from fishing our traditional territory is a step in the right direction,” says Art Wilson (Wiimoulglxsw), Gitxsan Hereditary Chief.

A communication platform that includes a website, newsletters and live streaming of meetings has been created to promote transparency around the decisions and actions of Huwilp Government. A full list of participating Chiefs is posted. While 38 Chiefs are currently participating, and the goal is to reflect all of the traditional Gitxsan Anaat.

Download the press release for more details or the Crisis Team Terms of Reference for more details.

 

 

News

Stand With Your Simgiigyet

The Gitxsan Simgiigyat (Hereditary Chiefs) are expanding the jurisdiction of the Gitxsan Huwilp Government structure. Our government is rooted in the proud history and culture of the Gitxsan, a hereditary system centred on our Wilp (house), Ayook (law), and Adaawk (oral history).

This government will allow the Gitxsan to be formally included in the division of powers described in Sections 91 & 92 of Canada’s constitution, and most importantly, protect our individual rights to the fisheries in the Skeena Nass watersheds. It recognizes the autonomy of a wilp (house group) while providing a strong unified voice on matters that affect our Nation.

The Gitxsan Huwilp Government will honour the legacy and build upon the leadership of the Simgiigyat demonstrated in the Delgamuukw case.

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