COMMENTARY · 29th April 2012
OR - WHAT REALLY HAPPENED TO TREATY MAKING?
UPDATE: Constitution and Tsimshian book attached below
Treaty negotiations? How can one rightly conduct any personal or business affairs with a completely untrustworthy, deceitful counterpart? The first rule in negotiations is – Do you trust the other party? If you do not then proceeding is foolhardy at best.
What is detailed below is an account of trickery and deceit. It is a long history of Indians proving to be competent and worthy negotiators followed by the implementation of measures, which drove the Indians into the cruelest of hardship. It continues today with the most recent developments including the proposed industrial developments and the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. Accept or starve.
Today two Tsimshian Reserve Villages; Kitsumkalum and Kitselas, are pretending to conduct honest and open treaty negotiations on behalf of their Tsimshian Reserve Village membership. The current round is neither open nor honest and these affairs truly never have been. How these elected Band Councils can pretend to believe they have the authority to make permanent decisions regarding historical Hereditary National Tsimshian lands is indeed a flam and a sham. How can the other Tsimshian stand by and watch this foolhardy game?
One does not have to go very far back in history to see where it all began. Just before the year 1900, after decades of trading with the Hudson Bay Company and signing deals with the Queen of England, the Tsimshian and Nisga’a both complained in Victoria about the improper intrusion into their territories. All Northwest Nations people refused surveyors access onto their lands to make boundaries firmly stating it was their land.
The skill and knowledge of the Tsimshian and Nisga’a Chiefs is well documented. In the late 1880’s they are recorded as having presented their territorial rights case with “eloquence and dignity” explaining how they had never given up their land. They referred to the Queen and the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the representations made to them by Governor (then Premier) Douglas. These claims were met with legal terms and bafflegab much like what is being employed today.
In an attempt to undermine the authority and strength of the Indian Chiefs, the Provincial Government using the evidence of Missionary William Duncan, made the Potlatch a criminal illegal activity.
In 1909 an organization of Chiefs from the Tsimshian, Nisga’a, Gitxsan and others was formed called the Indian Tribes of BC. The foundation of this new organization was the Nisga’a “Land Committee”. All of the new Indian political organizations were formed specifically to deal with the ownership of their lands. From the Tahltan territories through to the Southern tribes, declarations of ownership were made and signed. Delegations of Chiefs traveled to Victoria and Ottawa to demonstrate their collective and united position on this single issue.
The Interior Nations first referred to themselves as the Indian Rights Association. In 1916, now calling themselves the Interior Tribes of BC joined with the Indian Tribes of BC from the Northwest region into a single united group called the Allied Indian Tribes of British Columbia. And again, this was for the single specific purpose of pursuing and settling the land claims issues.
In 1926, after struggling to communicate over the vast distances and to stay united two leaders, a Haida man, Peter Kelly and a Squamish man, Andrew Paull, were able to force the Federal Government to address their concerns. A Special Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons was formed to inquire into the Allied Indian Tribes of BC’s land claims.
The result of this special committee was to formally declare; any land claims, any fund raising to pursue land claims and any legal representation for Indians in any land claims, an illegal activity. The Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs at the time, Duncan Campbell Scott, wrote this legislation. He was also responsible for the residential school legislation.
After the attempt by the Allied Indian Tribes of BC to legitimately pursue land claims Scott had the anti potlatch law changed from a criminal charge to a summary charge which meant an Indian agent could arrest and convict on the spot, no need for courts and trials, just jails.
The Allied Indian Tribes of BC then ceased to exist and the Provincial government began to enforce the anti potlatch laws with new vigor while taking the children away from the parents with the assistance of RCMP gun boats.
Not to be stopped only five years later, in 1931, the Native Brotherhood of British Columbia was formed to represent the entire Northwest Coast of BC. Peter Kelly again was one of the founding members and a different Haida, Alfred Adams, originated the organization. Various chapters were set up to represent the different Nation groups.
In 1942 Andrew Paull, a professed Roman Catholic, joined again and became involved as their business agent but moved to Vancouver to set up his office.
The next year, in 1943, Paull set up another organization called The North American Indian Brotherhood while acting as the business agent for the Native Brotherhood. Shortly afterwards, 1944, he was suspended as the business agent for the Native Brotherhood and he quit it altogether and took his new organization to Kamloops. Guy Williams, a Haida, became the new business agent for the Native Brotherhood.
Although the names are similar (and it might be easy to become confused), the Native Brotherhood of BC (NBBC) and the North American Indian Brotherhood (NAIB) were clear adversaries. The NAIB was made up of primarily Catholics and they frequently invited Clergy to attend and host their meetings. The NBBC was primarily a BC Coastal organization of Nations from the Nisga’a, Haida,Tsimshian and other Coastal First Nations.
In 1946 the Native Brotherhood of BC began publishing the Native Voice and it flourished as the only native publication until 1969.
In 1945 Paull was instrumental in setting up yet another group out of Kamloops calling itself the Confederacy of the Interior Tribes of British Columbia (CITBC) and along with the NAIB they worked against the interests of the Native Brotherhood.
In 1949, Frank Calder, an adopted son of Arthur Calder, became the Secretary for the Native Brotherhood and along with the President, Guy Williams, won the right for Indians to vote in elections from the BC Liberal/Conservative coalition, (the forerunner to the Social Credit Party of BC). Calder himself then entered politics joining the CCF (the forerunner to the NDP). Guy Williams and the Native Brotherhood had supported the Liberal/Conservatives as it was from that Party they gained their new rights.
In 1955 Calder formed the Nisga’a Tribal Council while still acting as secretary for the Native Brotherhood. The membership of the Tribal Council was essentially the same as the Nass River Chapter of the Native Brotherhood except it was only Nisga’a and they opened and closed their meetings singing Anglican hymns. Calder began a separate land claims issue, now as an elected NDP member, with the assistance of NDP MLA Tom Berger.
In 1958 at Port Alberni, the Nuu-chah-nulth formed the Allied Tribes of the West Coast with the Vice President of the Native Brotherhood, Jack Peter, becoming its first President.
In 1949 Paull passed away and George Manual, a Shuswap Chief, became the defacto leader of the CITBC and the NAIB.
From 1950 to 1959 Manual travelled the Province uniting all the Indian peoples using a loosely organized group the Aboriginal Rights Committee. During this time he met with Native Brotherhood and the Nisga’a and proclaimed
“Our most pressing needs are the Indian Land Question and the settlement of Indian Claims. These questions are of equal concern to all Indians of our province, regardless of our cultural background, regardless of whether we live in the Interior, along the Pacific Coast, or in the timberlands of the north.”
In 1963 Manuel resigned from the NAIB and joined the Native Brotherhood stating;
“I have decided to join the ranks of those Indians who have the desire to see provincial unity for all the Indians of B.C."
In 1964 the Sunshine Coast Tribal Council and the Southern Vancouver Island Tribal Federation was formed for the Coast Salish Bands. These groups all had the Native Brotherhood as their common foundational base. Many members of these new organizations were also members of the Native Brotherhood.
In 1965 the Federal Government began to address the land claims issue by setting up the Indian Land Claims Commission and offered money to assist the Indians in their efforts.
In 1966 an organizational meeting was held by Manuel to bring all the different Indian groups together called the Confederation of Native Indians of British Columbia (CNIBC). They were virtually all united in their opposition to the Federal Governments Land Claims Commission.
This new organization was in response to the Minister of Indian Affairs, Arthur Laing. Laing wanted to see an organization representing 75% of all BC Indians if he was to deal directly with BC Indians on Land Claims. Manuel was largely successful in bringing all the BC Indians together under one umbrella.
In 1967 and into the spring of 1968 Calder developed a competing “Unity Constitution” separate from the CNIBC and promoted it during various meetings.
On February 3, 1968, Calder and Williams presented it in Vancouver and it was vigorously opposed. They did not have copies to distribute and simply read it out. The vote was to not approve it but to take it back to the various bands for discussion.
On February 10, 1968, while meeting with another group in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, Calder and Williams issued a press release stating it was approved.
On February 13, 1968, a protest meeting was held in Vancouver where Philip Paul stated:
“Every chief and band Councillor in BC should be heard by the Land Claims Commission. And they should be allowed to elect leaders who will not manipulate them to serve their own ends. The elected leaders ... should not commit themselves to any political party. At the present time we are victims of politicians.”
After this Nanaimo meeting the presidents of the various organizations who sided with Calder and Williams were replaced however the betrayal had long lasting and deep impacts. Only George Manual, a professed non-Christian, who did not participate in the Nanaimo treachery continued to lead BC Indians in a unified manner.
Guy Williams was rewarded by being appointed a senator and received a doctorate from SFU. Calder continued as an MLA becoming a Cabinet Minister in 1972 receiving numerous awards of recognition from the governments.
The Pattern Was Beginning to Emerge
Presenting a strong case for land ownership in 1880 initiated the retribution of the anti potlatch law, a method to impose hardship on the Tsimshian Governance structure. After the Indians again began to organize in 1909 and came together as one unified group to fight for land rights the strength of the organization was taken down by the federal government. Duncan Campbell Scott wrote the legislation and the Federal government outlawed all talk of land claims in 1926. Then after reorganizing under another unified group, presenting a strong leadership position to address the new Land Claims Commission, the Indians were betrayed by their own people who had moved to Vancouver and professed Christianity.
And So It Continued With More Hardship
In 1968, after the rejection of the Calder/Williams plan and the repudiation of those who supported it by the remaining Indian leadership, the Federal Government instituted the Davis Plan which in effect took the licenses to fish away from native Fisherman. Both Sunnyside and North Pacific Canneries were closed and hundreds of Northwest Coastal Indian fisherman and shoreworkers were put out of work.
In 1969 Trudeau and his Indian Affairs Minister, Jean Cretien, took the repudiation even further and put forward the White Paper of Indian Assimilation echoing the statements written by Duncan Campbell Scott fifty years earlier,
“The happiest future for the Indian race is absorption into the general population, and this is the object and policy of our government.” […] later Scott added; “I want to get rid of the Indian problem. I do not think as a matter of fact, that the country ought to continuously protect a class of people who are able to stand alone… Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department, that is the whole object of this Bill.”
In 1969, under the direction of George Manuel, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs was formed and initially based their head office in Kamloops, the original home of the NAIB and the Confederacy.
In the years around 1972 the names of the Department of Indian Affairs ‘District Councils’ for delivering Federal Government services to the reserve Villages was changed to ‘Tribal Councils.’ Tsimshian Nation peoples however continued to be divided by the arbitrary boundaries. Tsimshian were represented in the North Coast Tribal Council, the Terrace District Tribal Council and the Bella Coola Tribal Council. The Native Brotherhood knew who was who and from which Nation they came. .
In 1973 a court case brought forward by Calder was heard and the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the Nisga’a did hold title to their lands prior to the creation of BC.
In 1976 the federal Government began land claims with the Nisga’a without the BC Government or any other nation’s involvement.
In 1978 BC Premier Bill Bennett stated the Provinces position firmly against this plan proclaiming;
“The provincial government does not recognize the existence of an extinguished aboriginal title to lands in the province nor does it recognize claims relating to aboriginal title which give rise to other interests in lands based on the traditional use and occupancy of the land. The position of the province is that if any aboriginal title or interest may once have existed, that title or interest was extinguished prior to the union of British Columbia with Canada in 1871.”
Council of the Tsimshian Nations is formed and Robert (Bob) Hill from Hartley Bay becomes the President. His leadership is not harmonious and the Lax Kw’Alaams form the Allied Tsimshian Tribes comprised of at least nine Tsimshian groups.
On July 28, 1983 the Tsimshian make a declaration of claim to the Tsimshian territories in preparation to begin claims with the Federal Government.
In 1989 the two competing organizations threaten any potential legitimate treaty negotiations for the Tsimshian as a Nation. Art Sterritt is brought in in an attempt to join the groups and discovers the animosity too great. He then gets them all to agree to a completely new organization and the Tsimshian Tribal Council (TTC) is formed. This is designed to represent all the Tsimshian Reserve villages to secure Tsimshian National boundaries in advance of the Nisga’a Claims. Sterritt becomes their founding director and first President.
October 1990 BC agrees to join in the Nisga’a treaty negotiations already underway with Canada.
On February 11 1991, Art Sterrit and Don Ryan write the Northwest Tribal Treaty while in Terrace outside the Best Western Hotel and they have it signed at the All Native Basket Ball tournament in front of hundreds of spectators. It is signed by nine Nation groups including; the Tsimshian, Haisla, Wet’suwet’en, Gitxsan, Gitanyow, Carrier Sekani, Nisga’a, Haida, and Lake Babine with support from the Tahltan, Taku River Tlingit and the Kaska Dene. The treaty includes the statement; “We shall assist each other to reaffirm our continuing Hereditary Title and give expression to our rights and to defend these rights against any erosion through external forces.”
In March 1991 the Nisga’a signed a framework agreement with the Canadian and British Columbian Governments.
On April 7, 1991 a Memorandum of Understanding is signed between seven Tsimshian Village Governments to pursue a land claim on behalf of all Tsimshian. These include; Kitselas, Kitsumkalum, Metlakatla, Lax Kw’Alaams, Hartley Bay, Kitasoo and Kitkatla
In June 1991, a seven member task force released their report to the Social credit Government of Rita Johnson. Her Government accepted it in its entirety in July. In October of the same year the NDP government of Mike Harcourt came to power and they reaffirmed this position of the BC Government.
In September of 1992 Prime Minister Mulroney and Premier Harcourt participated in a ceremony on Squamish territory to initiate the BC Treaty Commission and signed an agreement committing Canada and British Columbia to settle all land claims by the year 2000.
On December 15, 1993, the Tsimshian entered Treaty Negotiations with a filed “Statement of Intent”. This was considered “Stage 1”
In November 1994 the Tsimshian entered “Stage 2” and then began “Stage 3” Negotiation of a Framework Agreement, in December 1995.
1995 the TTC publish the Tsimshian National Voice and Robert Hill once again became the President.
On March 21, 1996 the Tsimshian signed a Framework Agreement completing “Stage 3” and begin “Stage 4” in April, ‘Negotiation of an Agreement in Principle’, which was expected to take 3 to 4 years to complete.
In April 1996 the Tsimshian National Voice published the details of their negotiations. Chief negotiator was Gerald Wesley and negotiators from each reserve community were;
Art Sterritt, Gitga’at - Hartley Bay
Alex Bolton, Kitsumkalum
James Bryant, Lax Kw’Alaams - (Allied Tsimshian Tribes)
Percy Starr, Kitasoo - Xaisais
Russell Gamble, Kitkatla
Mel Bevan, Kitselas
Harold Leighton, Metlakatla
The Nisga’a signed an ‘Agreement in Principle’, completing ‘Stage 4’ and began ‘Stage 5’ the negotiation of the ‘Final Agreement’.
But Then The Strength of a Negotiating Position Interfered Again
In 1995 the Gitxsan Nation with Neil Sterritt and others compiled an extensive document challenging the Nisga’a claim to the Nass River watershed. Called the Tribal Boundaries of the Nass Watershed the document details the erroneous and widely exaggerated claims of the Nisga’a negotiators. The book detailed oral history and early trader accounts along with maps and linguistic explanations. The work is used to assist the Gitxsan legal team appealing the BC Court ruling of Justice McEachern which claimed they had no land title rights.
In 1997 the Delgamuukw ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada concluded against McEacherns decision and states aboriginal title to the lands had never been given up, either through war, treaty or sale.
A new era began as governments and industry were now obligated to consult with local First Nation Groups as it was clear, as long as they practiced their traditional laws, maintained their traditional governance structure, their title rights were clearly intact.
The context of the Court Case was not lost on governments or those First Nations who were more than just friendly. Traditional Governance meant Hereditary Chiefs, potlatches and feasts. As these traditional practices were banned for many years many of the Tsimshian were out of touch with their traditions. Now those who wanted to ensure they had authority for their efforts and actions needed to be sure they had the approval of at least one, but preferably all the Hereditary Chiefs.
And Then History Repeats Itself Again
In 1997 the local logging industry along with all the pulp and lumber mills is shut down as the owner, Danny Vaniez, lets his Prince Rupert branch fall into receivership to maximize profits in another division. Vaniez made the point clearly, dismantling and selling everything off in the Gitxsan territory first.
Much like the change to the fishing industry in 1968, after the rejection of the Calder and Williams Unity Coalition and the imposition of the Davis Plan, the local First Nations were once again thrust into unemployment and destitution. This strength of their new negotiating position was also similar to the presentation to the Federal governments Special Senate Committee by the Allied Indian Tribes of BC in 1926, whereby Duncan Campbell Scott introduced forced residential schools and forbid any land claims discussions. And earlier, the attack on their system of governance by outlawing the Potlatch after the 1880 meeting where they presented their case with “eloquence and dignity”.
On the face of it, it would appear these tactics might have been directed not coincidental.
In 1999 the Lax Kw’Alaams, Kitselas, Kitsumkalum, Metlakatla and Kitasoo presented treaty proposals to the Provincial and Federal governments to further the negotiations and they were turned down as Hartley Bay and Kitkatla did not present proposals as part of a combined Tsimshian Nation.
In 2001 A History of the Tsimshian Nation titled "Persistence and Change" is written by Kenneth Campbell
Gordon Campbell, as the leader of the opposition Party, had challenged the legality of the Nisga'a Treaty in Supreme Court and in 2001 the BC Liberals became the governing party of BC.
Campbell dropped the lawsuit (as he was required to as soon as he became Government) and then changed the process. Rather than one complete treaty package they broke up the treaty process into incremental treaty deals. Fisheries, forestry, land etc could all be negotiated separately. They claimed it could all be worked out in the end with the Final Agreement.
In 2002 Kitselas, Kitsumkalum and Metlakatla agreed to begin this new process starting with the fisheries. Kitasoo also proceeds with the new process but does so alone.
In 2003 Lax Kw’Alaams began a lawsuit against the process for aboriginal title over fisheries and the government refused to sit at the same table with the Tsimshian if Lax Kw’Alaams were present.
During 2002 and 2003 the TTC (Tsimshian Tribal Council) began to fall apart as both Lax KwÀlaams and Kitkatla walked away from the table indicating they will negotiate individually and then all treaty talks stopped.
In 2004 the BC Treaty Commission and Chief negotiator Gerald Wesley were determined to resume negotiations as a divided Tsimshian Nation. A new Tsimshian Treaty Society is formed on September 17, 2004 with just five reserve communities called the Kitselas, Gitga`at, Kitsumkalum, Metlakatla, Kitasoo-Xaisais Treaty Society.
In 2005 the BCTC agreed to begin funding the new Society as long as they accepted the debt of the TTC, $13 million. Gerald Wesley remained the Chief Negotiator and Executive Director and the new Society directed the money provided to the various Band Council Treaty negotiating offices.
The new Society receives close to $1.5 million annually, which is split evenly between the five Bands, which provides each reserve approximately $300,000. The Chief negotiator is allowed to retain 10% ($150,000) for his office and administration of delivering the money to the Band councils.
In 2008 and 2009 an unsuccessful reconciliation attempt is made between the Tsimshian reserve communities. In 2010 only Kitsumkalum and Kitselas remained actively engaged in the treaty process though the Society is recorded as being delivered the full $1.5 million.
How This Will End For The Tsimshian Is Anyone’s Guess
Today questions asked of the Bands are not answered. Threats are made to those who challenge the Village Band positions. Money is used as a weapon and Christians rise to the top.
George Manual was called names and ostracized in the 1960s while Frank Calder and Guy Williams were granted positions of favour.
Today we find Elmer Derrick of the Gitxsan, who signed the deal with Enbridge, promoted and appointed to Federal Government positions on boards and his associate, GTS (Gitxsan Treaty Society) insider, Jim Angus, a high ranking elder in the United Church.
The Kitamaat Village Band Council under Steve Wilson used the Hereditary Chiefs and traditional law quoting the Haisla Nuyem and their Chiefs associated traditional Territory referred to as the Wa’wais in 2005 and again in 2008. They used this against the Enbridge proposal quoting from the Delgamuukw Supreme Appeal Court ruling to bolster their claims. When their Hereditary Chiefs however challenged them after the Wilson Council admitted to fraudulently using a rubber signature stamp to assist Gordon Campbell, BC Hydro, the BCUC (BC Utilities Commission) and Rio Tinto Alcan, they claimed in Court their Hereditary Law didn’t exist.
What Should Have Happened, What Could Have Happened, and What is Real Respect
In 1991 the Northwest Tribal Treaty read; “We shall assist each other to reaffirm our continuing Hereditary Title and give expression to our rights and to defend these rights against any erosion through external forces.”
In 1992 the Provincial and Federal Governments stated they would settle all land claims by the year 2000.
Neither fulfilled their duties or their promises.
The Nisga’a went on to claim much more territory than they rightly had title too, when the settlement came in they got at least 25%, not the public belief of 5 % of their original lands.
The Gitxsan Treaty Society pays off any Chief who will sign while they ignore almost all traditional law.
The Tsimshian are a completely divided bunch and the Kitselas and Kalum preparing to accept anything because they have nothing now ,hoping no one notices or remembers anything about the traditional Chiefs and Clans.
What Should have happened would be the Canadian and Provincial Government negotiating with respect in 1926, leaving the potlatch governance and children alone.
What Could have happened is Guy Williams and Frank Calder using their new found friends and influence to help their families and friends rather than actively working to divide them.
Real Respect on the other hand, now that we know the history, having apologized for the wrongs, is to assist the various Northwest Nations in rebuilding their Traditional Culture prior to any further intrusion.
Two great books are available to begin a process for the Tsimshian and the Gitxsan. See Above
The evidence of this potential is clearly not in the respectful direction.
In January of this year the Burns Lake Saw Mill exploded and burned to the ground. In a heartfelt compassionate response the BC Government offered to build the community a new expansive recreation center with all the bells and whistles. The Burns Lake region already has one recreation center and opportunities for work in nearby communities.
The Gitxsan on the other hand, the tough Delgamuukw Indian Nation, has had nothing for many years. They got enough publicity for the BC Government to be aware of it. The entire Country saw the falling down Arena during their Hockeyville bid. They have the highest unemployment rates, the highest suicide rate in the Province and the lowest education standards.
But Elmer Derrick gets promoted to a directorship at the Port Authority while engaged in a lawsuit challenging the Treaty Society he was the Chief Negotiator of after signing a deal with Enbridge.
There is only one hope for the Northwest First Nations and that is to unite, one behind the other, refusing to let anyone’s temper or attitude divide them. It happened many times before and it can happen again. Enbridge has been a great unifying factor but without practicing the proper traditional hereditary culture they will be left to the waiting vultures.
NORTHWEST TRIBAL TREATY
We, the Northwest First Nations have occupied and governed our respective territories since time immemorial. The Creator put us on our territories and gave us laws in which to define and govern our relationships with each other and with the animals, plants, lands, waters and air. We have maintained our spiritual beliefs, our languages, our way of life and traditions. We have done this through intermarriage and the exchange of material and food resources, and shall continue to do so through infinity. We, the signatories to this Treaty are of one heart in the advancement and protection of our common interests identified in the following principles:
We shall continue to practice our own tribal political system and laws, and we intend these separate jurisdictions to continue.
We shall continue to express our sovereignty as Nations.
We shall assist each other to reaffirm our continuing Hereditary Title and give expression to our rights; and to defend these against any erosion through external forces.
We shall collectively join the other First Nations' efforts to pursue the explicit recognition of aboriginal title in Canada's constitution.
We shall continue to enter into bilateral and multilateral relationships with each other to strengthen and assist in settling matters and common concerns regarding our respective cultural identities, traditions, diversity, equality of our peoples and our common boundaries according to our traditional laws.
We shall, in the spirit of sharing and co-existence, continue to enter into mutually beneficial relationships regarding access to traditional territories and natural resources. These include all resources that come from our territories.
We, as represented by the undersigned leaders of the respective First Nations, reaffirm these principles by this treaty.
Dated at Lax Kxeen, Monday February 11, 1991