Tell the truth. Hold conferences in good faith. Exonerate “The Chilcotin Chiefs.”
I am writing to correct some factual errors and misleading inferences contained in a Dec. 20th Globe and Mail article, “Chief executed in 1864 grouped in with the wrong crowd.” And to offer some constructive suggestions. Alas, it seems rather it is your writer who has grouped with the wrong crowd. Namely, those who deny Canada’s colonial legacy and then distort the record regarding the indigenous experience. Why otherwise would The Globe and Mail so gratuitously and callously denigrate the Tsilhqot’in People’s proud history of its noble and far-sighted heroes for so little effect?
During the recent Prosperity Mine hearings in British Columbia, an indigenous spiritual leader, Cecil Grinder, appeared with a painted face. What should one read into this body language? Did he mean to strike the fear of violence into non-indigenous hearts?
During the Oct. 26 Lhatsassin Memorial Day ceremonies at Puntzi Lake, Chief Byron Louis of the Okanagan First Nation presented the Tsilhqot’in with a golden eagle’s feather. This feather symbolizes the ongoing continent-wide struggle to have Canada honour with good faith both its treaties with the indigenous Peoples and its own constitutional recognition of indigenous rights.
In October 1864 the Colony of British Columbia martyred five “Chilcotin Chiefs.” One hour before sunrise on Oct. 26, with a crowd of 250 gathered to pay witness, the Crown hung these defenders of the Indigenous laws on a scaffold provocatively placed in a native graveyard. This event remains one of the most dramatic moments in the history of Canada’s relationship with the Indigenous Peoples. Oct. 26 is now a national day of remembrance for the Tsilhqot’in People. This year’s formal ceremony will be held at Puntzi Lake, near a key site in the events leading toward the martyrdom. How is Puntzi Lake connected to the eventual hanging of “The Chilcotin Chiefs?”
Since the Tsilhqot’in People have never surrendered their sovereign control to Canada through some constitutional means, Canada can again only pretend to the necessary moral authority to license the mine. Anyone who asserts otherwise must show the process of constitutional change that gave Canada its supposed legitimate sovereign authority. Can any social entity gain legitimate authority over another through ethnic cleansing or genocide? Canadians would no more accept a new regime as a legitimate authority if it were to overthrow the Canadian constitution in the same manner as the Tsilhqot’in regime was displaced.