Back to Top

What does reconciliation mean at Unis’tot’en? Two local perspectives

Last week, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) arrested peaceful participants of a blockade of a road on traditional Wet'suwet'en nation  territory, based on an injunction order that was issued last month to TransCanada Pipelines. The Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs were blocking access to the land because they have not given their consent to the natural gas pipeline, or two other proposed pipelines coming through their lands. The land is unceded by the Wetsu’wet’en.

This leaves us  wondering: what does reconciliation mean when pipeline companies, governments, and First Nation band councils want a pipeline to go through, and an Indigenous community’s traditional leaders do not?

While the struggle over Indigenous land rights in northern B.C. has become a national news story in recent weeks, it is first a local story. Long before most Canadians knew how to pronounce Wet'suwet'en, the people were working to protect their land rights, and the Unis’tot’en camp was built.

And long before this story made national news, CRC congregations were living and worshipping in the area. Our team has been in contact with various people in the area with CRC connections, including Christian school teacher Jonathan Boone and his daughter Kayla, a Kings University College student.

They offered their perspectives, not as experts nor as Wetsu’wet’en representatives of any kind, but simply as local CRC people seeking to be allies to the Wetsu’wet’en people.

How are you connected to Indigenous people in your area?

Kayla:  I was raised in the Bulkley Valley and have grown up knowing many Wet'suwet'en people through family, friends, school, and just by living in the North. I am connected because I was raised on their traditional territory, learning their history.

Jonathan:  We have lived in the Bulkley Valley for 22 years and have been blessed to get to know local Wet’suwet’en people in a variety of capacities. Through my work as a high school teacher at Bulkley Valley Christian School I have attempted to build relationships between my classroom, students, and school community with the local and neighbouring Indigenous people and their communities.

What have you been hearing and learning about the situation at Unis'tot'en?

Kayla:  The first I heard of it was actually through a link my friend shared on Facebook about the blockade. I did my own research into what was going on because I know that the media may not be the best or most accurate place to start with for information. I read articles and talked with people who had more knowledge than I do on the matter.

Jonathan:  Unfortunately, fear drives a lot of what one hears and responds to, including on social media. I am far more encouraged by the increasing number of respectful and genuinely inquisitive conversations that are motivated by a desire to understand how not only this particular Unis’tot’en situation has come to be, but also the wider relationship in B.C. between the dominant society and Indigenous peoples. More than at any other time in Canadian history, we are now listening to Indigenous voices. Time will tell whether we adjust our practices and ways of being to accommodate their concerns.

How does this connect to your faith?

Kayla:  As a Christian, I believe Indigenous rights, reconciliation, and justice are issues we are called to address and act on.

This summer I worked with World Renew, Race Relations, and the Canadian Aboriginal Ministry Committee as a Youth Ambassador of Reconciliation. We examined and learned about Indigenous-settler/Canadian relationships in the past and present and gained a deeper understanding of just how important reconciliation is. Christ called us to be neighbours to those around us and to be good stewards – one way to do this is by honouring Indigenous people’s traditional lands and their call for justice.

Jonathan:  We serve a risen Lord who served the marginalized and calls us to do the same.  The Kingdom he is establishing is not defined by the world’s standards for it is not of this world.  In God’s Kingdom the powerful are brought down, the captives are released, and the poor and the oppressed are set free.

Our Christian faith must cause us to be uncomfortable with the status quo; if all it does is reinforce what we already believe to be true then it is of no use to anyone and we will never be the salt and light this world desperately needs. It cannot only reinforce what we already believe to be true about how to live in this world.

What would you urge Christians to do or consider?

Kayla:  There are a few things I think people can do. First, I think that we need to start in a place of understanding. Without understanding the historical difficulties faced by Indigenous peoples, it is challenging to understand why these issues are important today.

I would also encourage people to pray. Pray for the Indigenous people to be honoured, for wisdom for the authorities, and that there is a peaceful and respectfully reached resolution. Pray for change in the way Indigenous land claims are settled so that this may be a way forward.

Acknowledge that you are living on traditional land that was taken from Indigenous people. Listen to what they have to say about their traditions and territorial lands and respect both the people and their claims.

Jonathan:  Start by asking what you would want done if you were a hereditary chief and it was your peoples’ unceded house territory* that others had made decisions about without consulting you.

Second, pray for a peaceful and just resolution to this particular situation.

Finally, get to know the Indigenous people on whose ancestral and unceded territory you live on.  Listen to their stories, acknowledge that it is we who have claimed their land, and find ways to now live together so that we can be mutually blessed.


*Wondering what a House Territory is? Wetsu’wet’en man Trevor Jang explains: “We have five clans and 13 house groups within those clans. Each of the 13 house groups have a head hereditary chief whose ancestral name is associated with that house group’s traditional territory and is responsible for protecting the territory for future generations.” Read more about the conflict between hereditary chiefs and the Indian Act band council system in Trevor’s Vice article below.

Suggested resources for further learning: 
CRC resources for further learning:  


[Photo by Richard Main on Unsplash]

The Reformed family is a diverse family with a diverse range of opinions. Not all perspectives expressed on the blog represent the official positions of the Christian Reformed Church. Learn more about this blog, Reformed doctrines, and our diversity policy on our About page.

In order to steward ministry shares well, commenting isn’t available on Do Justice itself because we engage with comments and dialogue in other spaces. To comment on this post, please visit the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue’s Facebook page (for Canada-specific articles) or the Office of Social Justice’s Facebook page. Alternatively, please email us. We want to hear from you!

Read more about our comment policy.