Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Conflict Between the Canadian Government and the First Nations People

Kahentinetha Horn, publisher of Mohawk Nation News, hospitalized with a heart attack on June 14, 2008, after being attacked by special forces in Canada at the Cornwall/Akwesasne border.
Trick or Jay Treaty? Canada Border Assaults Remind Indigenous Women of Old Indian Story - Mohawk Nation News
Staff of MNN Mohawk Nation News
31 October 2008
The hundreds of Mohawk women who have been harassed, assaulted, threatened, abused, raped, almost killed and "disappeared" at the Cornwall Ontario border crossing are getting to the point where they must challenge the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) goons. This check point has been illegally put right in the middle of the Mohawk community of Akwesasne disrupting the normal flow of life, forcing people to submit to questioning and examinations by officials of a foreign state whose rule we never consented to.
There is no way the CBSA can be confused with honorable defenders of peace loving people against "terrorism." Like common criminals the goons have become terrorists themselves. They behave worse than street gangs. They are part of a scheme designed to make us defenseless. Their training is created to take advantage of their primitive instincts and emotions. It's the "Abu Graib" syndrome where soldiers tortured, maimed and killed thousands of innocent Iraqis.
The CBSA goons usually attack the women in packs of four to six when they catch these women passing through the border alone, night or day. The goons are well armed with all the latest so called non lethal weaponry like pepper spray, batons, handcuffs and other "pain compliance" gewgaws. They now have the technology to aim and send microwave pulses to fry us. They also have sound battering weapons which can destroy internal organs. Other electromagnetic pulse weaponry can disable electronic equipment and render people non-functional. They are in the process of forcing everyone to carry biometric radio frequency ID (RFID).
The goons uniform consists of steel-toed shoes, flak jackets with badges that have numbers instead of names, everything to remove them from personal responsibility for their brutality. Many look bulked up with steroids and appear to be under the influence of legal and non-legal drugs. It's well known that people under such influence are prone to violent unprovoked behavior. They act together in an out-of-control frenzy. All levels involved back each other up, be they border guards, local cops, courts or other crown agencies. They started out as civil servants and are now "foreign" gangsters who steal and protect goods stolen from us.
The manufactured 911 event is used as their justification. According to the December 3, 2001 "Joint Statement on Cooperation" adopted by the Solicitor General of Canada, Minister of Citizenship and immigration and the Attorney General of the United States, the main concern is protecting the "flow of commerce." They were careful not to mention that what they are protecting are the resources they are stealing from Indigenous peoples. The border crossing system is designed to victimize us and eventually eliminate us, not to protect human rights. There are now over 300 and growing reports of abuses of our people at Akwesasne. No one is there to defend or protect us. Because of the climate of fear created by the Canadian government, most of the complaints have been submitted to the Akwesasne Mohawk Council (who work for the government) and not to the Canadian government, courts or human rights commission (CHRC). Canadian justice tends to be slow when it isn't non-existent. After a two year investigation of one case, the CHRC did confirm that discrimination took place and an inquiry was warranted. Euro Canadians are rarely hassled. The average Canadian citizens would probably be shocked to learn what's really happening at Akwesasne.
The wise Ms. Red XY, an Indigenous sage of the fourth dimension, has been watching this. She is urging Mohawk woman to stand up and protect our rights and that of our children. She is appalled by the behavior these goons are getting away with. They handcuff the women behind their backs and assault them in a mob. They subject them to strip searches and get extra jollies by doing cavity searches.
One elder was almost killed when she was subjected to the well known "stress position" that is used by the U.S. armed forces in their overseas operations. She was violently removed from her car, cuffed and put in a cell in the customs building. While she was suffering a heart attack, she was ordered to bend forward as one stood in front of her trying to pull her down and another tried to push her over from behind. This would have caused death, given the heart attack they had already induced.
Five border guards jumped one woman and tried to rape her in broad day light while video cameras filmed the whole pileup. The result? She was charged with assault because she resisted.
One young woman was forced to drive her SUV under an untested VACIS X-ray machine that was meant for transport and commercial vehicles only. She was pregnant and lost her baby.
Their favorite trick is to wave the Mohawks through the "Indian lane" and then accuse them of "running the border." From then on they give themselves the right to harass, charge, arrest and assault these women and their family members for many years.
Women are pulled over for groceries, toys and whatever else the goons feel like taking. Our cars are searched, torn apart and taken away. When they can't find anything, they look for receipts. "Ah, we thought you were up to something," they say after finding a receipt for shoes. They are taken into the Customs building and verbally brow beaten. If the woman reacts defensively, then plan 2 is put into motion. The goons don't let the woman call anyone to let them know what's happening. Some are abused and some have even been "disappeared," panicking our families who don't know what happened to us.
When a women stands up to them, their cop friends follow us on the highway, stop us and give us tickets. Many put their hands out for money or try to get us to "help them out with information" on our families and people in exchange for dropping their threats and charges against us.
Ms. Red XY decided to remind us of an old story about General Clinton when he was in a battle with the Mohawks. He saw one Mohawk warrior standing on top of a hill. He sent ten of his soldiers to go up the hill and kill him. A big fight broke out. Not one returned. His soldiers all died. The lone warrior stood back on the hill and looked down at the colonial army. General Clinton then sent 25 of his best up the hill to kill him. Once again, not a one returned. They too were all killed. Finally, the general send the rest of his army up the hill to finish off this lone warrior. A huge battle ensued. All were killed except for one. He limped back bloody and beaten down the hill. The general asked him, "How could that one warrior stand up to our whole army?" The soldier answered, "He wasn't alone. He had a Mohawk woman behind him." Is this the new/old reality?
The Ipperwash inquiry
CBC News
Last Updated May 31, 2007
Justice Sidney Linden, commissioner of the inquiry into the death of native protester Dudley George in September 1995, ruled in May 2007 that the OPP, the government of former Ontario premier Mike Harris and the federal government all bear responsibility for events that led to his death.
The inquiry findings were released nearly 12 years after an Ontario Provincial Police sniper killed George as police moved in on unarmed protesters occupying Ipperwash Provincial Park. But the dispute between aboriginals and the government goes back decades.
The dispute goes back to 1942. It was wartime and the federal government expropriated land belonging to the Stony Point band under the War Measures Act in order to build a military camp - Camp Ipperwash. In the years following, the band tried to get the land back, claiming it contained a burial ground destroyed when the camp was built.
Shortly after the war ended, the Department of National Defense said it was willing to return most of the land as long as it could lease back what it still needed for the military base. The offer was later withdrawn.
By 1972, tensions were rising. According to the federal minister of Indian Affairs of the time – Jean Chrétien – the Stony Point band had waited patiently for a resolution but was beginning to run out of patience. Chrétien suggested in a memo to then defence minister, James Richardson, that if the land was not going to be returned, the band should be offered another piece of land as compensation.
Twenty years later, there was still no resolution. In 1993, Stony Point band members began moving back on to the land. The military withdrew in September 1995, when another group of Stony Point natives marched onto the base.
It was then that a group of about 30 protesters built barricades at nearby Ipperwash Provincial Park to underline their land claim and to protest the destruction of the burial ground. Dudley George was one of the group's leaders.
There's no agreement on what happened next. The Ontario Provincial Police moved in on the protesters to remove them from the park. The police say they had no choice but to draw their guns because the protesters were armed; the protesters say the opposite, that they were unarmed and that police - dressed in riot gear - used unnecessary force. And they pointed the blame squarely at then-premier Mike Harris, claiming he issued the go-ahead order for the police to rush the barricades in a nighttime raid.
Either way, Dudley George did not survive the raid. He died on Sept. 6, 1995, after being shot by acting Sgt. Kenneth Deane of the OPP. In 1997, Deane was convicted of criminal negligence causing death after a court ruled he did not have a "reasonable belief" George was armed. Deane later resigned from the force.
Native groups called for an official inquiry into George's death, but the Progressive Conservative government of the time resisted, saying it had nothing to do with police actions that day.
On Nov. 12, 2003, just days after the Liberals swept to power in a general election, Dalton McGuinty announced his government would launch a public inquiry into the matter.
The original land claim - the reason protesters occupied Ipperwash Park in the first place - was settled in 1998. Under the $26-million agreement, the land occupied by the former military installation was to be cleaned up and returned to the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation. As well, every member of the band was to receive between $150,000 and $400,000 in compensation.
On Oct. 2, 2003, George's family dropped a lawsuit against Harris after reaching a settlement with the Ontario Provincial Police. The agreement included a $100,000 payment for George's family.
In January 2004, CBC News obtained surveillance videotapes taken by police officers in September 1995, one of which contains racist remarks made by police officers the day before George's death.
Representatives of George's family say the attitude the officers had toward natives "makes it pretty easy to shoot an Indian."
The OPP said it didn't condone the remarks and that the two officers recorded on the tape had been disciplined. One was sent to sensitivity training; the contract of the other officer was not renewed.
On April 20, 2004 - more than eight years after the death of Dudley George - a public inquiry into the events surrounding his death opened. Seventeen groups and individuals were granted standing for the first part of the inquiry, giving them the right to call and cross-examine witnesses.
The evidence-gathering part of the inquiry stretched from 2004 through to 2006 and heard from more than 100 witnesses. Allegations of intolerance and impatience at the highest levels surfaced many times. But the biggest bombshell came from former attorney general Charles Harnick in November 2005. Harnick testified that former premier Mike Harris said "I want the f****** Indians out of the park," during a high level meeting about the Ipperwash occupation just hours before the fatal shooting of Dudley George. When Harris appeared at the inquiry in February 2006, he denied using that language.
The Ipperwash inquiry ended in August 2006 with final arguments from the lawyers. Linden delivered his final report May 31, 2007.
The Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation initially had two reserves: one at Kettle Point and one at Stoney Point. In 1928, the First Nation surrendered for sale approximately 377 acres of the Stoney Point Reserve. The land was subsequently sold to private interests. The remainder of the Stoney Point Reserve, approximately 2,211 acres, was appropriated under the War Measures Act in 1942 for the establishment of an advanced military training facility, which became known as Camp Ipperwash. The Camp is located next to Ipperwash Provincial Park, which has been owned by the Province of Ontario since 1936 (see the attached map).
In 1942, the First Nation received approximately $50,000 in compensation from Canada for the appropriation of Camp Ipperwash, which involved the relocation of about 15 families.
The First Nation has sought the return of the Camp Ipperwash lands since the end of World War II. A 1981 Order in Council committed the government to return the lands when no longer needed for military purposes, though it did not include a commitment to decontaminate the lands or to guarantee risk-free access.
Also in 1981, Canada reached an agreement with the First Nation, which provided compensation in the amount of $2.5 million for the underestimated value of the land and interest accrued since the date of the 1942 appropriation.
In the February 1994 budget, Canada announced the closing of Camp Ipperwash and that it would enter into negotiations with the First Nation regarding the property. Military personnel withdrew from the base on July 29, 1995.
Looking Ahead: Toward a Negotiated Solution
Ms. Anne Marie Doyle was recently appointed as Chief Federal Negotiator on this complex claim. Ms. Doyle will lead the federal negotiating team in renewed talks with the First Nation to reach a full and final settlement of all the outstanding issues regarding the former Camp Ipperwash lands. The renewed focus of these negotiations will be to develop jointly a comprehensive settlement agreement that would include a financial component and a strategy with respect to the future use of the lands.
The Camp Ipperwash lands were used for military training purposes for 50 years and, as a result, may contain unexploded explosive ordnance (UXO) and environmental contamination. The property also contains a fragile dune ecosystem, Carolinian forest and a number of species listed under the federal Species At Risk Act. This Act provides for the legal protection of wildlife species on federal lands and the conservation of their biological diversity.
The presence of potential UXO and species at risk on the Camp Ipperwash lands poses many challenges for the federal and First Nation negotiators in their joint work to determine the future use of the land. The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that public safety and environmental concerns are properly addressed in determining any future strategy regarding the Camp lands.
A UXO survey, as well as environmental and cultural resource investigations, have been initiated at the former Camp Ipperwash. Investigation fieldwork began in October 2007. It is anticipated that the work, which is being conducted with the involvement of the First Nation, will continue through 2009. Measures have been taken to respect areas of cultural significance and species identified as Species at Risk.
This project will provide a clearer understanding of the extent of UXO and environmental contamination at the former Camp Ipperwash. The data gathered through the project will inform the joint work at the negotiating table and assist in developing potential clean-up and land-return options.
It is important to note that no settlement can be finalized without the approval of the First Nation's membership in a ratification vote. Following ratification by the membership, the next step would be formal approval by Canada.
Ipperwash Inquiry: Looking into the death of Dudley George

By: Philip Stavrou, CTV.ca News
The Ipperwash Inquiry was established by the Ontario government on Nov. 12, 2003 to examine the circumstances surrounding the death of native protester Anthony Dudley George.
George was killed during a police raid to remove native protesters from Ipperwash Provincial Park on Sept. 6, 1995. The protesters wanted nearby Camp Ipperwash, formerly the Stony Point reserve, to be returned to Stony Point descendants. The land had been taken by the government in 1942 and converted into a military training camp known as Camp Ipperwash.
Stony Point descendants had occupied and protested at Camp Ipperwash since 1993 but stalled negotiations prompted the move into the government park on Sept. 4, 1995, two days before the shooting.
Without full community support, about 30 people staged the protest.
On Sept. 6, OPP sniper Kenneth Deane shot and killed George during a nighttime raid.
Ontario Judge Huge Fraser later ruled that Deane knew George was unarmed when he shot him. Deane, found guilty of criminal negligence causing death, was given 180 hours of community service with no house arrest or jail time.
In 1996, a wrongful death lawsuit, filed by George's family, named former Ontario Premier Mike Harris as one of the accused, based on allegations that Harris initiated and ordered the raid that killed George.
Harris testified at the trial in Nov. 2001 and denied ordering the OPP to conduct the raid on the protesters.
He refused to call a government inquiry into George's death during his tenure as premier. His successor, Ernie Eves, also did not call an inquiry, citing ongoing legal matters into the incident.
In 2003, Premier Dalton McGuinty made calling an inquiry one of his campaign promises. The Liberals won and McGuinty set up the inquiry to investigate the events that led to George's death.
Just prior to the Liberal victory, George's family settled their civil suit against Harris, and several members of his former cabinet.
Confident of a win and the ensuing inquiry, the family accepted a $100,000 settlement from provincial police plus undetermined legal costs.
There are 101 witnesses registered to testify at the Ipperwash inquiry. Harris is listed as the 100th witness.
According to the inquiry's website, "Its mandate is to inquire and report on events surrounding the death of Dudley George, who was shot in 1995 during a protest by First Nations representatives at Ipperwash Provincial Park and later died. The Inquiry is also to make recommendations that would avoid violence in similar circumstances."
There have been some controversial testimonies at the inquiry including that of former attorney general Charles Harnick.
Harnick alleged that, in a meeting just hours before George's death, Harris was heard yelling that he wanted "the fucking Indians out of the park."
The allegations were denied in later testimony by former deputy solicitor general Ellen Todres and former solicitor general Bob Runciman.
Former Ontario premier Mike Harris also denied the allegation during his highly-anticipated testimony.
"I absolutely did not say that, or words to those effect, or use that adjective at any time during this meeting," Harris said.
What was said at that meeting, attended by Harris' executive assistant, two plain clothed OPP officers seconded to the Ministry of the Solicitor General, three cabinet ministers and their deputies, has become a central part of the inquiry.
George family lawyer, Murray Klippenstein, told Canadian Press that the events of the meeting are critical to providing answers into George's death.
"When, and if, the premier said these things, did that get pipelined to the police commanders and police officers on the ground with the guns? Did it affect their behaviour? Was it the critical tipping-point factor that made the difference between Dudley George dying and not dying?"
In his inquiry, Justice Linden, a former Ontario Court chief justice and head of the province's legal aid system, cannot make accusations of civil or criminal liability.
Manufacturing Contempt
Covering the stand-off
Canadian Forum
November, 1995, pp. 6-7
Tony Hall
During the recent confrontations at Ipperwash and Gustafsen Lake I participated as a telephone guest on a PBS program in Los Angeles. The host began by explaining to his American listeners that there was a "news blackout" around the Gustafsen Lake stand-off. He then played a tape of a CBC report as an example of the kind of propaganda being generated to turn public opinion against the Gustafsen Lake protesters.
Was this a fair assessment of what went on in Canada?
Partly. At best, the reportage I saw of Gustafsen Lake and Ipperwash was shallow, incomplete and one sided. I have yet to see or hear a single word reported directly from any of the protesters within the Gustafsen Lake camp after Ovide Mercredi and his entourage left. Instead, what I saw and read was report after report giving verbatim accounts of the RCMP's version of events.
The televised daily briefing sessions from the media centre at 100 Mile House reminded me of CNN's chillingly sanitized coverage of the Gulf War. The "lessons" of the Vietnam War and Oka, it seemed, were being busily employed by the men in uniform: prevent, if possible, the press from reporting on "the enemy" as full-fledged human beings with their own story to tell; don't let the public see the complexity of the ethical issues behind the show of weaponry.
The Gustafsen Lake group did bask in the media sun for a brief period before a compliant press corps was unceremoniously marched out of the protesters' camp by RCMP information officers. Most of the reporters seemed relieved to be unburdened of the responsibility of trying to tell the "renegade" Indians' side of the story. The protesters just didn't fit the established script of recycled Indian stories.
Wolverine, one of the group's leaders, insisted repeatedly on wandering from the familiar arguments about Aboriginal land claims to speak of the New World Order and international conspiracy. It seems he had been picking up ideas from Glen Kealey, whose zealous crusade to expose crime and corruption in the Mulroney years had long been the source of headaches for libel-shy reporters.
More puzzling yet for members of the overwhelmingly non Indian media was the tinge of millenarian religion thrown into the potent ideological mix that developed on the site of the Gustafsen Lake sun dance. The near hysteria of the press at some of the goings-on reminded me of the type of reportage that contributed to the decision that resulted in the American army massacring Sioux ghost dancers at Wounded Knee in 1890. In Indian Country, politics and religion often converge in ways that confound the assumptions and expectations of a predominantly secular Euro-Canadian society.
But the most serious shortcoming of the reportage from Ipperwash and Gustafsen Lake was the failure of the media to interpret the significance of these events in terms of the tremendous ferment taking place within Indian Country. Rather than correctly representing the recent stand-offs as expressive of growing distinctions of class, interest and ideology within Indian Country, the mainstream press tended instead to present the episode through the simplifying, distorting lens of right and wrong, good and bad. One the one hand we saw the sensible Indians, the moderate Indians, the law-abiding Indians, our Indians. On the other stood the rebels, the renegades, those who, in the words of Rudy Platiel, simply wanted "to thumb their noses at authority". For this group, wrote the "Globe"'s veteran Indian expert, "it's pay-back time".
The angry Indian occupation of the Ottawa offices of the Assembly of First Nations was no aberration. It was reflective of a broad and deeply rooted fear in Indian Country that government negotiations on land claims and self-government benefit only a small Aboriginal elite who have long been groomed to take over the authorities and budgets of the federal Department of Indian Affairs. What is there in these developments, ask many, to benefit the mass of disenfranchised Native people? Put another way, are the collective interests of entire Aboriginal communities necessarily synonymous with the individual interests of those Native spokespeople who have made a business negotiating with the federal and provincial governments?
These kinds of questions have been addressed seriously and at length by Menno Boldt in his recent book, "Surviving as Indians". The author says that he receives regular communications from many Indian readers who find merit in his contention that federal policies are perpetuating a kind of top-down approach to Indian governance that is anything but liberating to those who have been voiceless and powerless in Indian politics. The concerted drive to silence, distort or trivialize the voices of protest at Ipperwash and Gustafsen Lake looks to me like the advancement of a dangerously elitist and authoritarian approach that is all too typical of the Canadian way of doing things.
Tony Hall teaches Native American studies at the University of Lethbridge.
War-like Tactics Against Native People at Gustafsen Lake Documented on Film
By Ben Mahony
Source, August 2000
Revelations that a soldier had his hand blown off during a secret military operation at Gustafsen Lake and a new film that shows RCMP officers conducting a smear campaign against the Native protesters inside the Gustafsen Lake camp has gained the attention of politicians, academics, human-rights groups and the media.
Mainstream press and radio reported in January that Sergeant Mike Schlueter, who was permanently injured by a faulty RCMP stun grenade, is suing the federal government for compensation. A faulty grenade exploded in his hand in 1995 when he was part of a secret military unit called in to assist the RCMP remove Native protesters from the Gustafsen Lake Sundance camp in central BC in 1995.
In addition, a new documentary film about the Gustafsen Lake standoff, called Above the Law 2, has allowed the public an insider's view of the largest police operation in Canada's history.
The covert military operation at Gustafsen Lake featured armored personnel carriers, aerial surveillance, heat sensing, and, according to the Gustafsen Lake Defenders, there is evidence that Canada's elite Joint Task Force Two was present.
Disturbing footage of RCMP and military officers laying explosives around the Native camp and shooting at an armed protester in an agreed upon "no shoot zone" in Above the Law 2 have renewed calls for a public inquiry into the Gustafsen Lake siege.
Schlueter says that the military wanted no involvement in the operation and were concerned with legal liability, which in part explains why he was given RCMP stun grenades instead of the military issue he was accustomed to. The ensuing explosion blew off part of his hand.
The accident was never investigated and at the time the military's involvement was downplayed. Although the role of the military at Gustafsen Lake was relatively unscrutinized until now, Above the Law 2 provides compelling evidence that the military was brought in under false pretenses.
The shooting incidents, which the RCMP claimed Natives had instigated, were flatly disproven in court. This new documentary film elaborates on the discrepancies between what the police told the media and what was later found to be true. The film indicates there may be legal questions that will now arise because of the use of military force on Canadian citizens.
Then Attorney General of B.C. Ujjal Dosanjh, now the premier, may face tough questions about the legality of his request for the presence of Schlueter and the rest of the military personnel, which included over 400 officers.
In a phone interview, Schlueter said the military and the Prime Minister's Office were reticent to get involved in the standoff. He also said many officers were given less than a half hour of training before they were sent into a "guerrilla operation."
Perhaps this explains the confusion that led to his accident and to the abuse of force, which took place on September 11, 1995. On that day officers spent over 20,000 rounds and wounded one of the Gustafsen Lake Defenders. The next day RCMP snipers fired on an unarmed camper. This incident was not mentioned to the press, but is shown in Above the Law 2.
The overwhelming application of military force at Gustafsen Lake has remained largely unknown until now. Those that do remember the standoff remember headlines like "Natives Stalk RCMP," which appeared on September 5, 1995. Above the Law 2 details the evidence released to the public at the Gustafsen Lake trial, which directly refutes the RCMP versions of this alleged stalking episode. The Mounties' own police forensics expert later concluded that damage to a police vehicle, was done when it "Struck a tree branch, which panicked the officers causing them to shoot wildly."
Much of the film focuses on such inconsistencies. These are important because the RCMP request for military involvement was based on reports, which, according to Above the Law 2, proved false.
Because credible persons like former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and defense lawyer George Wool provide analysis, which complements the footage of RCMP "dirty tricks," the film is likely to gain international attention.
A Chronology of the Gustafsen Lake Standoff
In Accordance with the Defenders, Lawyers and the RCMP'S Disclosures to the Court
October, 1996
* Part One: Legal and Historical Background
* Part Two: Gustafsen Lake events
Also see the chronology compiled from legal documents and court testimony
Part One: Legal and Historical Background
1704 - Queen Anne sets up a special Constitutional court at the request of the Mohegan Indians to mediate in their dispute with the colony of Connecticut. The Defenders are asking for the same kind of impartial third party tribunal for the same reasons: a court with colonial interests can't be seen to be impartial.
1759 - Great Britain sets up alliance with Native Nations in order to win war with 'New France'.
1763 - After Great Britain's victory, the Native allies demanded that the British remove their forts from Native lands. When Britain refused, Ottawa Chief Pontiac formed a Confederacy which proceeded to burn all the forts to the ground. The Colonies advised the King to accommodate the Indian Nations before any others decided to join with Pontiac so King George III put forth the Royal Proclamation on October 7, 1763. The Royal Proclamation vowed to protect unceded (unsurrendered) Indian territories from encroachment by Crown subjects.
1867 - Proclamation of 1763.
1871 - B.C. joined Confederation without consulting any of the Native Nations. Abiding by the Proclamation, B.C.'s first Governor, James Douglas signed 14 treaties with the Native Nations on the southwest side of Vancouver Island. Joseph Trutch, Lands and Surveyors Commissioner reduced Native territories to a fraction of what was originally agreed to by the Native Nations and the Crown's representative.
1875 - Canadian Parliament passed an order-in-council dated January 23, 1875 whereby Canada acknowledged its constitutional obligation to disallow as unconstitutional all provincial Public Lands Acts that had been enacted (particularly in B.C.) Rather than forcing provinces like B.C. to amend its Lands Acts and to give back any stolen land, the federal government fell in with the fraud of the province of B.C.
1876 - Prime Minister John A. MacDonald and his government passed the Indian Act which was applied to unceded "Indian Hunting Grounds." This was in blatant violation of the 1763 Royal Proclamation and Canada's Canadian Constitution is ratified and recognizes as valid the aboriginal rights stated in the Proclamation of 1763.
Part Two: Gustafsen Lake Events
1989-90 - American cattle rancher Lyle James was informed by Shuswap elder, Faith Keeper Percy Rosette that spiritual leaders and elders had seen visions of a Sundance site at Gustafsen Lake would begin to use the site for an annual Sundance ceremony. The site was used for the Sundance ceremony 10 days every year.
1991 - William Jones Ignace (Wolverine) takes the issue of stolen unceded lands to the International Court in The Hague.
1992 - William Jones Ignace (Wolverine) takes the issue of stolen unceded lands to the United Nations.
1993 - William Jones Ignace (Wolverine) takes the issue of stolen unceded lands to the United Nations.
Early 1995: Faith Keeper Percy Rosette built a shelter on the Sundance grounds for the maintenance of the site and for cooking.
Early June: Sundancers reinforced a fence around the Sundance grounds, to keep cattle from defecating on the sacred grounds. They also posted signs to discourage trespassing.
June 13: At approximately noon Lyle James and twelve ranch hands arrived at the Sundance site in an attempt to serve an 'eviction notice' on Faith Keeper Percy Rosette. Rosette was not at the site at the time. James read the eviction notice out loud to the Sundancers at the site, then James and his ranch hands "proceeded to occupy these sacred grounds, and sent several men to film and photograph the land, structures and artifacts. They also filmed and violated the sacred fast of one of our Sundance singers." The ranch hands brought rifles and, according to Splitting the Sky, "they pulled out rifles and threatened to kill them [the Sundancers]. One of them pulled out a bullwhip and said: 'This is a good day to string up some red niggers.' " (Defenders' press release, June 19/95) On the stand Lyle James testified that one of the ranch hands did indeed have a bullwhip but that he was just playing with it. (Wednesday, July 17, 1996) At approx. 3 pm five of Lyle James's employees removed the door from the Sundancers' cookhouse and stole the wood stove inside. At approximately 7 pm Percy Rosette returned, and Lyle James attempted to serve the eviction notice again. Mr. Rosette refused to accept the notice, so one of Mr. James' men stuck it on a sacred staff. (Vancouver Sun, Sept. 12/95) Mr. Lyle James is an American who lives on the Dog Creek Reserve and may be exempt from Canadian taxes. He has grazing rights over 922 hectares - for $1314.00 per year. (Document # 513998 Kamloops - Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks).
June 15: A group appointed themselves as mediators without Mr. Rosette's consent; this group spoke with Lyle James and then informed the Sundancers that the Sundancers should ask to meet with Lyle James. The self-appointed mediators also "informed us that threats were voiced, specifically in regard to having us physically removed by 17 June 1995" (Defenders' press release, June 19/95).
June 16: At approximately 6 pm a drunk ranch hand came into the Sundance grounds, "yelling and whooping in a drunken stupor" (Defenders' Press Release, June 19/95). When this man was confronted by Sundancers and asked what he was doing in Shuswap territory, "he stated emphatically that the ranchers intended to burn the council lodge and that the RCMP were planning an invasion of the camp." The Sundancers issued a press release with four demands for a Peaceful resolution to the conflict. These demands were:
1. That an investigation of the Governor General's Office in Ottawa be undertaken to expose the illegal leasing and/or selling of Native lands on unceded territory.
2. That an investigation into the DIA [Department of Indian Affairs] and all cohorts in the various band councils be undertaken to expose illegal leasing and/or selling of Native lands, specifically within the Shuswap Nation. The immediate and long term impact of these fraudulent deals on the traditional people must be addressed and acted upon.
3. That an audience with the Queen of England and the Privy Council be convened to renew the treaty obligations of the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which states that all unceded territories will remain unmolested and undisturbed.
4. That every individual reading this urgent press release is asked to call the RCMP at (604) 395-2456 and express their concern over the potential for violence against the occupiers of the Sundance grounds in Shuswap territory. We invite all sundancers to come to Gustafson Lake and ensure that this Sundance will be held as planned to sustain our inheritance and religious freedom.
June 17: The Dog Creek, Canoe Creek, Canim Lake and Alkali Lake Bands called a meeting about the conflict at the Sundance site. Two Band Council chiefs, seven band members, five people of the James Cattle Company (including Lyle James' daughter, who attended as Lyle James's representative), the RCMP, and Defenders of the Shuswap Nation attended. No resolution was reached. (Defenders Press Release, June 18/95)
June 19: Counsel Dr. Bruce Clark confirmed that "as a matter of strict law, you are acting within your existing legal rights by resisting the invasion."
June 21: RCMP came to the Sundance grounds and asked permission for Lyle James' employees to chase out cows from the pasture encircling the grounds.
June 24: RCMP Officer Woods, an Oneida, came to the Sundance site to ask if he could be a part of the Sundance ceremonies and to let Sundancers know that the RCMP would "do their best to keep aggravators away from the grounds during the Sundance". (Defenders' Press Release, June 26/95)
June 25: A series of shots were fired by unidentified occupants of a truck which stopped just outside the Sundance camp. Occupants of the camp heard some shots fired into the water; other shots were fired previously approx. 1/2 mile northeast of the site.
June 29: Defenders' counsel Dr. Bruce Clark wrote to Queen Elizabeth II's private secretary to encourage The Right Honorable Sir Robert Fellowes to allow the Queen to see the petition submitted to her on June 5 1995. The petition called for "access to an independent and impartial tribunal" to adjudicate the issue of jurisdiction in lands beyond the treaty frontier.
July 2-5: Sundance purifications were carried out.
July 6-9: The Sundance was held.
July 10-12: The spirit dance was held.
July 19: Defenders of the Shuswap Nation issued a press release informing the public that the Defenders would "continue preparations to resist an invasion by the RCMP....any further attempts to forcibly invade the Defenders' camp will be met with resistant force." (Defenders' Press Release, July 19/95)
July 20: The Cariboo Tribal Council asked the Gustafsen Lake Faith Keepers to attend a meeting called by the Tribal Council to address the situation at Gustafsen Lake. A delegation from the Sundance site attended and reiterated the position that the Sundance site would be defended. The Sundance delegation was then insulted and verbally attacked. No resolution was found. Later that evening, a ranch hand from the Lyle James Cattle Co. trespassed on the Sundance grounds; he accused the people of horse stealing and insulted one of the traditional chiefs in the camp. The ranch hand was told to leave and to keep his horses and cows outside the Sundance site. As the ranch hand left he threatened to return, and immediately afterwards two shots were fired from the bushes towards the camp.
July 26: Two native Fisheries officers encounter six men who say they are from the Gustafsen Lake camp. One of the group allegedly fires a warning shot into the air as the Fisheries officers leave.
August 8: Defenders' counsel Dr. Bruce Clark wrote a letter to RCMP Staff Sgt. M.P. Sarich, laying out: the laws regarding native jurisdiction in lands beyond the treaty frontier (including the Tamanawas/Sundance Site at Gustafsen Lake); legal precedents related to this issue; the history of the Canadian governments' attempts to assimilate native peoples and commit genocide against the traditionalists; the articles of the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment for the Crime of Genocide, 1948 which gives police the legal ability to refuse to follow orders that will result in genocide; the priority of constitutional over domestic law; the correspondence between Dr. Clark and courts regarding this issue.
August 11: People come and go from the camp believing that negotiations are ongoing. Two Fisheries officers arrested two men - David Pena and Ernie Archie - for allegedly fishing in the Fraser River during a time when no fishing was legally allowed. According to the Defenders, the two men were fishing for their families' winter food supplies. One of the men was agitated when discovered by the Fisheries officers, "causing the officers to pull their guns." (Times-Colonist, August 20. 1995) The Fisheries officers searched the truck the two men were in, and found several weapons. According to the Defenders, "David Pena, a diabetic, was forced to the ground and beaten after the officers found guns in his truck. During the struggle he suffered a seizure and was removed to the Williams Lake Jail by ambulance. Neither of the boys was allowed to phone the camp to tell their worried families of their whereabouts." (Defenders' Press Release, August 21, 1995). Guns are commonly carried in pickup trucks in rural areas by both natives and non natives.
August 12: Local and international support begins to come in for the people in the Defenders' camp. People continue to come and go believing that negotiations are on going and proceeding well.
August 18: RCMP deny that the camouflaged men in the bush are police. (Defenders' Press release, August 21, 1995) In Vancouver, RCMP media relations official Sgt. Peter Montague called major news outlets to "alert them to a major story" (Vancouver Sun, Sept. 12, 1995). According to an article in the Vancouver Sun, April 12, 1996, the military had already been 'unofficially' asked to intervene. From the article: "Despite initially strong reservations from the Canadian Forces' headquarters in Ottawa about lending any help to the RCMP, the military agreed to take an early role and had an operational plan in place a week before the police actually blockaded access roads to the militants' camp on Aug. 26 ('95)...."The military's reluctance to become involved extended even to the way the Bisons were marked. When the vehicles were sent to Gustafsen Lake, the RCMP had to put its own decals on. Another unsigned memo from Land Forces Western Area explained why: "If anything goes wrong, we will not be seen as failing." ...."Nevertheless, the military began assuming a role in the operation within days of being asked for help by Farrell on August 18 (1996.)" [ Dennis Farrell is the RCMP deputy commissioner.] "Despite repeated media inquiries during that time, the RCMP denied the military had become involved and the military issued strict orders to staff to not discuss or acknowledge the operation." ( All quotes from Vancouver Sun, April 12, 1996 The journalist Jeff Lee used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain information about the military presence at the Gustafsen Lake 'standoff')
August 19: RCMP admit that the camouflaged men in the bush seen August 18 were RCMP officers. The RCMP flew media to Williams Lake and held a press conference, where the RCMP's version of events at Gustafsen Lake was presented. The RCMP displayed weapons taken from David Pena's truck, and Lyle James and Cariboo Tribal Council Chief Bill Chelsea were given opportunities to speak to the press. There was no representation from the camp at this press conference. The RCMP warned it was "ready to move in and disperse" the people inside the camp. (Times-Colonist, August 20, 1995).
August 20: BC Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh refused to acknowledge or attempt to address the fundamental issues behind the Defenders' stand at Gustafsen Lake, saying "'Gustafsen Lake has nothing to do with aboriginal land-claims issues. It's purely to do with the weapons found there and the shots that have been fired.'" (Vancouver Sun, Sept. 12, 1995). Dosanjh contradicts himself later, saying that it is a land claims issue but the methods to forward their goals is wrong. (Letter, Nov. 7, 1995). RCMP Superintendent Len Olfert said, "We clearly associate this as an act of terrorism". (Vancouver Sun, Sept. 12) In an article by Dirk Meissner, a staff writer, Lyle James is styled the "owner of the 182,000 hectare spread near Dog Creek" (Times Colonist, Aug. 31, 1995).but in fact he only has grazing rights. However, the James Cattle Company acts as though it owns the land.
August 21: "On Saturday, 18 August 1995, at about 6:00 a.m. , eight camouflaged, fully armed and unidentified men were happened upon by a member of the Sundance camp in the bush outside the fence. Thinking they might be red-neck vigilantes bent upon killing Indians, the Sundancers phoned the RCMP at abut 7:00 a.m. regarding these men. It was also later rumored these men might be a SWAT team from Kamloops. A red, white and blue helicopter flew over camp about 8:25 a.m. and about 9:00 a.m. a shot was heard from down by the Lake. At 10:00 a.m. a man in camouflage was seen up a tree and about 12:00 p.m. another man, similarly dressed, was seen crossing the road from camp. There was also a man in a boat on the lake with binoculars and a walkie- talkie." "Calls to the RCMP on Saturday, from outside allies across the country, elicited denials of any of the above events although by Sunday they admitted that was their men in the area, there had been a helicopter, and a shot had been fired allegedly at one of their men. No Sundancer fired any shot at one of their men." (Defenders' Press Release, August 21, 1995) One of the Defenders' elders, Wolverine, accused the media of conspiring with the police and government to give the public false information about the situation in Gustafsen Lake. According to Wolverine, "private landholders are squatters on native land." (Vancouver Sun, August 22) Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh stated "'I think it's important that we deal with these issues in the most sensitive fashion possible". (The Province, August 22, 1995) "By August 21, (1995), the military had created Operation Wallaby, was gathering intelligence daily for briefings to Ottawa, and had begun a plan to use search- and-rescue-marked Buffalo aircraft to secretly airlift Bison crews in from Alberta. "The crews and their equipment were confined to an armoury in Kamloops to prevent detection and orders were given for no military aircraft to land at any airport nearby." (Vancouver Sun, April 12, 1996)
August 22: Defenders' counsel Dr. Bruce Clark wrote a letter to Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh and requested that charges of hate propaganda, complicity in genocide, criminal trespass, and criminal settlement be laid against RCMP Superintendent Olfert for his characterization of the Defenders as "terrorists" and his trespass on Shuswap land; Clark also requested that charges of criminal trespass, criminal settlement, fraud, misprision of fraud, high treason, extortion, and genocide be laid against Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Antonio Lamer for Lamer's stonewalling of Clark's legal challenge regarding the issue of native jurisdiction in unceded Hunting Grounds. The Defenders invited the RCMP to come into the camp to talk, instead of just storming the camp.
August 23: Ovide Mercredi, Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, offered to help mediate. BC Premier Mike Harcourt, speaking at a leaders conference in Newfoundland, "inflames things by telling reporters that the Gustafsen Lake sundancers are seized with a 'cult mentality'." (Vancouver Sun, Sept. 12, 1995)
August 24: Counsel Dr. Bruce Clark asked Canada's Governor- General, Romeo LeBlanc, to take action to "apprehend the crimes in progress by the Canadian Ministers of State, Judges and Police" (Clark's letter to Queen Elizabeth II, August 26, 1995). According to RCMP, people inside the camp shot into the air, allegedly at a helicopter. Later RCMP disclosures reveal that one of the people in the helicopter heard no shots and saw no evidence of gunshots.
August 25: Canada's Governor-General responded to Bruce Clark's letter of August 24 by stating Clark should apply to the Canadian courts and government for relief. According to Clark, "by replying...that I should apply to the alleged criminals themselves for relief he has, knowingly, elected to aid and abet the said crimes in progress." (Clark's letter to Queen Elizabeth II, August 26, 1995). RCMP Sgt. Peter Montague informed the media that the RCMP would "only discuss 'a swift, decisive, unconditional surrender of themselves and all their weapons.'" (Globe and Mail, August 26, A3) AFN leader Ovide Mercredi went into the camp to attempt to negotiate a surrender. Mercredi refused to endorse the petition to the Queen; he was informed by Wolverine that people in the camp would not leave until their demands were met. After Mercredi left the camp, a shot was fired into the air. August 26: Counsel Dr. Bruce Clark again requested that Queen Elizabeth II address the petition dated January 3, 1995, as filed by Dr. Clark's clients. A letter from Bruce Clark to his clients inside the Gustafsen Lake encampment was blocked by RCMP when an agent for Clark attempted to deliver the document to the people inside the camp. RCMP Staff Sgt. Montague stated that "police cut the phone line to the camp 'so that they can't be further influenced by their lawyer, Bruce Clark, which is a problem.'" (Vancouver Sun, Aug. 30, 1995). Ovide Mercredi attempted to negotiate a surrender once more, and again failed in his attempt. Attorney general Ujjal Dosanhj finally officially requests of the military requests the help of the military from the Canadian Forces' headquarters in Ottawa although the military had already been training for Operation Wallaby by August 21, 1995 in Kamloops."The crews and their equipment were confined to an armory in Kamloops to prevent detection and orders were given for no military aircraft to land at any airport nearby." (Vancouver Sun, April 12, 1996).
August 27: Trees that had been felled across the road leading into the Sundance site were being cut by forestry workers under RCMP supervision when, according to RCMP, people from the Defenders' camp allegedly opened fire on the police truck. According to RCMP, the truck was riddled with bullets and the two officers were allegedly shot in the back; neither officer was harmed because they were wearing bullet-proof vests. The RCMP officiers were not able to produce the bullets. Although many media outlets presented the RCMP version of events as fact, other journalists questioned discrepancies in the RCMP story and pointed out that the Defenders' version of events was not yet known. The truck that was allegedly shot at was towed out later completely covered in a tarp to 'preserve the evidence'. A few days later it was shown to journalists with many bullet holes allegedly caused by the people from the camp. The flak jackets that were worn by the two officers were shown on TV - with no bullet marks in them. "Something, perhaps my gray hair, tells me that the story of an 'ambush' in a 'hail of bullets' fired by semi-automatic weapons doesn't stand up. When an ambush involves crossfire from two sides on unsuspecting targets - the story told by the Mounties - one would expect that someone would get hurt. If there is no wounded Mountie to photograph and show the pictures of, if there is no bullet-torn clothing to hold up at a press conference, I begin to sense that there is more or less to the "ambush" story than what reporters so confidently reported." (William Johnson, Montreal Gazette, August 29, 1995)
August 28: Counsel Dr. Bruce Clark flew in to Williams Lake to attempt to directly communicate with his clients inside the camp. RCMP refused to allow Dr. Clark to see or talk with his clients. Domestic and international support for the Defenders continued to grow. A vigil held in Toronto, Ontario to support the Defenders drew 80 people. A group in Victoria, BC shut down Attorney General Dosanjh's office at the Legislature when three people locked themselves to equipment inside his office. A rally outside the Legislature in Victoria drew dozens of people. Chief Saul Terry, President of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs releases a statement on the Standoff at Gustafsen Lake in which he accuses the RCMP, the Attorney General and the media as having gone "to great lengths to discredit the Shuswap sundancers and their supporters at Gustafsen Lake as dangerous fanatics in order to justify the use of armed force to remove them from the Sundance grounds....In trying to discredit and isolate the sundancers, the RCMP and the Attorney General are laying the groundwork for bloodshed - needless bloodshed. I condemn the RCMP ad the Attorney General for the dangerous provocative course they have embarked upon....The positions expressed by the sundancers on their nations' sovereignty and aboriginal title and rights are not "extremist". They are shared by many Indian peoples across this province. British Columbia is unceded Indian land.....Out peoples demand JUSTICE and RECOGNITION but whenever they stand up for their rights, they are subjected to the RULE OF LAW and POLICE STATE TACTICS!" (Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs - Press Release, August 28, 1995 )
August 29: Counsel Dr. Bruce Clark was allowed to use a police radio phone to make contact with his clients. A coalition of Peace and justice groups picketed the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC in support of the Defenders. A delegation of Native American leaders met with Canadian government officials within the embassy to discuss the crisis at Gustafsen Lake.
August 30: Rancher Lyle James signed an agreement with leaders of the Canoe Creek Indian Band that the Sundance site could be used in the future, "subject to conditions and time limits". Bruce Clark's repeated requests to be allowed inside the camp to speak directly to his clients were not approved by the RCMP. RCMP claimed they could not let Clark into the camp because they could not guarantee Clark's safety while inside the camp. Clark replied that Ovide Mercredi and others had been safely inside the camp, and that it was ludicrous to think his own clients would fire on him. Stuart and Francis Dick, caught behind the RCMP siege, walked out of camp. They were remanded for police interrogation.
August 31: Before dawn, Stuart and Francis Dick were released from police custody; no charges were laid against the two men. At approximately 5:30 am, Dr. Clark was again refused permission to see his clients inside the camp. Clark gave the police an ultimatum: either let him into the camp or send him home. When police refused to do either, Clark left for the airport at Williams Lake and prepared to fly home to Ottawa. Shortly before Dr. Clark was to board the plane in Williams Lake, two RCMP officers arrived via police helicopter and pleaded for Dr. Clark to return to the camp. An RCMP officer said, "Frustration is understandable". Clark replied, "frustration is not the problem. Deception is the problem. Bad faith is the problem" (transcript, CBC TV News, August 31, 6 pm). After the RCMP promised to let him into the camp at 2 pm, Clark agreed to return to the camp. At approximately 6 pm, Dr. Clark came out of the Defenders' camp. In his hands were a handful of bullet casings and an affidavit sworn by an independent journalist inside the camp. According to Dr. Clark, the casings and the affidavit showed that police had been firing directly at people inside the camp, and that the shooting incident on August 27 was instigated by police, not by the Defenders as the RCMP had claimed.
September 1: Dr. Bruce Clark and RCMP Sgt. D. Ryan made two agreements: (1) that Sgt. Ryan would submit Clark's proposal to expedite the jurisdictional adjudication by the Queen, by seeking the approval of the Attorney General of Canada; (2) that the RCMP would not attack the Defenders pending the decision of the Attorney General of Canada. Dr. Bruce Clark sent a letter to RCMP Sgt. Don Ryan, confirming that the Defenders would leave the camp if there was confirmation that the Attorney General and Minister of Justice for Canada sent a letter to Queen Elizabeth II informing her that Canada takes no exception to the petition dated January 3 1995. Dr. Clark then flew back to Ottawa. When Dr. Clark arrived in Ottawa, he was informed that Ryan had submitted the request to the Attorney General of BC, not the Attorney General of Canada; BC Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh promptly vetoed the proposition.
September 2: Dr. Bruce Clark wrote Sgt. Ryan regarding Ryan's breach of the Sept. 1 agreement. Ryan responded, "redirecting the letter for Federal involvement is not necessary." (letter from Ryan to Clark, Sept. 2) Clark responded, "but that was our agreement. You remain contractually and morally bound to keep your word. And it is disingenuous for you to cite normal procedure as a pretext for breaking your word when your word was given to adopt an extraordinary procedure. The essence of your answer to me is that you are "JUST FOLLOWING ORDERS." But since Canada has accepted the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, 1948, as you surely must know that old excuse for police complicity in genocide is not acceptable." (letter from Clark to Ryan, Sept. 2, 1995). RCMP announced a 2000 square mile no go zone around the camp. Although police admitted they could not hope to enforce such a large area, they asked people to respect the request not to go within this zone. According to RCMP, the request was made to try to keep hunters and others out of the area.
September 4: At a public meeting in Vancouver, BC, 50 people spoke in support of the Defenders and in condemnation of media exaggeration and government characterization of the Sundancers as "cult followers" Two police officers accidently ran their vehicle into a tree branch and panicked assuming themselves to be under attack and fled the scene firing widely. Although there was no attack, the RCMP gave a press conference held by John Ward and claimed that the officers had been ambushed and pursued. This non- existant attack was used to justify the introduction of the military into the area.
September 5: Armored personnel carriers were deployed into the "buffer zone" between the RCMP checkpoint and the encampment. Police informed the press that the APCs will be used to transport and protect RCMP patrols. According to the RCMP, "at about 20:45 hours, members of the RCMP came under fire by persons believed to be from the armed encampment at Gustafsen Lake...We are hopeful that by deploying these vehicles as a defensive precaution, we can resume Peaceful dialogue with the members in the encampment." (CBC Radio, Sept. 5) Margaret Clark, acting on behalf of Dr. Bruce Clark, filed an application for an injunction enjoining the RCMP against taking any action against the Defenders, pending the resolution of the constitutional and jurisdictional question posed by Dr. Clark, scheduled for hearing in the Supreme Court of Canada on Sept. 12. A 10-day fast and vigil carried out by supporters of the Defenders began at BC Premier Mike Harcourt's office in Vancouver, BC.
September 6: Ontario Provincial Police attempted to remove native occupiers of traditional lands at Ipperwash Provincial Park, Ontario. One of the traditionalists in this area is a client of Dr. Bruce Clark. When efforts to remove the occupiers were unsuccessful, police responded by sending in police in riot gear, who stormed the gate. The occupiers resisted, and the police then opened fire on the occupiers. Two men were hit. Dudley George died; the other, a 15-year old boy, may still be in critical condition.
September 7: At approximately noon, an RCMP helicopter was sent to investigate a red truck heading away from the encampment. According to the RCMP, shots were fired into the air at the helicopter.
September 8-10: A delegation of native elders brought food and tobacco into the camp. Talks between the elders and the people inside the camp ensued. Negotiation topics included a request that the RCMP relax their barrier around the camp so that people from within the camp could get adequate firewood and water. RCMP refused to allow a mother inside the camp to provide authorization for her little girl's temporary guardians, outside the camp, to approve an appendectomy, which may be necessary should the child's appendicitis worsen. According to Bill Lightbown, a Kootenai elder, RCMP spokesman Sgt. Peter Montague refused to permit a note of authorization to be carried out by a Shuswap delegation.
September 11: In the afternoon, two people accompanied by a dog in the camp truck went to the lake for water. Enroute the truck tripped a RCMP land mine and the explosion disabled the truck. The people inside the truck fled into the bush. One of the APC's rammed the rear of the truck though it had been effectively disabled by the explosion. The two unarmed camp members were pursued and fired upon by RCMP in armored personnel carriers. The RCMP shot and killed the dog. Eventually both the APCs pursued the two unarmed fleeing people firing at them as they fled for their lives. One of the RCMP officers present estimates that he shot between 30 to 50 rounds. Estimates put the number of RCMP involved in this incident at 60. Army issued M-16's and army ammunition were used. Thousands of rounds were fired at the Defenders. Testimony heard during the pre-trial by a member of the ERT said that the 'green light' had been given to shoot to kill. When people in the camp heard the shots, some of them came to save the lives of their friends by distracting the APC's. The great courage shown by one camp member when he stood in the path of an APC bearing down on him was unbelievable and frightened the occupants of the APC. The RCMP continued to block all communications with the camp, leading to much confusion and anxiety over the number of people wounded and the seriousness of the injuries. The RCMP press conference held at 6 pm revealed a dramatic change in tone. According to Penticton Band Councilor Stewart Philip, Montague's vicious tirade of demonization against the Sundance Defenders was "unglued": "He seemed to be really nervous. He didn't seem sure of what he was saying. I kind of get the impression they messed up big-time and the whole thing was going to blow up in his face." The RCMP "just want to go in there and bash heads in," said Shuswap Liaison Team member Don Ryan. "They're all set to kill people." (Vancouver Sun) BC Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh responded by saying "the police have conducted themselves admirably...obviously the chances of a Peaceful solution are dimming day by day." (Vancouver Sun) Shortly after the shooting, Native Liaison Team member Marlowe Sam went into the camp, and returned with two men from the camp. The two men were handcuffed and taken to the 100 Mile House RCMP detachment for interrogation. Earlier that day, an emergency meeting of Department of Indian Affairs (DIA) chiefs from across BC, held in Merritt BC, was addressed by 2 Shuswap supporters - elders Bill Lightbown, founder of United Native Nations, and Lavina White, both active sovereigntists. Lavina White (Thow Hagwelth Edinsoo/Sound of Many Copper Shields-So Be It-Their Word Is Law) of the hereditary High Chieftain Family of the Haida Nation - Raven Clan - and Lightbown called for and received unanimous support for two resolutions:
(1) Deadly military force never be the final option to resolve these human rights issues;
(2) An international impartial UN mediator independent of the issues be appointed.
"Senior RCMP officials considered asking the military to take over policing duties during last year's standoff with native Indians at Gustafsen Lake after a furious gun battle left the force's morale in tatters, The Vancouver Sun has learned." (Vancouver Sun, April 12, 1996) "Shortly after the option (of using the military) was considered Sept. 11 (1995), the military doubled the number of Bison personnel carriers at the scene, airlifted more crews in and set up a secondary maintenance facility to repair the vehicles. But it remained an armored taxi service for RCMP emergency-response teams that tried to out wait the militants. "From the outset, however, the military did not like being associated with the standoff. "When the RCMP first approached the army in mid-August for help, a memo from defence headquarters showed the military almost rejected giving any support at all. "The unsigned memo, written on letterhead belonging to the chief of staff, director-general of military plans and operations, indicated Solicitor-General Herb Grey, RCMP Commissioner Philip Murray and deputy Solicitor-general Jean Fournier were "very aware that Canadian Forces do not want to participate in any way."
September 12: In the Supreme Court of Canada, Chief Justice Antonio Lamer refused to grant an injunction restraining RCMP actions pending a ruling on the Shuswaps' unextinguished, unsurrendered, constitutionally protected sovereignty and jurisdiction. Lamer called the applications "preposterous". (CBC TV Newsworld, 10 pm) The press reported that the non-native woman reported injured on Sept. 11, 1995 had been shot in the arm and did not want to leave the camp. Unconfirmed reports of a man missing from the camp, and feared to be wounded or dead, remained. The media revealed the third person wounded man was an RCMP officer, which later reports more correctly identified as a soldier, who had been slightly injured by a misfired RCMP stun grenade. Two young women left the camp and were placed in police custody. A man seen outside the camp boundaries was arrested and was held in police custody.
September 13: Spiritual leader Arvol Looking Horse arrived from South Dakota. He was escorted into the camp. The RCMP, acting on the belief that the Defenders would come out of the camp if they were assured that they would not be harmed, arranged with the CBC radio to broadcast assurances from the Canim Lake Indian Band chief, in English and in Secwepemc (Shuswap), that the people inside the camp would be treated fairly if they came out of the camp. Unfortunately the RCMP chose Antoine Archie who the Defenders have never trusted. Because of the poor choice of spokesperson, camp members were very uncertain as to the motives and intentions of the RCMP. Mr. Archie is probably the last person the Defenders would have trusted to insure fair treatment.
September 14: The Defenders announced they would not leave the camp unless their original demands were met, and UN observers were brought in as witnesses, to guarantee their safety.
September 16: Spiritual leader John Stevens goes into the camp and assures the Defenders that their work was done and they could leave the camp.
September 17: Defenders leave the camp voluntarily.
October 5: "When Suniva Bronson went to retrieve her driver's license from Police Headquarters in Kamloops earlier this month (October 5), she and her mother were taken into a closed office and interrogated without the presence of a lawyer. Corporal Murray Smith tried to discuss the standoff with them, naming people he assumed to be involved in certain incidents. Suniva refused to comment and eventually Smith forced them both to watch a video that the police had recorded of the infamous red truck being blown up by the land mine. Afterwards, he claimed that the only thing not recorded on video was Suniva being shot. He told her it was an RCMP .223 bullet taken out of her arm, but assured her that it would be impossible to find out who fired the shot because there were more than 60 officers in the field that day. He also threatened that there would be more charges laid of greater consequences, including the possibility of life sentences. Following this confrontation, other Defenders have been harassed by police with questions and similar threats at their homes, always without the presence of their lawyer. One couple was even stopped in their truck on a public street and interrogated right there." (Ts'peten Defenders Press Release, October 24, 1995). Many of the Defenders out on bail experienced varieties of harrassment from RCMP stopping and questioning Defenders without their lawyers to constant helicopter surveillance over their farms.
The Oka Crisis: July-September 1990
Rowland Keshena
Tuesday, 18 March 2008
I know that when it comes to native rights issues I normally tend to go after the United States, but this time I am going north of the border to show that the United States is not alone in its guilt towards the crimes were committed, and still are being committed against the Indian populations of the Western hemisphere.
The Oka Crisis was a land dispute between the people of the Mohawk nation and the town of Oka, Quebec which began on July 11, 1990, and lasted until September 26, 1990. During the three month period, roughly three people died, and the event was to serve as a sparking point for a series of conflicts and confrontations between the central government of Canada and the indians that has yet to really see resolve, one only has to look at the renewal of the conflict over the Six Nations Reserve in south-west Ontario to see what I mean. On a side note, when the United Nations last year signed its Universal Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, only the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand were the only nations who voted against it, some nations abstained, but the vast majority voted to pass the resolution.
The crisis developed from a dispute between the town of Oka and the Mohawk community of Kanesatake. The Mohawk nation had been pursuing a land claim which included a burial ground and a sacred grove of pine trees near Kanesatake. This brought them into conflict with the town of Oka, which was developing plans to expand a its members only golf course onto the land (does this sound familiar to anything we have in Bermuda?).
In 1717, the governor of New France granted the lands encompassing the cemetery and the pines to a Catholic seminary. Before this, a large number of Mohawk had converted to Roman Catholicism, and at the behest of their French missionaries (who wanted them away from the "evil" Dutch and English protestants) they left their original lands in what is now upstate New York, and headed north into what is now Quebec (indeed, the way the Haudenosaunee/Iroquois are spread out is a complex issue spanning war, religion, and an artificial colonial border). The Mohawk claim that this grant was intended for the seminary to hold the land in trust for the Mohawk nation and that the Church expanded this agreement to grant themselves sole ownership rights. In 1868, one year after the Confederation of Canada, the chief of the Oka Mohawk people, Joseph Onasakenrat, wrote a letter to the Church condemning them for illegally holding the land and demanding its return. The petition produced no results for the Mohawks and in 1869 Onasakenrat moved on the seminary with a small armed force, giving the missionaries eight days to hand over the land. This stand-off was ended with force by local authorities. In 1936, the seminary sold the remaining territory and vacated the area under protest by the local Mohawk community.
In 1961, a nine-hole golf course, le Club de golf d'Oka, was built on a portion of the contested land, and the Mohawk launched a legal protest against its construction by the Francophone Oka community. As could be expected, by the time the case was heard, much of the land had already been cleared and construction had begun on a parking lot and golf greens adjacent to the Mohawk cemetery.
In 1977, the nation filed an official land claim with the federal Office of Native Claims regarding the land. The claim was accepted for filing, and funds were provided for additional research of the claim. Nine years later, the claim was finally rejected for failing to meet key criteria.
It was announced in 1989 by the mayor of Oka, Jean Ouellette, that the remainder of the pines on the land would be cleared to make way for expansions to the members-only golf club's course, bringing it to eighteen holes. A total of sixty luxury condominiums were also planned to be built on a section of the pines. However, due to the fact the Office of Native Claims had rejected the Mohawk claim on the land three years earlier, none of these plans were made in consultation with the Mohawks. This was to be the spark that set off the ultimate confrontation. As a protest against a court decision, which allowed the golf course construction to proceed, some members of the Mohawk community erected a barricade across the road, blocking access to the areas in question. Mayor Ouellette demanded compliance with the court order, but the Mohawk protesters refused. Quebec's Minister for Native Affairs, John Ciaccia, wrote a letter of support for the natives, stating that "these people have seen their lands disappear without having been consulted or compensated, and that, in my opinion, is unfair and unjust, especially over a golf course."
On July 11, the mayor asked the Sûreté du Québec (SQ - The Quebec Provincial Police) to intervene, citing apparent Mohawk criminal activity around the barricade as the justification. The Mohawk nation, in accordance with the Constitution of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, asked the women, the caretakers of the land and progenitors of the nation, as to whether or not the arsenal of weapons they had amassed should remain. The decision of the women was that the weapons should be used only if the SQ opened fire first.
When the SQ arrived, a SWAT team swiftly attacked the barricade deploying tear gas canisters and flash bangs in an attempt to create confusion amongst the protesters. It is still unclear whether the police or Mohawks opened fire with live rounds first, but what is known is that after a fifteen-minute exchange of fire, the SQ fell back, abandoning six cruisers and a bulldozer. Due to miscalculations about wind direction, the police's own tear gas blew back at them. During the gun battle, 31-year-old SQ Corporal Marcel Lemay was shot in the mouth and died a short while later.
Following this initial battle the situation escalated as the local Mohawks were joined by other indians from across Canada and the United States, some coming from as far away as the Sioux, Blackfoot and Crow of the Great Plains, the Tlingit and Haida of the north-west coast, the Apache, Navajo and Hopi of the south-west, Cherokee, and of course members of the other Haudenosaunee Confederacy. The indians refused to dismantle their barricades and the SQ established their own blockades to restrict access to the Oka and Kanesatake communities. Other Mohawks at the community of Kahnawake, in solidarity with the Kanesatake Mohawks, blockaded the Mercier Bridge between the Island of Montreal and the South Shore suburbs at the point where it passed through their territory. At the peak of the crisis, the Mercier Bridge and Routes 132, 138 and 207 were all blocked.
The Canadian federal government, in and effort to ease the crisis, agreed to spend $5.3 million to purchase the contested section of land, with the intention of preventing any further development. This move however left the Mohawks outraged as the problem that led to the situation had not been addressed - ownership of the land had simply moved from one level of government to another.
Racial hatred was inflamed during the crisis by members of the Quebecois community. The flames were fanned by radio host Gilles Proulx who repeatedly reminded his listeners that the Mohawks "couldn't even speak French" and the federal Member of Parliament for Chateauguay said that all the natives in Quebec should be shipped off to Labrador "if they wanted their own country so much".
When it was apparent that the SQ had lost control of the situation, the RCMP was brought in but it to was soon overwhelmed by the Mohawks and their allies. Ten mounties were hospitalized and on August 14th the premier Quebec, Robert Bourassa, requisitioned the assistance of the Canadian Forces in "aid to the civil power" by invoking the Emergencies Act.
Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was reluctant to go along with this, but he had no choice as it was Bourassa's right under the act to employ the military when he believed it was required for the maintenance law and order in the province. The Chief of the Defence Staff, General John de Chastelain accordingly placed Quebec-based troops in support of the provincial police authorities. Some 2,500 regular and reserve troops from the 34th and 35th Canadian Brigade Groups and the 5th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group were put on notice and, on the morning of 20 August, 33 troops of the Quebec-based Royal 22e Regiment, the 'Van Doos', led by Major Alain Tremblay took over three of the SQ-RCMP barricades and arrived at the final blockade leading to the disputed area. The SQ had established a no man's land of one and a half kilometres between themselves and the barricade at the pines, but the army pushed this to within five metres, which lead to many literally face to face confrontations between masked Mohawk warriors and Canadian soldiers. Additional troops and mechanized equipment mobilized at staging areas around Montreal while CF-116 Freedom Fighter reconnaissance aircraft staged air photo missions over Mohawk territory to gather intelligence. Despite high tensions between military and native forces, no shots were exchanged.
On August 29, at the Mercier Bridge blockade, the Mohawks of Kahnawake negotiated an end to their protest and siege with Lieutenant Colonel Robin Gagnon, 'Van Doo' commander responsible for monitoring the blockades along the south shore of the St. Lawrence River west of Montreal. This resulted in the siege of the Kahnawake reserve being ended. However the Mohawks at Oka felt betrayed at by the Kahnawake community who surrendered their biggest barganing chip.
On the 25th of September, the final engagement of the crisis took place when a Mohawk warrior walked around the perimeter with a long stick, setting off the flares the army had set up to warn them of any attempts to flee the area. The army turned a hose on the man, but the hose lacked enough pressure to disperse a crowd. The Mohawks then taunted the soldiers and began to throw water balloons at them.
By September 26, the Mohawk warriors ceramonialy dismantled their guns and threw them onto a fire, burned and smoked tobacco and then walked out of the pines and back to the reserve.
The golf-course expansion, which had originally triggered the situation, was cancelled.