The anniversary of one of Canada’s most famous court case’s will be commemorated in Hagwilget this weekend.
On Saturday, The Wet’suwet’en will host a celebration feast to honour the 20th anniversary of the Delgamuuk/Gisday’wa court decision.
In the decision Delgamuukw v British Columbia, the Gitkan and the Wet’suwet’en nations argued before the Supreme Court of Canada, claiming ownership and legal jurisdiction over 133 individual hereditary territories in northwestern British Columbia using their oral histories as principal evidence in the case.
The ruling recognized and reaffirmed Aboriginal rights, title to Aboriginal lands and duty to consult. It was also one of the long trials in Canadian history spanning 374 days and including 26,000 pages of transcript.
The name ‘Delgamuuku’ is synonymous with the Supreme Court of Canada ruling and its significance has travelled beyond both local and national borders – Wet’suwet’en Chief Namoks has spoken around the world including at the United Nations, where the court case has been referenced.
“My nation approved for me to speak at the United Nations both in New York and Geneva and each of the countries that spoke they referred to this court case. The court case always comes up. If you can have yourself designated like that, at the United Nations – which is the world. And they can refer to it… well, it wasn’t just the Wet’suwet’en and the Gitxsan that needed this. It was the world that need it. We needed to be acknowledged that we exist.”
The court case not only affected issues within the province and country but changed the constitution of Canada.
“We were acknowledged – we exist and we have rights” he continued, “It has to be remembered that when we went to court it was illegal for us to raise money to hire lawyers, to fight against Canada and the province itself. It’s huge what that court case has done”
To celebrate the Wet’suwet’en invited the Gitxan to join in the feast. “We want to show the respect of what we have.”
“It makes me proud that the world knows of this court case and that they know of the Wet’suet’en and Gitsan but all people should be proud if they stand up for what is right and proper” Chief Namox concluded.
The public can also attend to honour. The event will be held at the Big Hall in Gawilget. Doors open at 10AM and ceremonies begin at noon. The event is hosted by the Laksilyu Clan.