07/20/2012 11:24 EDT | Updated 09/19/2012 05:12 EDT

Majority of chiefs support Gitxsan Treaty Society, but one faction breaks away

GITSEGUKLA, B.C. - The Gitxsan Treaty Society says it is alive and well, and has a renewed mandate from its members, but deep divisions in the northwestern B.C. First Nation remain unhealed.

After three days of meetings, several of the 64 Gitxsan house groups refuse to support the society, which negotiates with the B.C. Treaty Commission, provincial and federal governments on behalf of the roughly 5,000 members of the First Nation.

The Gitxsan Unity Movement, which led a recently-ended six-month blockade of the society's office in Hazelton, 70 kilometres north of Smithers, says 15 chiefs and their house group territories have broken away.

But spokeswoman Bev Clifton Percival say a majority of Gitxsan hereditary chiefs confirmed their support during meetings this week, and will continue to back the society's board of directors in dealings with the Crown.

Percival says more than 30 Gitxsan houses have also appointed a representative to the society and until the new membership list is approved by the courts, the current board will remain.

Treaty society directors have been criticized for acting without support from the Gitxsan people, and anger erupted last year when one director announced support for the Enbridge (TSX:ENB) Northern Gateway project — although backing for the proposed oil pipeline across northern B.C. was quickly withdrawn. (CFTK, The Canadian Press)