Rita George, a Wet’suwet’en hereditary subchief has decided to come forward to voice her opinion about the anti-pipeline protestors who are not affiliated with the Wet’suwet’en First Nation. George is both a band member and part of the hereditary system. She also previously helped translate a major Supreme Court decision that gave greater control to Indigenous communities over their land.
“I want the world to know what’s been happening to us. We are being bullied, it’s so shameful, so hurtful. We are being humiliated.” said George.
George was only a young woman when she was selected by her community for a Wet’suwet’en leadership role. A role that George says she knew she would be fulfilling for the rest of her life.
George was initially very apprehensive about speaking out against what is happening in her community. She didn’t want to cause any further pain surrounding this issue however she said she feels it is also important that the truth be told.
“I want the world to know why I am stepping forward as a matriarch,” spoke George 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.”
“There is no love, there is no respect. That’s not the way of our ancestors,” Ms. George said, saying she is speaking on behalf of the matriarchs and elders of her community. “If I keep quiet, if I don’t come forward to address our point of view, it will look like we are supporters. We are not.”
George expressed having great difficulty speaking out against some of her own and the unaffiliated anti-pipeline protestors who have turned her community into a battleground over issues of climate change policy. She said even the elders are afraid to voice their concerns.
Ms. George said the current influx of outside protesters who are pushing their own agenda via her community has muddled the exchange of opinions within the Wet’suwet’en community. Instead, George feels it would be much more appropriate if the Wet’suwet’en community had time and the privacy to discuss this important issue.
“It hurts me to see them [pipeline opponents] wearing regalia in the snow and mud and marching in the cities. That’s not right. That’s affecting all of us. Our ancestors would say they are dirtying the names and the regalia.”