In 1982, the Gitxsan Tribal Council initiated the formation of the Gitksan Carrier Education Society, now known as the Gitksan Wet’suwet’en Education Society (GWES) for two main reasons. First, Revenue Canada could not grant non-profit or charitable status to the Gitxsan Tribal Council because of the Council’s political nature. Second, GWES’ initial mandate was to deliver a four-year Native Teacher Education Degree Program in Hazelton. GWES’ long term goal was to fill at least half of the teaching positions available in the Hazeltons with Gitksan and Wet’suwet’en educators by the year 2000. Responding to these needs, the Gitksan Wet’suwet’en Education Society was incorporated as a non-profit, charitable status society on October 27, 1982.
The critical mandate for the Gitksan Wet’suwet’en Education Society was to reduce the demand on the Tribal Council for community and educational services, so that the Tribal Council could concentrate on Constitutional Issues, Comprehensive and Specific Claims, and Land Title Actions.
GWES has remained committed to working towards improving the educational and training outcomes of the populations they serve by delivering educational programming, implementing training initiatives, promoting self-reliance, and creating meaningful employment. As well, GWES is committed to the continued development and implementation of culturally relevant programs in areas such as Education, Social Services, Health, and Child Welfare.
Since its incorporation, GWES has managed and housed a number of services previously delivered by the Tribal Council and now delivered by other organizations, including: An Alternate School, Hazelton Youth Centre, Child Care Services, Medical and Mental Health Services, Community Awareness and Preventions Services (CAPS) and the Employment Services Office.
GWES has a long history of bringing a variety of education and training opportunities to the traditional territories such as: The Fisheries Technician Training Program, Carpentry Apprenticeship Training, Addictions Resource Worker Training, Gitksan and Wet’suwet’en School of Journalism, NITEP, Territory Management Training Program, Life Skills Training, Classroom Aide Training, Native Adult Instructor Diploma, Unlocking Aboriginal Justice (UAJ), Tribal Police, Reconnections, Gisega’as Youth Survival Cultural Camp, SMILES Summer Day Camp, SMILES HeadStart, Adult Dogwood Diploma Program, Blade Runners, Mining and Exploration Program, Security Guard Training, Welding Level 3, Business Administration Certificate and Diploma Programs, Licensed Practical Nursing, Health Care Assistant Program, Community Operations & Maintenance Training, and the Associate of Art Degree Program.
From its very first graduate, GWES has broadened its interests and mandate to address a variety of projects and programs to meet the needs within the area including those of non-Gitksan and Wet’suwet’en people.