Freda Huson and Dini Ze Smolgelgem (Toghestiy): Unist'ot'en and Indigenous Environmental Activism

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Fort Chipewyan
Pacific Trails Pipeline
Liquid Natural Gas Project
The Indian Act
Tsilhqot’in Nation
British Columbia Environmental Assessment Agency
Office of the Wet’suwet’en
Terra Nullis
Man camps
Rio Tinto
Northern Gateway Pipeline
Freda Huson
Dini Ze Smolgelgem
Indigenous environmental activism
Tar sands
oil and gas pipelines

The Unis’tot’en (C’ihlts’ehkhyu / Big Frog Clan) are the original Wet’suwet’en Yintah Wewat Zenli distinct to the lands of the Wet’suwet’en. Dini Ze Toghestiy is a Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chief of a very proud and strong people - the Likhts'amisyu, in so called British Columbia, Canada. Toghestiy discusses his memory of being raised by his grandparents, recalling being taken out on the land as a young man and heavily involved in his community’s feast hall, all the while learning from Elders, relatives and community mentors about his indigenous ways of being and knowing. Toghestiy received a double major University degree in Anthropology and First Nations Studies, focusing his research in Archeology. While working as an Ethnographer, he was called back by his people to represent his community, working on an ‘interest and study use plan’ for the Pacific Trails Pipeline project. In order to protect and defend his territory and its natural resources, he interviewed his territory’s hereditary chiefs. He supported their testimony with archival research and land based biological assessments, while examining the environmental assessments of the pipeline company. He recalls the day that all the Chiefs stated they would not allow the pipeline’s to be brought onto their communities. In 2006, his final report was delivered to the Office of the Wet’suwet’en people who then gave it to the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Agency.

Freda Huson, representative and spokesperson for the Unist'ot'en people was appointed by her hereditary chiefs. She recalls growing up on the land and learning her cultural ways from her family and community knowledge keepers. Freda discusses her community defending itself from mining and energy corporations seeking to extract her territory’s natural resources, stating the only way to defend the land, is by occupying the land. Freda talks about opening a cultural healing centre on her territory, so her people can become more connected with the land. Freda acknowledges how intergenerational trauma brought on by Colonialism destabilizes her people’s relationship to their cultural ways of living, stating “a lot of our people are suffering mentally because of the oppression that’s put upon our people from the residential schools and Ministry taking children out of their homes. They become totally disconnected from their culture.”


Disclaimer: All testimonies are the experiences and beliefs of the individuals interviewed. 

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