WE HAVE NEVER BEEN IDLE AND WE KNOW WHAT WE WANTThe Territorial Authority
To All Take Notice:
From the true territorial authority of; the Tahltan, the Gitxsan, the Wet’suwet’en, the Haisla, the Tlingit, the Nisga’a, the Haida and the Tsimshian
We are the caretakers of our ancestor’s legacy. We hold personal responsibility for our people and the land they have lived on for over 10,000 years. We provide the moral structure and guidance for our children. We are our peoples supreme authority. We did not choose this role or run in an election. It was our mothers, aunties and grandmothers who decided as a group which one of their people would be the next holder of the supreme authority title. That is the way it has always been and that is what we want.
Each one of us are ultimately responsible for a well defined area of land and a group of people commonly referred to as a clan or a tribe, but that is too simple a term and does not provide enough context. We also belong to a larger group of the same clan within our own Nation. Unique among our people, we also belong to the same clans within other neighbouring nations.
During times of celebration, mourning and conflict we all join together with our fellow clan members and debate the issues or celebrate. When we enter the gathering we announce who we are, our ancestors, our lands, our stories of history and our direct and indirect lineage with the right to be the authority over our territories. Our stories tell of the past 10,000 years and link to each others authority stories. All those present hear and acknowledge the right of each others authority.
Territorial maps have been available to all the governmental bodies descended from Great Britain. The Canadian and British Columbian governments have had the details of our lands for over 100 years. Our ancestors, those whose legacy we are responsible for, made numerous trips to the government offices to engage in respectful debate, sharing openly all of our information and claims. What we want has not changed. It has not changed since our ancestor’s first recorded trip to Victoria in 1881 and to Ottawa in 1885, therefore no one should be able to claim they do not know what we want without being faced with derisive laughter.
A HISTORICAL PREAMBLE FOR CONTEXT AND FULL DISCLOSURE
When European and Russian traders arrived in our territories during the early years of the 1800’s we welcomed everyone and traded respectfully. We were shrewd traders and ensured we received the best return for our products. The most desired product at the time was Sea Otter Pelts. The Russians knew not to come south of the 55th Parallel as this was our land, protected by what they called a fierce and well organized society. Their documents of the time, supported by British and American claims, speak of 20,000 Tsimshian people living in the Port Simpson community alone. The American and the British did not claim land north of Victoria. Treaties were signed and agreements made which recognized the Indian lands of the Northwest Coast as being that of a sovereign people. This all changed in 1862 after the son in law of one of our respected elders, Tlingit Chief Shakes, staked a gold claim.
Buck (Alexander) Choquette discovered gold near the confluence of the Stikine and Anuk Rivers in 1861. When he registered this claim in Victoria, British Governor James Douglas declared in 1862, in contravention of previous agreements and treaties, the British owned all of Rupert’s land and the northwest coastal regions previously referred to as Oregon Country.
With the news of this Gold discovery, prospectors sailed north from California. Newspaper reports of the day detail the arrival of a ship in June 1862 with one person who had smallpox. Dr. Helmken was the British Government House Leader/Speaker and the Smallpox dilemma was discussed in detail. Helmken, who fifteen years earlier had contained a smallpox epidemic on board a ship to just one casualty by quarantining those affected, argued against assisting the Indian population in any manner. During the debates in the government house, which he led, Helmken argued against a hospital and any quarantine.
Outside of the government, as a doctor. he spread the disease by purposefully infecting as many Tsimshian and Haida peoples as he could. The ‘White’ inhabitants of Victoria received the vaccine which was developed 50 years earlier. Contrary to later claims, there was not a shortage of vaccine rather there was an abundance just for such a potential outbreak.
However Helmken, the most knowledgeable person, the most skilled individual to prevent the spread of such a contagion, purposefully spread the disease. He then, as government House leader, developed an order to evacuate all the Indian people by canoe to their home communities. He and others predicted all the Tsimshian and Haida would die, “only to be remembered in story”. Helmcken himself referred to the Haida in the most disparaging manner. The tragedy of this germ warfare was it was an almost exact replica of what happened to the Mayan people in South America. Although it can clearly be shown the Spaniards did not know their European diseases would have such a devastating impact, Dr. Helmcken, a full 350 years later knew exactly what would happen. It would not be a stretch to make a reasoned argument the British Government of 1862 determined, if they were to get clear uninhibited access to the gold they would have to get rid of the Tsimshian, Haida, Tlingit, Haisla, Tahltan and Nisga’a. A full 90% of the population was exterminated. People were buried one on top of the other, some still alive, dozens of burials everyday. The horror of the outbreak precipitated by Dr. Helmcken is unimaginable.
The success of this extermination was almost complete, yet, likely due to the strength of our ancestors and our longevity of surviving on our lands for over 10,000 years, within 25 years we were reorganized such that our high authority leaders reassembled and made a trip to Victoria to discuss our lands and their government and industrial occupations. While our communities were so weakened and in such distress, the British traders began surveying our lands and set up trading posts, whaling stations and canneries. With the loss of 90 percent of our families traditional methods of food gathering and sharing was much more difficult. Many of our people had no choice but to turn to food stuffs offered by the industrialists, primarily the Hudsons Bay Company.
On January 23, 1875, our claims to our lands were declared legitimate and accurate by both the Canadian Minister of Justice and the Governor General. Direct from a report from the Governor General of the same date;
"Considering then these several features of the case, that no surrender or cession of their territorial rights, whether the same be of a legal or equitable nature, has been ever executed by the Indian Tribes of the Province—that they allege that the reservations of land made by the Government for their use have been arbitrarily so made, and are totally inadequate to their support and requirements and without their assent—that they are not averse to hostilities in order to enforce rights which it is impossible to deny them, and that the Act under consideration not only ignores those rights, but expressly prohibits the Indians from enjoying the rights of recording or pre-empting land, except by consent of the Lieutenant-Governor; the undersigned feels that he cannot do otherwise than advise that the Act in question is objectionable as tending to deal with lands which are assumed to be the absolute property of the Province, an assumption which completely ignores as applicable to the Indians of British Columbia, the honor and good faith with which the Crown has in all other cases since its sovereignty of the territories in North America dealt with their various Indian tribes.
"The undersigned would also refer to the British North America Act, 1867, section 109, applicable to British Columbia, which enacts in effect that all lands belonging to the Province, shall belong to the Province, 'subject to any trust existing in respect thereof, and to any interest other than that of the Province in the same,'
That which has been ordinarily spoken of as the 'Indian title’ must of necessity consist of some species of interest in the lands of British Columbia.
If it is conceded that they have not a freehold in the soil, but that they have an usufruct, a right of occupation or possession of the same for their own use, then it would seem that these lands of British Columbia are subject, if not to a 'trust existing in respect thereof,' at least 'to an interest other than that of the Province alone.’
In 1876, Lord Dufferin visited Port Simpson and Metlakatla. On his return through Victoria he stated to the British Columbian Government;
We must all admit that the condition of the Indian question in British Columbia is not satisfactory. Most unfortunately, as I think, there has been an initial error ever since Sir James Douglas quitted office... of British Columbia neglecting to recognize what is known as Indian title.... I consider that our Indian fellow subjects are entitled to exactly the same civil rights under the laws as are possessed by the white population.
Lord Dufferin was relying on the Royal Proclamation of 1763 whereby the Crown of England exclaimed without exception, no Indian Lands were to be taken without an express purchase agreement.
It was not until 1881 when Peter O’Reilly came north to survey lands that actual reserves for the Tsimshian and Nisga’a were considered. Following his arrival our ancestors gathered and determined we would meet with the British and Canadian Governments.
In 1881 Chief Mountain led a delegation to Victoria. In 1883 our Tsimshian leaders wrote about a meeting with Indian Agent James MacKay stating
"He met us and listened kindly to our trouble, and said our claim was just. We said if he would go and lay it before the Government and get it settled, we should then be glad to have him come back. He went away and never came back, and we thought it was because he wished to carry out our wishes that he was not allowed to come back."
In 1885 Missionary Duncan took three of our Tsimshian leaders; John Tait, Edward Mathers and Herbert Wallace, to Ottawa and met with the Prime Minister of the day, John A McDonald. In January of 1887 our Chiefs representing the Nisga’a and Tsimshian travelled to Victoria to once again engage in respectful debate with Premier Smithe, Attorney General A.E.B. Davie and Provincial Secretary Dr. Israel Powell with Indian Commissioner Peter O’Reilly.
Nisga’a Chiefs Charles Barton and John Wesley were joined by Tsimshian Chiefs from Lax Kw’alaams, John Ryan and Richard Wilson. The Missionaries who attended with them to act as interpreters, Duncan, Green and Crosby, were denied access to the meeting.
Without interpreters or the independent Missionaries present, the Government representatives denied they had any claims to any lands and even denied the Proclamation of 1763 existed, telling them to go home and they would come to visit them shortly.
Our Chiefs informed the government the best time to meet with all the Chiefs was during our Oolichan harvest, in the early spring. They did not arrive. In the early summer of the same year, 1887, a survey crew led by Mr. Tuck arrived to map out reserves, which raised the ire of our leaders. In wasn’t until October when the Government commission finally arrived while many of our leaders were not present. In welcoming the Commissioners, those who were in Port Simpson stated;
“Now you have come, we ask you to be good enough to take time and listen to our wishes and hear the words of our chiefs, and we do hope that your visit will be the means of bringing peace and confidence to our hearts again. We welcome you to our village, and will do all we can to make your stay here pleasant and happy. And do not feel sorry if we have to say some words you do no like to hear.”
Later a letter from our Tsimshian chiefs who were not able to attend the meeting reacted to the Commissioners report on the meeting this way;
“We do not agree to those words, and the plan of the Government about our land. From what we have seen of it (the "Indian Act"), and the agents who carry it out, we believe we should be no better off than the worst heathen about us, as our chiefs pointed out to the Commissioners. What we want is a municipal law, backed by legal authority, without the bondage of being under a bad Indian Agent, who would take us backwards rather than forwards. We have only one way left, after our patient waiting and protesting against the surveys and the way our protests have been treated, and that is to follow our bretheren into Alaska.”
In 1908 our Tsimshian leaders again went to Ottawa and spoke with Prime Minister Laurier who claimed to be representing King Edward the VII and the Royal Proclamation. Like all other claims our chiefs acted and wrote respectfully;
To have pity on us — to listen to our humble pleading:
1. We beg of them to let us into possession of our forefather's land;
2. To claim it and have a right to own it;
3. To be at liberty to do or say anything over it as a free man;
4. That the law called the Indian Act to be taken away from us;
5. To be free under the Canadian and the British flag of Liberty.
In 1909 the Governor General Of Canada, Earl Grey arrived in Prince Rupert and stated we would be given our ancestors lands as we requested the previous year in Ottawa suggesting the pre-emption rights of 160 acres per person as was granted the white settlers as well as all civil rights of the white people be applied to the Indian peoples.
In 1910, James Tait assisted many of our people in making formal declarations of our ancestral rights and land ownership
In 1913 the Tsimshian from Hartley Bay wrote;
“We shall not consider or accept any offer from any one until our claim is settled by Justice. Our prayer is that our Title for our lands and unsurrendered lands be made clearer, recognized and acknowledged to us by both the Dominion and Provincial Governments, that is the vital point of our request or claim.
We have no new request or new thing to state before you, but the same old claim demanding our Title be settled by Justice.”
Signed Head Chief Ambrose Robinson
Chief Aleck Moody
Chief John Anderson
Chief Heber Clifton
By 1916 we organized into a united body of peoples demanding our rights to our lands, as well as the Royal Proclamation of 1763 by King George III, to be respected and honoured. Under the banner of the Allied Indian Tribes of BC we made presentations yet again to the McKenna McBride Commission among others. On December 6, 1917 we issued a statement after a special meeting at Spence’s Bridge which contained the following words;
“We are sure that the governments and a considerable number of white men have for many years had in their minds a guite wrong idea of the claims which we make, and the settlement which we desire. We do not want anything extravagant, and we do not want anything hurtful to the real interests of the white people. We want that our actual rights be determined and recognized. We want a settlement based upon justice. We want a full opportunity of making a future for ourselves. We want all this done in such a way that in the future we shall be able to live and work with the white people as our brothers and fellow citizens."
In 1919, after a request from the British Columbian Government for an explanation as to why we were opposed to the findings of the Royal Commission, the Allied Indian Tribes issued a statement from Vancouver, BC on November 12, 1919. (An entire transcript of this statement is attached below. Within this document is a full properly considered explanation of why for each citizen of our nation 160 acres should be set aside for our people.
Finally, in 1926 and 1927 a special joint committee was formed in Ottawa to discuss BC Indians Land Claims issues. The members of the House of Commons are said to have heckled the representatives of the Allied Indian Tribes, Haida Peter Kelly and from Squamish, Andrew Paull. The Department of Indian Affairs are also accused of withholding important information from the Parliamentarians.
Many people will be aware of the events that occurred following this presentation. In 1927 and throughout the following years, the government of Canada and British Columbia with the assistance of the Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Duncan Campbell Scott, wrote legislation prohibiting anyone from legally representing or raising funds to assist the Indian people. The organization of any group of Indians greater than 3 was prohibited.
The Governments of Canada and British Columbia simply did not want anyone telling the truth, nor did they want to hear it.
Scott also wrote the Residential Schools legislation, which acted more as a mop up operation for the failed extermination attempt of Dr. Helmcken. The ‘Schools’, by the official records identify a death rate of 50%. In some cases, as the records today demonstrate, our healthy children were put in room and indeed beds, next to sick children in a deliberate attempt to pass on any disease. Our languages and cultures were forcibly forbidden. Fifty to sixty years after the small pox epidemic of 1862 our people were regaining our strength and culture and the Canadian Government once again attempted to exterminate any and every part of our dignity and traditional territorial authority.
It would not be unfair to characterize this effort in the same manner as the Gold discovery in the Stikine Country in 1861. It was just prior to this offensive legislation the settlers and prospectors were making huge advances into our interior regions identifying the enormous available and marketable resources; at that time primarily our salmon and our forest lands. We were once again in the way and needed to be removed. And like the Sea Otters before, government supported traders and industrialists essentially exterminated these resources just as they attempted to exterminate us.
FROM THEN TO NOW - A SUMMARY FOR TODAY - HOW THINGS ARE
It has now been 85 years and nothing has changed regarding our claims. Our children were abducted and abused during the residential school era, which only recently ended, and our communities are still in a state of third world poverty.
This situation was deliberately caused by the British Columbian Government beginning with the genocidal actions of Dr. Helmcken after the discovery of gold in our territories and has continued for a full 150 years.
Today our territories are again found to contain large deposits of Gold. In fact the statements made by the prospectors and companies interested in mining our lands declare there is more gold identified in our territory than anywhere else on the globe. Of course there are also many other minerals and values identified as well as the access to the Port at Prince Rupert, Tsimshian Lands, for international trade with Asia.
It is not a surprise to our people then how the Government of Canada and British Columbia are attempting once again to delegitimize our rights to our territories.
As our young people rise up and claim they are “Idle No More” the government and media perpetuate a falsehood that we do not identify what it is we want. For 150 years we have always stated exactly what it is we want. And as you have read in the previous paragraphs we have never been Idle.
On October 22, 2012, our people arrived at the BC legislature to support the 5000 strong crowd who desired to assist in protecting the coastal waters of our territories. This was before the Hunger Strike of Teresa Spence and the Idle No More protest gatherings.
It is time for everyone; the governments with their Treaty Societies and Band Councils, to cease and desist their socially destructive practices against our people and our territorial authority.
The maps of our territories along with the legitimate and legal authority governing these lands is without question. Our Ancestors traditional and hereditary title still applies and those of us who have continued to carry the authority on behalf of all our people still demand the same requests be respected. It is recognized in law and it is recognized in moral authority.
Those who claim to represent our people by using the British system of governance such as Societies and Band Councils bring shame to our people. We understand these individuals are attempting to get a better life for themselves and their families but it is our authority, not theirs, to protect all the land and all the people, not for ourselves personally, but for all our people and for the children yet to be born. Since lawful representation of our people was made illegal in 1927 many of our own people have been tricked into betraying their own Nations; receiving doctorates and letters of recognition including awards, such as the recently granted ‘Queens Jubilee’, for their willingness to submit to an agreement without consulting us, the true authority passed down for thousands of years.
After the huge identified populations of our peoples were decimated by the inhumane actions of the traders and governments of the past, we find some of our own people are accepting monies from these same groups in an attempt to continue with the genocide and assimilation policies. They may have conceded, but we have not. We wish to bring them back into our clan families, back into our community. We cannot suffer much more loss to our population and many of those, who some consider traitors to the ancestors, are simply misguided and afraid.
This is a result of 150 years of oppression and suppression by the same governing bodies.
Many could potentially assist all of us with their experience and education. But we must work together on the foundation of our ancestral history.
So when someone attempts to claim we do not know what we want one can be assured we know exactly what we want.
Our maps clearly identify each of our respective territories, each represented by an ancestral claim, each belonging to a clan and each belonging to a Nation. None of these are represented by a reserve village or a band council. The demand is quite simple, recognition and respect for our titles and land claims. We recognize the authority of our neighbours claims, our neighbours for 10,000 years, it is time the Canadian Governments also recognized our claims. After advising the governments in precise detail for 150 years what these claims are, and having these claims acknowledged by many representatives of the Crown during this time, we expect our request to be fully acknowledged today as well.
WHERE WE GO FROM HERE
As Nations we will stand together as one and demand our territories and peoples be respected as being our ancestral responsibility.
As the Statement in 1919 determined a pre-emption claim of 160 acres per person is no longer a starting point for the redress of the wrongs. In 1862 a land settlement of 160 acres per person might have been acceptable, we had a population likely in the range of 50,000 and maybe even a multiple of that. We do not know for any certainty, we just have the figures for Port Simpson estimated at that one community at 20,000.
After the genocidal actions of Dr. Helmcken and the actions of the enforced Residential School system of assimilation, which followed our proper claims of the Allied Indian Tribes, we must sit and determine a proper and fair resolution.
This can only be achieved by negotiating with the true representatives of our people. The Gitxsan, Tsimshian, Tahltan and Haisla can jointly assure the authority of those who are speaking for the true representatives of each respective nation. Each Nation hereby recognizes the true representative government of their neighbouring Nation. This is an Internationally recognized manner to determine who is the true government of any nation.
Therefore we demand the Canadians Governments and their associated organizations cease their funding of and negotiations with the various organizations improperly claiming to represent our people.
After the Canadian Government acknowledged the wrongs committed with the apology delivered by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the responsible and correct course of action would be to acknowledge also, the correct traditional authority the Canadian government actively undermined.
Therefore, hereby Take Notice; Any agreement signed regarding any activity on any of our nations territories is illegitimate without the collective approval of all our Nations True Hereditary leaders.
And further Take Notice; The determination of ‘True’ Hereditary Leadership requires the acknowledgement by feasting with each of our neighbouring Nations and Clans just as it has always been for 10,000 years.
We of the Tahltan, the Gitxsan, the Wet’suwet’en, the Haisla, the Tlingit, the Nisga’a, the Haida and the Tsimshian have a common ancestry and a common government structure;
1) Hereditary governance of each nation is a Crest authority derived through a matrilineal bloodline authorized and approved by those nations’ matriarchs.
2) Each Nation has common Crest groups, each distinct, one from the other.
3) Traditional Feasts establish the authority of Clan Chiefs or headmen.
4) Hereditary law was and remains suppressed yet is the only true and legitimate authority.
Note how none of the above includes anything referencing an election or a society. That is British law not our law. Welcome to our territory but do not disrespect our laws and our supreme authority over our lands. Agreements made without our assent are void of all validity.
This Notice was produced from a compilation of information provided by, and is authorized by, over one hundred Hereditary Chiefs, Matriarchs and Elders from all our Nations.