Today, Tuesday, July 17, 2012, the Gitxsan Treaty Society (GTS) held a meeting to recruit society members from each Gitxsan traditional hereditary house group. Thus attempting to follow the B.C. Supreme Court's, Justice Mark McEwan's, recommendation to use Section 85 of the Society Act to fix their society with a community based solution.
During this meeting a majority of the Chiefs present asked questions regarding the Treaty negotiations. They wished to understand exactly what the treaty negotiations consisted of and then raised issues that they felt needed to be dealt with immediately.
Some of the questions asked were;
"Why are our people not considered Gitxsan if they are not born of the Gitxsan womb?"
"The GTS has manipulated the Hereditary Chiefs, who are these Chiefs? It should only be the Head Chiefs of the House groups who do the talking!"
"If this is a community based meeting, why are not all Gitxsan allowed to speak?"
The speakers were limited to the Chiefs who were sitting around the GTS tables.
The GTS was filming the meeting yet denied everyone else, including media, to record. When asked by hereditary chiefs and others, the GTS refused to provide minutes of the previous meeting held on the same issue. The Hereditary Chiefs were told they were bringing up issues that could be dealt with at another time. The only issue the GTS wished to discuss was, ‘What are your questions with regards to our proposal to fix the Society and give it the legal right to represent the Gitxsan in treaty negotiations?’
This did not fit well with a majority of the Chiefs. Many felt the society had given itself too much decision making power, taking it away from the Chiefs and the board of directors. Many do not trust the society and refused to appoint a member to join them.
BCTC (British Columbia Treaty Commission) representative Dan Quinn was in attendance to observe the proceedings. Copies of Chiefs letters removing their territories and stating GTS does not represent them were delivered to Quinn personally. This accounts for well over 65% of all the traditional territory of the Gitxsan Nation. See map attached below.
At the meeting a total of 17 Chiefs spoke out, either verbally or by written statement, against the treaty and removed their house group's territories from treaty negotiations. Their statements confirmed they no longer acknowledge the treaty society as representatives of the Gitxsan.
Eleven of the Chiefs asked questions and made statements, but neither supported the GTS proposal or opposed it.
Seven of the Chiefs who attended the meeting indicated they supported the GTS in all of its business. In all, the Territories held by Chiefs and ‘Wing’ Chiefs publicly supporting the GTS represent less than 20% of the Gitxsan lands.
At times the GTS appointed chairpersons had to request the people in attendance to keep their talking and comments down. They also requested they not applaud after a speaker turned down the GTS as representatives, pulling their territories out of negotiations. Two lawyers, those who represented the GTS in the recent Court proceedings, Bull, Housser & Tupper LLP, were answering the Chiefs. Notably absent was Elmer Derrick. Although Gordon Sebastian, Jim Angus and Beverly Clifton Percival were present they did not take an active role, rather left the questioning to their lawyers.
The attendance was considered to be poor, when one considers the importance of such decisions being made at these meetings.
The Gitxsan Unity Movement states the low attendance is not surprising after 18 years of oppression from our own leaders; people have given up hope. Many have tried to stand up to the manipulative ways of the GTS and many have failed.
Today marks a very important day in the history of the Gitxsan Nation, the High Chiefs are speaking out against the disrespect the GTS has previously demonstrated towards the Gitxsan Nation and the Simgiigyet (Chiefs).
The GTS meetings continue, with more Chiefs giving statements on the proposal and whether they support the Treaty Society or not, Wednesday and Thursday beginning at 9 a.m. in the Gitsegukla School. It is open to all people to witness.
The Gitxsan Unity Movement continues to encourage all Gitxsan people to attend and support their Chiefs who are attempting to stand against the intimidation of the GTS representation. A lunch is being provided at this gathering
The Gitxsan Unity Movement began as Gitxsan Against Enbridge in early December 2011. The goal of the movement is to bring harmony between the Gitxsan government and the values, law and will of the Gitxsan. http://gitxsanagainstenbridge.com/