Wet'suwet'en Social Structure
Matrilineage (following the mother’s side of the family), clearly places every Wet’suwet’en person within a house and clan. As a member of this group the actions of each individual affect the house to which they belong.
Second highest titles are those of thirteen sub chiefs who have important responsibilities for the administration of discreet parts of their house’s territory. These Subs Chiefs also assist in the decision making processes used to govern the welfare of the House Members.
The highest Hereditary titles in the Wet’suwet’en Nation are the twelve House Chiefs. These Chiefs take care of the fishing sites at the summer village and distinct tracts of the territory for their clan members.
A clan is a group of people belonging to a particular Tribe or House to identify families and territories.There are five Wet’suwet’en clans:
- Gilseyhu (Big Frog)
- Laksilyu (Small Frog)
- Gitdumden (Wolf/Bear)
- Laksamshu (Fireweed)
- Tsayu (Beaver clan)
In the feast hall they operate as four with the Laksamshu and Tsayu clans working together.
In terms of kinship, a House is a matrilineage of people so closely related that the members know how they are related. In other words, one’s closest relatives on one’s mother’s side are in one’s own house.When the houses existed as physical structures, the feasts took place in front of the house. The feasts drew together the members of the house and clan who lived in the house as well as those who lived with their husband’s houses. In the same way, the feast held in the community hall today separate people by house and clan before conducting business.Today, none of these physical houses are standing, but the concept of the house persists because the matrilines still exist and because each house has titles and territories associated with it which continues to be used and recognized today.The highest hereditary titles among the Wet’suwet’en are the twelve house chiefs. These twelve house chiefs own both fishing sites and distinct tracts of territory. The second highest titles or feast names are those of the twelve sub-chiefs who have important responsibilities for the administration of discreet parts of their house’s territory.