Secwepemc elder Wolverine calls for inquiry into 1995 Ts’Peten Standoff

TsPeten wolverine signs

Ts’Peten siege, 1995.  Secwepemc elder Wolverine in centre.

This letter by Wolverine is being sent to the Government today. He is calling for a national public inquiry into Gustafsen Lake. Please share his letter to the Government of Canada calling for a public inquiry.

Under Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, Canada’s largest paramilitary operation was carried out on the sacred Sundance lands at Ts’Peten in 1995. Armoured personnel carriers, .50 calibre machine guns, land mines, and an astonishing 77,000 rounds of ammunition were directed at the land defenders. A police note by Chief Superintendent Johnston stated: “There are 6 hardliners in the camp WHO WILL REQUIRE KILLING.”

Wolverine is a farmer, a former political prisoner, a warrior, a teacher, a great grandfather. I met him over a decade ago while organizing a conference when i was nineteen years old and he wanted to attend and speak. Since then, he has taught me about the Royal Proclamation, place names in his territory, Secwepemc history and a history of colonialism, stories of warriors and trickster stories since time immemorial. When i was living without full status, he welcomed me to his territory. When i was sick he sent for medicines from the north and the east. When we shut down the airport in a direct action to stop a deportation, he was the first person to call me and joked “Ah, you got them good this time.” He is fierce and generous and courageous and loving like few others.

As Wolverine is spending time recovering and healing, he is asking for support from all those touched by him, inspired by him, those who draw courage from him. For twenty years, the Ts’Peten Defenders have been calling for a national public inquiry. From Gustafsen to Kanesatake and Elsipogtog, state violence has been unleased on Indigenous peoples asserting inherent rights to protect their lands.

As Wolverine said yesterday “We cannot be afraid anymore, the time for this inquiry into Gustafsen Lake has come and to let the people know what happened to us and continues to happen to us.”

Harsha Walia, January 4, 2016

TEXT OF LETTER

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

The Honourable Jody Wilson
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

December 30, 2015

Dear Mr. Trudeau,

My name is Wolverine. I am also known as William Jones Ignace. I am an 83-year old father, grandfather and great grandfather, and an Elder of the Secwepemc nation in what is called British Columbia. I am a farmer. This past summer I cultivated 8 acres of organic food to nourish the people in my nation and other nations as well. I am a long time defender of the inherent jurisdiction of Indigenous peoples to steward our traditional homelands.

Today I am writing to you to request that you initiate a federal public inquiry into the events surrounding the month long standoff at Ts’Peten (Gustafsen Lake), British Columbia in 1995, an event which cast a deep shadow on the relationship between the Canadian government and Indigenous nations, which to this day has not been adequately investigated.

In 1995, after a long history of peaceful attempts to have Secwepemc sovereignty respected, Indigenous people from the Secewpemc nation and their supporters took a stand on sacred Sundance lands at Ts’Peten, aka Gustafsen Lake. The incident began after a local white rancher, Lyle James began demanding that the sacred Secwepemc Sundance Camp leave land to which he claimed ownership. Approximately 24 Sundancers set up camp to defend Ts’Peten. I was one of those people.

TsPeten RCMP APC 2

One of 9 Bison armoured personnel carriers supplied by the Canadian Forces to transport RCMP Emergency Response Units during the 1995 siege of Ts’Peten.

Beginning in August 1995, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) surrounded the Ts’Peten Defenders. Over the next month police, politicians, and media escalated the situation to make the siege the most expensive and largest domestic military operation in Canada’s history: armoured personnel carriers, .50 calibre machine guns, land mines, and an astonishing 77,000 rounds of ammunition were directed at the land defenders. In the course of the standoff, RCMP shot at unarmed people and at people in negotiated no-shoot zones. RCMP Superintendent Murray Johnston expressed the belief that a resolution to the standoff would “require the killing” of the defenders, including myself. Although this thankfully did not come to be, the unjust and violent actions carried out against the Secwepemc people during the siege remains strong in our memories to this day.

Despite the twenty years that have passed since the Ts’Peten standoff, the core issues that so forcefully clashed against each other remain at the forefront of the hearts and minds of Indigenous people. That is our right to self-determination, autonomy and protection from the dispossession of our lands and territories. According to the Royal Proclamation of 1763, Aboriginal Title to land exists inherently and will continue to exist until it has been ceded by treaty with the Crown. The land on which the Ts’Peten standoff occurred was, and remains to this day, unceded territory. The land at Ts’Peten was never handed over by the Secwepemc Nation to Canadian control through treaty or otherwise, and is therefore land that cannot have been sold to settlers by the Canadian or British Columbian governments. The use of Canadian paramilitary forces against the people of the Secwepemc nation asserting our inherent jurisdiction and title over our own territories therefore is a serious abrogation of the Nation to Nation relationship between the Canadian government and the Secwepemc Nation.

This abrogation has yet to be properly investigated, and remains one of the largest stains on relations between Indigenous nations and the Canadian state. A public federal inquiry is long overdue into the actions of the RCMP, the Canadian government and the provincial government of British Columbia.

TsPeten mercredi 2

Ts’Peten defenders meet with AFN national chief Ovide Mercredi during 1995 standoff.

In recent months, Mr. Trudeau, you have called for a renewed Nation to Nation relationship with Indigenous nations, promising a new era of recognition, rights, respect, cooperation and partnership, rooted in the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. According to that Declaration, Indigenous peoples have the right to be safe from being forcibly removed from their lands and territories. Even now, aggressive resource extraction and the destruction it inevitably brings regularly occurs on Indigenous lands without the consent of Indigenous peoples. Indigenous lands which, according to the very agreements that founded the nation of Canada, do not belong to Canada to be given away without the free prior and informed consent of the Indigenous people of those lands who never relinquished their rights. In order to build this Nation to Nation relationship, Indigenous peoples must know that they can continue to pursue peaceful processes for protecting their sovereignty, without the threat of state sanctioned violence being used against them. The use of police and RCMP intimidation and force as a method to settle land claims in favour of the Canadian national and provincial governments is antithetical to the creation of a healthy and just partnership between nations. If Indigenous people are prevented from asserting their rights to sovereignty, true reconciliation cannot occus.

The time has come to honour your commitment to Indigenous people, and to a reconciliation between our nations. An inquiry into the Ts’Peten standoff would demonstrate that the Canadian government is truly committed to a new era of respectful, Nation to Nation relationships in which the wrongs of the past are thoroughly understood and acknowledged, ensuring that threats, intimidation, defamation and force are never again used against Indigenous people in Canada.

With respect,
Wolverine, Wiliam Jones Ignace

 

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Posted on January 4, 2016, in State Security Forces, Warrior and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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