NEWS RELEASE · 6th July 2010
Simpcw First Nation
A commitment by the Haida Nation to raise a new totem pole in Jasper is seen by the Simpcw First Nation as an infringement on its aboriginal title and rights in the Jasper area. Parks Canada plans to raise the Haida pole to replace an older Haida pole, the so- called “Raven pole”, that was place in Jasper by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway in 1914. The federal government recently decided to repatriate the Raven pole to the Haida Nation, and to replace it with a new Haida pole.
Jasper National Park is part of the traditional territory of the Simpcw First Nation, a division of the Secwepemc (Shuswap) Nation of the BC Interior, but the Simpcw were never consulted either about the raising of the original Raven pole, or the new Haida pole that is to be raised in Jasper.
Traditionally totem poles have been important symbols of First Nations sovereignty on the West Coast, but they are not part of the cultural traditions of Simpcw First Nation. The raising of a Haida pole in Simpcw territory without seeking Simpcw permission is therefore seen by the Simpcw as offensive to their aboriginal title.
In a letter to Guujaaw, President of the Haida Nation, Chief Keith Matthew of Simpcw First Nation points out that Parks Canada officials, speaking on behalf of the federal government, have told Simpcw First Nation that its aboriginal title was extinguished by the creation of Jasper National Park in the early 1900’s.
This is in direct contradiction to Simpcw oral traditions and archaeological research findings that clearly show that the Jasper area is part of Simpcw traditional territory.
“It is unfortunate that the Haida Nation will be used as pawns against us … by a federal government that will stop at nothing in trying to manipulate history to suit their illegal actions,” stated Chief Matthew.
To underscore this point, representatives of Simpcw First Nation have committed to go Jasper to publicly voice their opposition to the raising of the Haida pole in their territory and to re-affirm their aboriginal title over Jasper National Park, should an attempt be made to raise a Haida totem pole there.
In the interim Chief Matthew is undertaking efforts to negotiate a peaceful solution to this conflict directly with Haida Nation leaders, and with Parks Canada.