About a year and a half ago, I decided to investigate the history of the area around Gustafsen Lake. I was concerned, as were many, that the RCMP had stepped far beyond moral and legal bounds with their government sanctioned seige at Gustafsen Lake. I thought that if historical documents proved that the land at Gustafsen belonged to the Shuswap people, then the Crown's case against the Ts'peten Defenders would be shown to be a sham, the RCMP would be held accountable for attempted murder and the issue of Native sovereignty would move front and centre in the public arena. Now, as 15 defendents face prison terms as high as ten years to life, I am embarassed by my naivete.
My belief that justice would prevail in the face of truth and the historical record -- which prove that the Defenders have been right all along -- has been shattered by the depth and breadth of the unbridled and systemic racism underpining the policies and decisions of our elected officials. This racism permeates the ranks of the elected government officials who gave the RCMP their orders to institute this genocidal attack on Shuswap Sundancers. The racism of the RCMP, who directed the siege, is a daily reality for all Indigeneous People here. Our judicial system which, in its capacity as the legal arm of race hatred and genocide out of control, failed the Ts'peten in their quest for truth and justice. Finally, the mainstream media both locally and nationally would not report the Indian side of the story. Local media were gagged by editorial orders (told not to cover) the most important trial in Canadian history. (One reporter had the decency to inform Margaret Clark, wife of Dr. Bruce Clark, of this.) Gag orders come directly or indirectly from corporate and government interests who call the tune because they pay the bills which keep the media afloat. But gag orders, then or now, do not excuse media complicity in the ongoing genocide perpetuated against the original inhabitants of this country, to say nothing of other non-Native, marginalized peoples who suffer at the hands of journalists "just doing their job".
The media (CBC ,CKNW, BCTV, SUN, PROVINCE, MACLEAN'S) had the real story early enough to print it and air it and thus make a difference. The insidious outcome of their silence -- innocent men and women, nearly murdered by a police force gone berserk, now stand convicted on trumped up, illegal charges and face severe jail sentences ,while the real criminals, the RCMP, have now purchased armoured personnel carriers and two .50 calibre machine guns to use against the next Indigenous community with the courage to stand up for their rights. The media chose instead to act within their unquestioned, received notions of race and power and participated in demonizing and criminalizing the innocent while they made heros of the guilty. This negation of the truth continued almost unabated throughout the 10 month long trial which recently ended. The Surrey courtroom is not a long way from the media offices in downtown Vancouver!! The mounting testimonial evidence (self)incriminating the RCMP in attempted murder and ongoing genocide was not deemed newsworthy.
The RCMP had the real story about Gustafsen Lake, right from day one, but they were following an agenda which didn't include exposing the truth about the true state of ownership, and thus jurisdiction in this province, let alone one small grazing lot, somewhere in a remote section of the South Cariboo. They were acting on the orders of their government masters.
In 1887, Nils Gustafsen decided to purchase a lot in the Cariboo and notified the fledgling Surveyor-General's office of his intention. As per instructions to prospective landowners, he sent a map locating his desired purchase along with his pre-emption papers. That map (shown here) along with all the papers giving Nils Gustafsen the deed to a piece of land somewhere in the Cariboo sat in the files of the British Columbia Archives and Records Service from that day till July of 1996 when I asked a librarian there to retrieve it for me.
It took me all of 30 seconds to copy Gustafsen's simple map which shows the location of Lot L 114, somewhere along Dog Creek, the same lot that has become infamous as the scene of the RCMP initiated siege at Gustafsen Lake on Dog Creek in the summer of 1995. There is one problem though. Gustafsen Lake didn't exist in 1887. Lot L 114, (to which Lyle James, Cariboo rancher complicit in the attempted murder of the Ts'peten Defenders, has fee simple title), was not located on Gustafsen Lake. The first real map of the area wasn't drawn until the 1930s and shows Lot L 114 in its present position. Between 1887 and 1930s, the lot mysteriously moved, or perhaps, not so mysteriously. George Wool, defence lawyer, introduced this "pre-emption map", and another important map -- a nicely drawn square locating Lot L 114 miles from Gustafsen Lake -- as evidence last July. The jury were aware, from that point on, that the Sundance grounds (like most of B.C.) is unceded, Shuswap territory and that the Sundance Grounds do not belong to Lyle James.
Judge Josephsen, in his charge to the jury several weeks ago, told them that "for the purposes of this trial" they must consider the property where the siege occured, Lyle James' private property, when they were determining guilt or innocence. The jury were instructed to ignore the truth. Native historian David Archie, who knew that Dog Creek had been dammed to create Ts'peten Lake (also known as Big Lake, now Gustafsen Lake) in the early 1930s to provide much needed water to Reserve land in the area. Archie, had unearthed a good deal more, including the fact that the original reserve lands (300,000 acres) set aside in 1864 for the Dog Creek peoples by A.C. Elliot (eventually a premier of B.C.) at the behest of then premier Douglas, had extended several miles east and south of and encompassing Gustafsen Lake . The sacred Ts'peten Sundance grounds had been reserve land for over a century. When Elliot set out the original Dog Creek reserves, the Dog Creek Peoples had been decimated by a smallpox epidemic which had raged throughout B.C. in 1862-63, killing an estimated 60 to 70 percent of the Original Peoples of this province. Eleven Dog Creek people were all that remained of over two hundred. Many of the dead were buried at the sacred Sundance grounds where the Ts'peten defenders made their stand. The historical record indicates that by the 1880s, less than 20 years after Elliot's visit to the area, non-Natives at Gustafsen Lake and the surrounding areas had illegally purchased all of the choice land reserved for the Dog Creek Secwepemc people. They could offer little resistance to settler encroachment and their appeals to both levels of government were ignored. In 1888, the Federal government finally purchased land from the illegal estate of A.E. Bates so that the Dog Creek people would have somewhere to live. The provincial government had refused to help preferring, it would seem, to see them starve. In July of 1995, David Archie gave a full historical report of the area to Cst. George Findley, a Native RCMP officer who reported this information to his superiors on July 12, 1995. His superiors abruptly took him off assignment that day. Findley read this same report to the courtroom in Surrey on DAY 13 of the Defenders' trial.
The Province of B.C. is in trouble. B.C. has not entered into treaty with the majority of Indigenous Nations of this "province". Natural, International and Constitutional Law clearly state that the Original Peoples have jurisdiction over their untreatied territories. B.C has fraudulently and illegally usurped this jurisdiction. B.C is an outlaw colonial state with no legitimate authority for its' presence within these untreatied territories. The state of B.C. is engaged in genocide. Illegal War against the traditional Indigineous people. Over 60% of the Original Peoples of (what is known as) B.C. have withdrawn from the fraudulent B.C. Treaty Process), as it is not a treaty process at all, but a domestic land claims agreement process. Domestic land claims agreements come under the terms of N.A.F.T.A. Treaties, on the other hand, guarantee the rights of First Nations -- both within the context of existing treaties and those Indigenous Nations who have not yet treatied, such as those residing in B.C.-- under existing Natural, Constitutional and International Law. Locally, nationally and internationally, a host of predators want to get their hands on the invaluable lands and resources - at this point still legally and legitimately owned by Indigenous Peoples. The massive show of force at Gustafsen Lake was to be an example to others (and their lawyers such as Dr. Bruce Clark, Jack Cram, Janice Switlo), who may defy the purveyors of rapacious resource extraction, that the monied players were not above murder.
The Ts'peten Defenders were criminalized for standing on their rights, for insisting that existing laws protecting their rights be addressed, for rejecting the fraudulent B.C. treaty making process and insisting that an independent third-party tribunal to look at the law and decide who is right.
In May of 1995, Supt.Len Olfert and his superiors, began to attend meetings with regard to Gustafsen Lake. It was during this time they planned the siege at Gustafsen which they carried out later that summer). The entire siege (read genocidal exercise) was video-taped so that it could be used as an RCMP "training tool" to instruct the troops in how to most expeditiously murder those Indigenous who refuse to play ball with the oppressor. These training tapes were not disclosed to the court until December of 1996, six months into the trial. The judge allowed the jury to view only a few minutes of the 50 hours of incriminating tapes.
Gustafsen Lake was the ideal location for a "history lesson", a sparsely populated area difficult to reach by road. After the RCMP publicly called the Shuswap Nationals "Terrorists", they attempted to instigate an incident. When camp members refused to be baited by the RCMP's WARLIKE advances, the Police management became frustrated and antsy. It remained for the RCMP to "invent" several shooting incidents and feed the media with carefully constructed press releases. The criminalization of Indigenous Peoples has been ongoing. The RCMP with the help of the media, so willing to do their bidding, simply continued this process. When their turn came the B.C. judiciary finished the job. THE PUBLIC HAS BEEN LIED TO!! The RCMP are guilty of attempted murder and a host of other crimes. They have not, as yet, been charged. There must be a full Public Inquiry into the Human rights travesty at Gustafsen Lake.
Fifteen of the Ts'peten Defenders face jail terms for crimes they did not commit. Sentencing begins Friday, June 6th at 10 am, at the Surrey courthouse. Drummers, singers and supporters from many nations will be there. The Defenders ask you join them at a rally at the courthouse that morning. Help send a message to the the federal and provincial governments and the B.C. judiciary that the people of Canada condemn ongoing, state-sanctioned genocide against Indigenous Peoples. You can make a difference!!
Rally Friday, June 6th 9:00 a.m.
Surrey Municipal Centre, King George and Highway 10
Car pool: If you have a car or need a ride, call: 251-3048
Skytrain: to Surrey Central, then catch the White Rock Centre 321 bus to the corner of King George and Highway 10, walk east.
Driving: Follow Clark Drive south to Hwy 91, go east on Hwy 91 across the Alex Fraser bridge (Surrey/Delta)then east on Hwy 10 to Surrey Municipal Centre just past King George Hwy.
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