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This page is for the people. For the language they speak, see Babine-Witsuwitʼen language.
Moricetown Canyon Rapids.jpg
Total population
3,443 (2020)
Regions with significant populations
Canada (British Columbia)
English, Babine-Witsuwitʼen
Christianity, traditional beliefs
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 (Bulkley River)".[1]

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 been lost.[2] The neighbouring Gitxsan people of the Hazelton area have a similar tale, though the village in their version is named Dimlahamid (Temlahan).[3][4]

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).[citation needed] The Office of the Hereditary Chiefs is the main political body of the Wetʼsuwetʼen. Each band has its own elected band council.

Today's Wetʼsuwetʼen First Nations[edit]

Carrier Sekani Tribal Council[5]

  • 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[6] (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[7] (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 where 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[edit]


Witsuwitʼen is the correct spelling in the writing system in general use.[citation needed] 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.


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 55°15′00″N 127°40′00″W / 55.25000°N 127.66667°W / 55.25000; -127.66667