Reclamation of Governance: Short Film on Heiltsuk’s Constitution

Earlier this year, we witnessed the historic Big House opening on Heiltsuk territory. During a four day potlach ceremony,  totem poles were raised that tell the story of who the Heiltsuk are and where they are going. Guided by 14,000 years of history, ancestral laws, memory and tradition, the Heiltsuk are deeply committed to revitalizing their gwil’as – Indigenous laws – to assert  rights and Title to their territory.As part of that  reclamation process, the central BC coast Nation recently released the Heiltsuk Constitution. 

Chief Marilyn Slett explains, “The constitution, for me, is a reclamation of our Heiltsuk governance. It’s an exercise of decolonization:  putting out there for the world our Heiltsuk laws and constitution.” 

The Constitution defines Heiltsuk principles, morals, values, responsibilities and governance. Described as a living document, the Constitution includes Heiltsuk creation stories, homeland maps, membership rights, freedoms and responsibilities, lawmaking authorities, government structure and process, financial law, code of conduct, amendment process and giv’las – customary law. Community members describe the passing of the Constitution as a way to make concrete and permanent Heiltsuk jurisdiction over land and resources, along with all aspects of the Heiltsuk world. The Constitution puts into writing an inherited legacy of over 14,000 years of oral tradition and stewardship practices. .

In this stunning short film you can hear from community members and leaders about the process and meaning behind the creation and release of the Heiltsuk Constitution. Watch here:


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