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Why The Wet’suwet’en Matriarchs Are Chatelaine Women Of The Year

The Wet’suwet’en matriarchs are Women of the Year for standing up for unceded lands. Here, matriarch Freda Huson shares her own highlight from this highly eventful year.

An illustration of Wet'sewet'en matriarchs Freda Huson, Brenda Michell and Dr. Karla Tait

Freda Huson (middle) was arrested alongside two other matriarchs, Brenda Michell (top right) and Dr. Karla Tait (bottom left) on unceded land earlier this year. (Illustration: Stefanie Wong)

Over several days in February 2020, as red dresses swung from trees to honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, a group of incredible women of all ages from the Wet’suwet’en nation drummed, sang and stood in the way of Coastal GasLink’s attempt to install a gas pipeline on unceded lands. The RCMP eventually arrested seven of those women in front of the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre for occupying the access gate to work sites. The arrests prompted Canada-wide solidarity actions.

What matriarch Freda Huson is proudest of this year

“No matter how much you tried to roadblock us, we have so much determination. We know police and security follow us around on our lands when we’re trying to teach people how to harvest medicine and how to trap. What keeps driving us is our children. That’s who we’re doing it for, and if we don’t do it, nobody’s gonna do it, and we’ll lose our culture. We don’t want them telling ‘used to be’ stories, we want them to continue teaching their children and grandchildren to be raised on the land.

Other mines have destroyed land areas, and our coastal waters are so poisoned that if you harvest a moose [that drank from the waters], you’ll be sick. We’re trying to protect the wildlife we depend on.

We’ve raised a lot of global awareness because more and more Indigenous people are starting to stand up for the land. They think that if we could do it, they can do it, and that’s inspiring to see.”

Meet all of our 2020 Women of the Year here