NEWS RELEASE · 20th July 2012
Gitxsan Unity Movement
On this day history was made within the Gitxsan Nation, it is not a history to be proud of yet; the nation was divided by the territories, inside families and even house groups (Wilp's).
Fifteen Chief's and their house group territories broke away from the Gitxsan Treaty Society (GTS) and the negotiations with the B.C. Treaty Commission.
Other Wilp's remained either neutral or in an internal dispute regarding joining the treaty process.
Some Wilp's chose to continue on with the treaty negotiations and work towards amending the section 85 clause in the GTS constitution. This could enable them, the GTS, to make adjustments and "fix” the society into a legal one with a verifiable membership.
Talks took place as the GTS held a three day meeting at the Gitsegukla Elementary School. The meeting was called to make ‘community based resolutions’ to “fix” the illegal parts of the GTS, as was ordered by Justice Mark McEwan of the Supreme Court of B.C.
Early estimates suggest the GTS now only has the support of House Groups representing less than one third of the land base of the Gitxsan Nation; roughly 12,000 sq. kilometers. A drastic reduction in the 33,000 kms that the GTS claimed they represented at the beginning of the three day meeting.
Dialogue from the Chiefs discussion included respect, good governance and how respecting each and all Chiefs was paramount. It was the Chiefs who were the paramount issue in the final decisions of the historic Delgumuukw trial, a landmark court case which benefited all Indigenous people of Canada.
When good governance was discussed it was asked what good governance consisted of. A reflection of good governance is unity and currently the Gitxsan Nation does not have unity.
It was said to be disheartening to watch Chiefs divide themselves away from and to the GTS; watching Chiefs dispute with Chiefs. When the current crisis began in December 2011 the desire was to bring harmony between the Gitxsan Governance and the Gitxsan Nation. Success in this objective has yet to be achieved.
There is hope. The Simgiigyet (Chiefs) talked about taking a more active role in the leadership of the Treaty Society; to oversee the board of directors, who guide the staff, and report back to them.
The Chiefs also discussed the issue of who is a Gitxsan and who is not. This was an issue that had all Gitxsan not born by a Gitxsan mother fearing for their rights as Gitxsan people. They said they will fix this bylaw within the society. Gitxsan blood is Gitxsan blood; there is no room for discrimination on whether the father or mother was Gitxsan.
For some Chiefs, it was too little too late, they opted, with their house groups, to break away.
A wise leader once told said, “sometimes you have to have division, to create unity".
Signs that perhaps these words will ring true in this Gitxsan crisis, were evident these past three days. Now the Gitxsan people will reflect on the proceedings and find a way to come together again. What this looks like today is not clear.
Why manipulate your culture to feel good??
Comment by Janice Robinson on 20th July 2012
It is sad to see First Nations, in British Columbia, so willing to bastardize their cultures to cater to egos, and to fit the needs of their treaty processes.
"Gitxsan blood is Gitxsan blood." So?
Tsimshian blood is Tsimshian blood also. That does not change our cultures (that have stood the test of time, for thousands of years), that are MATRILINEAL and MATRIARCHAL. Period.
Stop confusing people....especially young ones. I know a few Tsimshian, young people, who have been raised in Gitxsan Territory. Their Mothers are Tsimshian, and their fathers are Gitxsan. By bastardizing your own culture....you confuse these people, and take part in denying them their God-given Tsimshian heritage!
The treaty teams/families trying to force the Tsimshian treaty upon us are also engaged in this dubious conduct. That has resulted in many non-Tsimshian being co-opted into meaningful positions in treaty offices. I resent being coerced and "educated" about the Tsimshian treaty process by individuals who are Nisga'a, Gitxsan and Sto:lo, etc. They claim to have Tsimshian blood too! And they do......on their father's side!
All B.C. First Nations were solidly matrilineal and matriarchal when Europeans first "discovered" us. They do not like that about us, and it seems to me, the Gitxsan are going to be duped.
Let us respect our ancestors. There are many good reasons they made our cultures matrilineal and matriarchal. Just because you don't happen to understand your ancestors' reasoning, is no reason to disrespect their ways and their wishes for us.
Whii nea ach.
From the Esteemed, Tsimshian Eagle House of Gitxon,