REPORTING · 26th February 2012
Trustee Lynn Newbery gave a quick report at the School Board Meeting on Wednesday, February 22nd. She explained it was difficult to do this during the conflict which was going on in the school district but this was a story of conflict as well.
She said one of her goals was to help the trustees understand the Hazelton and Kitwanga communities better. She wished to share a piece of history from the 1860, when gold was discovered in the Omineca.
“Hazelton was a very important place in those years because that was one of the main access routes to the gold. People came to Hazelton to form pack trains led by very famous cattlemen to get into the Omineca,” said Newbery.
In 1872, a group of miners camped outside Gitsagukla and burned the community to the ground after being careless with their campfire. The Gitxsan, believing that when something happens, there has to be a public apology and compensation. When this did not happen, they blockaded the Skeena River with their canoes, lashed together.
This brought the land commissioner of the day up from Victoria to settle. He met with the chiefs and negotiated a settlement. The blockade ended.
“The point to telling you this story tonight is that there are proposals for major economic developments going on in this area and our communities are taking differing positions on those proposals. My concern is, as the debate goes on, that we are respectful on each position and that we try to understand where these positions come from,” said Newbery.
She expressed the Gitxsan have experienced people coming into their territory for extraction and transportation of resources, though the outcome has not always been a happy one. Land is life and the Gitxsan word for land means to reach in and grab the handle of life.
“I believe all the First Nations People in this area have a similar understanding about the importance of land to life here,” concluded Newbery.
She promised another story on time for another time.