On May 17, 2016 the Northern View published a story concerning a letter and press release issued by a group that called itself the Nine Tribes of Lax Kw’alaams. The letter, which was reproduced in its entirety and was signed by 11 people who described themselves as hereditary chiefs, matrons, elders and leaders, included certain allegations about Donald Wesley, one of the leaders of the action on Lelu Island. These claims included that Mr. Wesley was not a hereditary chief and has been falsely representing himself as one to the media, that he was not entitled to hold the hereditary title of Yahaan, and that he has disrespected the ayaawx or traditional Tsimshian law. Some of the allegations were repeated in a story published June 8, 2016.
The Northern View attempted to contact Mr. Wesley prior to the publication of the story on May 17. It was unable to do so, and published a story based solely on the material contained in the letter and the press release. The Northern View also reproduced the letter in question. Mr. Wesley has contacted the Northern View through his legal counsel and has advised as follows:
- He was recognized as a hereditary chief and was given the hereditary title Yahaan at a feast held in Lax Kw’alaams in October 2008.
- Three of the signatories of the letter, Donald Alexcee, George Bryant, and Jack White were in attendance at the feast and did not object to his receiving the title or being recognized as a hereditary chief.
- To Mr. Wesley’s knowledge, the Nine Tribes of Lax Kw’alaams is not an official body, and accordingly, its letter should not have been described by the Northern View as an “official document.”
The Northern View has not been able to independently verify either the claims of the signatories to the letter from the Nine Tribes of Lax Kw’alaams, or of Mr. Wesley. However, we regret not obtaining Mr. Wesley’s comments before publishing the story.