There’s a map for that conflict

To help readers better see the complexities of the Coastal GasLink pipeline running through Wet’suwet’en territory, northwest B.C. reporter Matt Simmons and art director Shawn Parkinson mapped out the tensions

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Why do some people support the Coastal GasLink pipeline and others oppose it? If Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs never gave their consent, why does TC Energy say it has the full support of First Nations along the pipeline route? What’s the difference between a Hereditary Chief and an elected chief?

These questions are what prompted our northwest B.C. reporter Matt Simmons to start digging through spreadsheets and GIS data and talking to sources to come up with some answers.

“A source once said, ‘There are many paths to Indigenous self-determination,’ and it really stuck with me,” Matt told me. “So, I wanted to explain the complexities of the hereditary systems a bit differently.”

It took seven months of work, with a major assist from art director Shawn Parkinson, to put out an ambitious visual explainer that maps the tensions across the territory to try and help readers see the conflict a bit better.

And is there a lot to unpack with this 670-kilometre pipeline. While 20 First Nations have signed agreements with TC Energy, Matt’s data diving confirmed none has reserve land crossed by the route.

As our piece shows and explains, Wet’suwet’en laws — which date back thousands of years, and bestow significant powers to hereditary government — are unique in their own right when it comes to jurisdiction over 22,000 square kilometres of territory. In other words, how decisions get made by the Wet’suwet’en can’t be applied with a broad brush to all Indigenous nations or communities.

The conflict on Wet’suwet’en territory is far from over, with Coastal GasLink starting to drill under the Wedzin Kwa (Morice River), a sacred salmon migration route. As headlines continue to blare out, we hope you and many others across the country will turn to Matt’s explainer as a resource to make sense of where things stand and how we got here.

Take care and map out your problems,

Arik Ligeti
Director of audience

Three women standing in traditional clothing at Mamalilikulla territory

A Narwhal in the world

In last week’s newsletter takeover, B.C. reporter Stephanie Wood reflected on how The Narwhal works to consider the legacy of colonialism when writing stories about the environment — meaning, Indigenous territories — as we marked the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Susan Phillips, a new member, reached out with some kind words to share:

“Wonderful article by Steph Kwetasel’wet Wood. I am a non-Indigenous ally, passionate about healing through social and political activism that leads to decolonization. This article gives me hope. ”

As Steph writes, “some may call it a ‘holiday’ now, but Orange Shirt Day has always been a call to action. It’s about learning and pursuing justice.”

Thank you for your kind words, Susan, and for supporting The Narwhal!


This week in The Narwhal

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Studying the carbon capturing capabilities of sweetgrass is just one part of a larger vision for adapting to climate change in southern Alberta.

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By Francesca Fionda

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What we’re reading

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When you’re trying to understand a decade-long tension between community and industry but have no visuals. Don’t worry, our newsletters will bring all the maps we tirelessly work on to your inboxes — tell your friends to sign up too.
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