This page is for the people. For the language they speak, see Babine-Witsuwitʼen language.
Moricetown Canyon Rapids
Total population
2,447 (2001)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Canada (British Columbia)
English, Babine-Witsuwitʼen
Christianity, traditional beliefs
Hagwilget First Bridge
The Wetʼsuwetʼen's bridge across the Bulkley River, Hagwilget, 1872

Wetʼsuwetʼen (also rendered Hwotsotenne, Witsuwitʼen, Wetsuwetʼen, Wetsʼuwetʼen) are a First Nations people who live on the Bulkley River and around Burns Lake, Broman Lake, and Francois Lake in the northwestern Central Interior of British Columbia. The name they call themselves, Wetʼsuwetʼen, means "People of the Wa Dzun Kwuh River or Bulkley River".[2]

The Wetʼsuwetʼen are a branch of the Dakelh or Carrier people, and in combination with the Babine people have been referred to as the Western Carrier. They speak Witsuwitʼen, a dialect of the Babine-Witsuwitʼen language which, like its sister language Carrier, is a member of the Athabaskan family.

Their oral history, called kungax, recounts that their ancestral village, Dizkle or Dzilke, once stood upstream from the Bulkley Canyon. This cluster of cedar houses on both sides of the river was said to be abandoned because of an omen of impending disaster. The exact location of the village has not yet been discovered.[3] The neighbouring Gitxsan people of the Hazelton area have a similar tale, though the village in their version is named Dimlahamid (Temlahan).[4][5]

The traditional government of the Wetʼsuwetʼen comprises 13 hereditary chiefs, organized today as the Office of the Hereditary Chiefs of the Wetʼsuwetʼen, or the Office of the Wetʼsuwetʼen in BC government terminology (the government does not recognize their hereditary rights). The Office of the Hereditary Chiefs is the main political body of the Wetʼsuwetʼen and is involved in the negotiating process for an eventual treaty with the British Columbia government. In the past, they were co-complainants in the Delgamuukw v. British Columbia case, which sought to establish recognition of the hereditary territorial rights of the Gitxsan and Wetʼsuwetʼen Confederacy.[6]

Like most of the First Nations peoples of BC they have never signed a formal treaty and are in the process of negotiating a treaty now.[7]

Today's Wetʼsuwetʼen First Nations

Carrier Sekani Tribal Council[8]

  • Wetʼsuwetʼen First Nation (formerly known as Broman Lake Band or Broman Indian Lake Band, located outside of Burns Lake in the central interior of British Columbia. The main community is on Palling I.R. No. 1., The Wetʼsuwetʼen First Nation was formerly part of the Omineca Band. In 1984 the Omineca Band split into the Broman Lake and Nee-Tahi-Buhn bands. The Skin Tayi band later split off from Nee-Tahi-Buhn, Reserves: Duncan Lake #2, Felix George #7, Foxy Creek #6, Gaichbin #8, Klagookchew #9, Maxan Creek #5, Maxan Lake #3, #4, Palling #1, Tatla West #11, Tsichgass #10, Population: 150)

Independent First Nations

  • Hagwilget Village First Nation[9] (Pronunciation: 'hag-will-git', located in the village of Tse-kya meaning "base of rock", Hagwilget - "place of the gentle or quiet people", as its known in Gitxsan, is located on east side of the Bulkley Canyon, near Hazelton) in central British Columbia about 325 km inland from the coast, Reserves: Bulkley #1, Hagwilget #1, ca. 1,6 km², Population: 724)
  • Moricetown Indian Band[10] (also known as Moricetown Band, is located in Moricetown, British Columbia, formerly known as Kyah Wiget or "Old town", was at the falls of the Bulkley River were Moricetown is now, was the main village for the Bulkley River Carriers, 30 km west of Smithers and 32 km east of New Hazelton, BC, Reserves: Babine #17, #18, Bulkley River #19, Coryatsaqua (Moricetown) #2, Jean Baptiste #28, Moricetown #1, Oschawwinna #3, ca. 14 km², Population: 1,919)
  • Nee-Tahi-Buhn Band (Pronunciation: 'knee-tie-boon', Nee-Tahi-Buhn is the name for François Lake, and means "it fills at one end and empties at the other", therefore formerly called François Lake Tribe, In 1960 the Decker Lake, François Lake, Maxim Lake and Skin Tyee Bands merged to form the Omineca Band. In 1984 the Omineca Band divided into the Nee-Tahi-Buhn and Broman Lake Bands. In 2000 the Skin Tyee Band separated from the Nee Tahi Buhn Band, Reserves: Eastern Island #13, François Lake #7, Isaac (Gale Lake) #8, Omineca #1, Uncha Lake #13A, ca. 3,2 km², Population: 137)
  • Skin Tyee First Nation (Pronunciation: 'skin tye-ee', also known as the Skin Tyee Indian Band, located in the Central Interior of British Columbia near François Lake, in the Omineca Country to the west of the City of Prince George, Reserves: Skins Lake #15, #16A, #16B, Tatlaʼt East #2, Uncha Lake #13A, Western Island #14, ca. 4 km², Population: 166)


There are five Wetʼsuwetʼen clans:

  • Gilseyhu (Big Frog)
  • Laksilyu (Small Frog)
  • Gitdumden (Wolf/Bear), also spelt Gitumden
  • Laksamshu (Fireweed)
  • Tsayu (Beaver clan)

See also


Witsuwitʼen is the correct spelling in the writing system in general use. In non-technical publications it is usually misspelled as Witsʼuwitʼen, Witʼsuwitʼen, Wetsʼuwetʼen, or Wetʼsuwetʼen due to the difficulty of distinguishing glottalized [ts] from plain [ts] and official spellings with <tsʼ> and <tʼs> in the name of the Wetʼsuwetʼen First Nation and the Office of the Wetʼsuwetʼen. In point of fact the [ts] is not glottalized. Older spellings include Hotsotʼen and Hwotsotʼen. Whutsowhutʼen is the Carrier name in the Carrier Linguistic Committee writing system in general use for that language. In the feast hall they work as four clans with the Tsayu (Beaver) and Laksamshu (Fireweed) working together.


  1. ^ "Office of the Wetʼsuwetʼen". Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation. Archived from the original on 2006-04-27. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  2. ^ A History of the Wetʼsuwetʼen Village of Tse-kya
  3. ^ [1] See also Rocher Déboulé Range.
  4. ^ [Death Feast at Dimlahamid, Terry Glavin]
  5. ^ [The Downfall of Temlahan, Marius Barbeau]
  6. ^ [Death Feast at Dimlahamid, Terry Glavin]
  7. ^ BC Treaty Net page
  8. ^ The Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Society (CSTC)
  9. ^ Hagwilget Village First Nation
  10. ^ Moricetown Indian Band

External links

Babine-Witsuwitʼen language

Babine–Witsuwitʼen or Nadotʼen-Wets'uwetʼen is an Athabaskan language spoken in the Central Interior of British Columbia. Its closest relative is Carrier. Because of this linguistic relationship together with political and cultural ties, Babine–Witsuwitʼen is often referred to as Northern Carrier or Western Carrier. Specialist opinion is, however, that it should be considered a separate, though related, language (Kari 1975, Story 1984, Kari and Hargus 1989).A term used briefly in the 1990s is Bulkley Valley – Lakes District Language, abbreviated BVLD. Ethnologue uses the bare name Babine for the language as a whole, not just for the Babine dialect.As its name suggests, Babine–Witsuwitʼen consists of two main dialects, Babine (Nedut'en) and Witsuwitʼen. Babine is spoken around Babine Lake, Trembleur Lake, and Takla Lake. Witsuwitʼen is spoken in the Bulkley Valley, around Broman Lake, and in the vicinity of Skins Lake. The two dialects are very similar and are distinguished primarily by the fact that in Babine but not in Witsuwitʼen the Athabaskan front velar series have become palatal affricates.

Like most languages native to British Columbia, Babine–Witsuwitʼen is an endangered language. It is spoken by a minority of the population, primarily elders. There are 161 fluent and 159 partial speakers of the Babine dialect and 131 fluent and 61 partial speakers of the Witsuwitʼen dialect. At most, a handful of children are still speaking the language.

Burns Lake

Burns Lake is a rural village in the North-Central Interior of British Columbia, Canada, incorporated in 1923. The village has a population of 1,779 according to the 2016 Census.The Village is renowned for its rich First Nations heritage, and for its extensive network of mountain biking trails, which have received international acclaim by becoming Canada's first IMBA Ride Centre. In winter, cross country skiing trails and snowmobile wilderness trails are created. Burns Lake is located in the midst of a large networks of lakes called the Lakes District, with fishing and hunting year round, and water activities in the summer months.

There are two First Nations reserves that are part of the town, and another four nearby, making it one of the few communities in the province that have almost equal populations of persons of native or European descent. Local nations include Wetʼsuwetʼen First Nation, Lake Babine Nation, Cheslatta Band, Ts'il Kaz Koh First Nation, Skin Tyee band and Nee Tahi Buhn band.

The town serves as a hub for the local logging, saw-milling, mining and tourist industries. It also serves as the main commercial centre for the surrounding area including François Lake, Colleymount, Grassy Plains, Rose Lake, Topley, and Granisle. There are three pubs, many cafes and restaurants a selection of stores and services, numerous hotels and motels, a library and a hospital. It is also the location of the head offices of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako.


Gitxsan (also spelled Gitksan) are an indigenous people of Canada whose home territory comprises most of the area known as the Skeena Country in English (Git: means "people of" and Xsan: means "the River of Mist"). Gitksan territory encompasses approximately 53,000 km2 (20,000 sq mi) of land, from the basin of the upper Skeena River from about Legate Creek to the Skeena's headwaters and its surrounding tributaries. Part of the Tsimshianic language group, their culture is considered to be part of the civilization of the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast, although their territory lies in the Interior rather than on the Coast. They were at one time also known as the Interior Tsimshian, a term which also included the Nisga'a, the Gitxsan's neighbours to the north. Their neighbours to the west are the Tsimshian (a.k.a. the Coast Tsimshian) while to the east the Wetʼsuwetʼen, an Athapaskan people, with whom they have a long and deep relationship and shared political and cultural community.

Hazelton, British Columbia

Hazelton is a village located at the junction of the Bulkley and Skeena Rivers in northern British Columbia, Canada. It was founded in 1866 and has a population of 305 (2011). The nearby larger community of New Hazelton is the northernmost point of the Yellowhead Highway, a major interprovincial highway which runs from Prince Rupert, British Columbia to Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.

The Hazelton area comprises two municipalities (the Village of Hazelton and District of New Hazelton), three unincorporated settlements (South Hazelton, Two Mile and the Kispiox Valley), four First Nations’ villages: three of which are of the Gitxsan people (Gitanmaax, Glen Vowell and Kispiox) and one of the Wetʼsuwetʼen people - (Hagwilget).

Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast

The Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast are composed of many nations and tribal affiliations, each with distinctive cultural and political identities, but they share certain beliefs, traditions and practices, such as the centrality of salmon as a resource and spiritual symbol, and many cultivation and subsistence practices. The term Northwest Coast or North West Coast is used in anthropology to refer to the groups of Indigenous people residing along the coast of British Columbia, Washington state, parts of Alaska, Oregon, and northern California. The term Pacific Northwest is largely used in the American context.

At one point the region had the highest population density of a region inhabited by Indigenous peoples in Canada.

Office of the Hereditary Chiefs of the Wetʼsuwetʼen

Office of the Wetʼsuwetʼen is a political organization represented the hereditary chieftaincies of the Wetʼsuwetʼen people, based in the British Columbia Interior near Hazelton, British Columbia, Canada. Also known as the Office of the Hereditary Chiefs of the Wetʼsuwetʼen, it takes part in the BC Treaty Process through the two Indian Act band governments which contain the 13 hereditary chieftaincies. Often referred to as a tribal council, it is actually a traditional-governance organization.

Unistʼotʼen Camp

The Unisʼtotʼen cabin and resistance camp is a reoccupation of the traditional, unceded territory of the Wetʼsuwetʼen First Nation. The camp was set-up in 2010 as a means to block access to Wetʼsuwetʼen territory by pipeline corporations and other resources extraction industries that do not have permission to access the land. Members of the Wetʼsuwetʼen First Nation feel they have a sacred duty to protect the land from harm and preserve it for future generations. The camp started in 2012. Located 1200 km (740 mi) by road from Vancouver, BC and about 130 km from the town of Smithers, it is on the shores of the Wedzin Kwah and mouth of the Gosnell Creek. These are all tributary to the Skeena, Bulkley, and Babine Rivers. Members of the Unisʼtotʼen clan, First Nations peoples, and other supporters staff the camp is staffed . Power is generated by a solar array. Water is supplied by the Morris River.

Wetʼsuwetʼen First Nation

The Wetʼsuwetʼen First Nation is a First Nations band located outside of the village of Burns Lake, British Columbia, Canada. It was formerly known as the Broman Lake Indian Band and is still usually referred to as Broman Lake although this is no longer its official name. Its members speak the Wetʼsuwetʼen dialect of Babine-Witsuwitʼen, a Northern Athabaskan language.

The main community is on Palling Indian Reserve No. 1.

As of March 2017, the Nation had 257 registered members, with 85 members living on the First Nation's own reserve. As of February 2013, the Nation had approximately 234 registered members, with 123 members living on reserve.The Nation is a member of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council and of the Broman Lake Development Corporation.

The Wetʼsuwetʼen First Nation was formerly part of the Omineca Band. In 1984 the Omineca Band split into the Broman Lake and Nee-Tahi-Buhn bands. The Skin Tayi band later split off from Nee-Tahi-Buhn.

The Unistʼotʼen Clan has had a checkpoint for the last half decade, the Unistʼotʼen Camp, which has been stopping all pipeline crews from entering the Yintah since they do not have permission from the hereditary chiefs, who are represented by their spokesperson Freda Huson.

Other Wetʼsuwetʼen tribes include the Burns Lake Indian Band, Hagwilget Village First Nation, and Moricetown.

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