Brent Jang reports on the BC Supreme Court’s ruling against the Wet’suwet’en blockades, which have been preventing continuing work on the Coastal Gaslink pipeline, and which underscore deep divisions between some BC First Nations on the completion of pipelines across what they claim as their hereditary territory.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Social studies, current events, Indigenous studies

Key Question(s) to Explore:

  • What is the status of Indigenous land claims in BC, and how does this affect attempts to build energy pipelines in that province?

New Terminology:

Wet’suwet’en, Unist’ot’en, blockade, injunction,

Materials Needed:

Globe article, Internet, link, below:

Study and Discussion Activity

NOTE: As per your discretion, this lesson can be enhanced with the participation of willing First Nations students, should they be in your class. Their personal–and general– knowledge may better inform the subject.

Introduction to lesson and task:

Western Canadians especially will be aware of ongoing issues related to gaining approval to build energy pipelines across lands claimed by First Nations in BC (approximately one-third of First Nations in Canada are in BC). The article, attached, shows how complex the problems can be; these are exacerbated by BC’s unique status relative to Indigenous land claims, in that a great majority of the province’s 198 First Nations have no historical governing treaties with the Crown.

Students can benefit from a lesson on the sheer number and complexity of BC First Nations, and on the status of treaty processes—all of which can help inform the problem of pipeline access.

Action (lesson plan and task):

Use the article as a stepping stone to a larger lesson. Have students read it aloud, if you choose, then ask who knew of the Wet’suwet’en or Unist’ot’en First Nations. Ask students how many First Nations there are in BC; ask them to write down their guess/estimate.

Organize students into groups and provide them with the Wikipedia link, above: “Status of First Nations treaties in British Columbia.” They are to complete the following task sheet:

Using the article and the website supplied as your source, complete the following:

  • How many treaties were negotiated in BC before 1899? After 1899?
  • How many First Nations do you count in the “First Nation treaty status,” list?
    • Of these, how many First Nations do students in your group recognize?
    • Are any of these Nations your neighbours in your own community?
    • If so, name it/them.
    • Has any member of your group ever discussed treaty issues with First Nations friends/fellow students?
  • Note the treaty negotiation stages, and quickly review them. Ask each member of your group to try to remember just one of the stages, so that when asked, your group can describe each of the six stages.
  • You read about the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in the article. Which stage of the treaty negotiation process has this Nation reached?
  • According to the article, what criticisms did First Nations bring related to the treaty process?
  • Finally, what was the most surprising fact you learned about BC First Nations today?

Review the work sheet with the whole class, drawing on different groups for different answers. Note the accuracy of the guesses about the number of BC First Nations from the opening discussion.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Students discuss their group assignments with the whole class.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

  • Students explain, in simple terms, the status of treaties with BC First Nations and the relation of this fact to the pipeline issue.

Confirming Activity:

  • Students note media reports on the treaty/pipeline permissions process in BC.