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COMMENTARY · 10th March 2013
Merv Ritchie
While Canadian and British Prime Ministers declare they, along with other nations, are sending military forces into protect women’s rights in Afghanistan and other regions across the globe, at the same time they are exterminating the only true female led culture under their own jurisdiction.

The only true social structure directed and controlled by female leadership documented in any historical record has been directly targeted for extermination, first by British leaders and today by the Canadian leadership.

Stephen Harper and the Canadian administration of the last three Parliamentary sessions of Canada’s government has led a charge directed squarely at the last surviving; strictly matriarchal, matrilineal society. This documented 10,000 year old ancient culture discovered only 300 years ago lies in the remote location in Northwest British Columbia called Damelahamid.

The Government has a duty to protect and assist in the rehabilitation of this world heritage culture and region.

The History

When the first British ships arrived on the northwest coast of British Columbia some of the officers recorded the unique government structure they encountered. The strength of this authority and the respect all the inhabitants they encountered had for their leadership was frequently described with admiration. All ships captains and traders came to understand they needed to show the same respect to these leaders as their own Queens and Kings would expect in England. Whether they landed near Haida Gwaii or in the Nass or Skeena estuaries they recognized and recorded the leadership they needed to address before trade negotiations could proceed.

The details on how the leadership was granted by the matriarchs to a male of their lineage; not that of their husband was well documented. And it was unique to Damelahamid; the lands of the Haida, Haisla, Gitxsan, Nisga’a,Tahltan, Tlingit and the most powerful Nation on the Northcoast of BC, the Tsimshian.

The First Purposeful Attempt at Extermination

In 1862, shortly after British Governor James Douglas purchased a parcel of land from the Indians and set up a settlement at Victoria, the British government house leader and colonial doctor, Dr. Helmcken took advantage of the unfortunate arrival of small pox to purposefully spread the disease to the Indian peoples originating from Damelahamid. After he ensured the disease took hold he and his government refused treatment and forcibly evicted them to return to their home communities. In the newspapers of the day as well as in his own words he expected this matriarchal culture to be exterminated, “to be remembered only in story.”

As the remote regions suffered and recovered during the next twenty years more British traders arrived to take advantage of the weakened peoples introducing alcohol and offering cheap goods in exchange for labour. With the lack of the thousands of additional men and women to harvest traditional foods, and with the loss of so many family members most people had no choice but to accept the offerings simply to survive.

On the third of February, 1887, a new group of leaders from Damelahamid arrived in Victoria to discuss and negotiate terms to live in harmony with BC Premier Smithe. When the son of Nisga'a Chief Mountain referred to the Royal Proclamation of 1763 Smithe denied the document existed stating; “There is no such law either English or Dominion that I know of; and the Indians, or their friends, have been misled on that point.” Two other government ministers were at this meeting; John Robson and AEB Davie; both future Premiers.

This meeting was followed by the British Columbian government arbitrarily declaring the female led governance and any celebration, feasting or gathering to express their culture, an offence.

After continuous petitions to the British Columbian and Canadian Governments through the next thirty years the people from the Nass and Skeena Rivers arrived in 1926 at the Canadian Parliament buildings in Ottawa to present their claims of jurisdiction. After they left the Canadian government declared it an illegal activity for any lawyer to represent them, for anyone to assist them, and then instituted an Act of Parliament to abduct all their children, forbid gatherings of more than three Indians and made any Damelahamid Indian governance representation an offence such that a trial wasn’t even necessary, simply arrest.

During the 1930’s and 1940’s the last regions of Damelahamid were explored and the children forcibly removed. The culture and matriarchal governance however survived and remains just barely intact today.

The Compilation of the History of Damelahamid

All the early Europeans documented and recorded the unique peoples of Damelahamid. The missionaries who arrived to help them escape the degradation introduced by the traders and unscrupulous merchants and missionaries who attempted to ‘Christianize’, all kept extensive diaries. The early explorers and even the traders themselves kept records of their encounters and travels. The written records all record the names and terms with different letters, all attempted to transcribe the sounds of the words used by these people.

Likely the most comprehensive document of the diaries and records of these people is contained in the book, “Tribal Boundaries of the Nass Watershed” by Neil Sterritt, Susan Marsden, Peter Grant, Robert Galois and Richard Overstall. They compiled an extensive list of writings and maps from the first Hudson Bay Trader, Donald Manson travelling the Nass Valley in 1832 to one hundred years later, P. Monkton, a BC land surveyor writing in the 1930’s.

Damelahamid was also written Dimlahamid, Tum-L-Hama and Temlaham. The vocalization used even today by the local Gixsan people use guttural tones not easily represented by writing.

The Nisga’a people of the Nass Valley have a variety of spellings for their own names and the names of their associated territories as do the spellings for the Tsimshian, Haida, Haisla, Tlingit and Gitxsan. All however are direct descendents of Damelahamid and all live under the oldest if not only true matriarchal, matrilineal culture known to mankind.

The earliest anthropological scholarly efforts were not undertaken until 1894 with Franz Boas. All other recordings of the people and the region, besides missionaries, were largely for commercial purposes. Very little true scientific work was undertaken throughout the early 1900’s as almost every effort was made to destroy the peoples and take their lands. Numerous village sites were burned, though most were claimed to be accidental. In the 1920’s Marius Barbeau wrote an interesting account on the culture in his book “The Downfall of Temlaham” which was the first to describe the social structure. He provides intricate details previously not described.

The first real compilation was the extensive record by Neil Sterritt et al for the Gitxsan challenge to the land and territory claims made by the Nisga’a during their Treaty negotiations. This documentary record also provided an invaluable resource for the subsequent court case against the British Columbia Government. The result of this court challenge was the well known Delgamuukw Appeal Court ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada. Other than this there has been no fully documented and proper investigative record of the ancient matriarchal culture of Damelahamid.

How Canada Responded to the Court Loss

After the seriousness of the legal claims and the historical accuracies were finally acknowledged by the Canadian Supreme Court Justices, the Canadian and British Columbian Governments secretly and quietly worked conspiratorially to divide the unity of the Gitxsan people, particularly the now united high ranking Chiefs and Matriarchs. Using money and influence with government agents and corporations they funded and exacerbated competing local differences to create divisions in Damelahamid.

The first incident of financial influence was the removal of the economic backbone of the region. Immediately after the 1997 Court ruling on how the Gitxsan still maintained legal rights to their territory, the owner of the entire timber reserve repositioned his massive forestry based empire into a bankruptcy position and shut it all down. The foundation of the court case was about who had jurisdiction over the forest lands, the BC Government or the people of Damelahamid.

The owner, Danny Vaniez, a Boston based corporate executive and senior policy advisor to the Conservative Party of Canada, simply sheared Repap BC off from the parent company Repap Enterprises of Montreal to force it into bankruptcy. The NDP Party of BC attempted to keep the economic activity of the region alive but after the BC Liberals and their conservative leader Gordon Campbell took office, they sold the entire infrastructure back to Vaniez for $6 million.

After a year of false efforts, Vaniez sold off all the assets for an estimated $50 million leaving the province with an estimated loss of $250 million. Vaniez (and the associated Federal and Provincial governments) removed everything of value, stripping all of the infrastructure, ensuring the Gitxsan would not be able to rebuild an economy.

This left the Gitxsan people in serious financial turmoil, vulnerable and desperate. It remains this way today.

How Canada Determined to Continue

The governments, both provincial and federal understand the Indian governance structure of the region of Damelahamid. The Supreme Court of Canada made it very clear. To ensure they have the legal authority to take the land, to encroach on the territory, due to the Delgamuukw ruling and the duty to consult, they demand they have a signature with the authority of a Hereditary Chief.

Today men are stepping forward claiming to be hereditary chiefs. This is enough for the government and industry representatives. They do not perform any fiduciary duty or due diligence to ensure these men have the authorization to hold the name or the title. Governments and industry are willing to accept it simply because one or two band council members or other Indians state it is true. Some of these men are willing to make this erroneous claim simply because they know they will be gifted with money. As the region has been driven into such poverty the easy money available by claiming to be a Hereditary Chief is too difficult for some to resist. Gitxsan Treaty Negotiator Elmer Derrick is only one who is claiming to be a proper high Hereditary Chief. Industrialists and all levels of government have willingly participated in his charade even though they were made fully aware of his false claim in 2008. Tsimshian Gerald Wesley is another who is now allowed to sign to participate in dividing the entire Tsimshian Nation.

This is a criminal act of complicity participated in by all levels of Canadian and British governments. All understand the inappropriate measures being taken and many court cases have been initiated by and against the true Hereditary Chiefs in an attempt to demonstrate or to illustrate the truth of the situation. The Haisla Court case initiated by the Kitamaat Band Council against their Hereditary Chiefs, a case which also listed BC Premier Gordon Campbell demonstrates the full knowledge; the act of complicity to the crime by the Provincial government.

The Future

This year, 2013, may be the last year this true female led governance system has any chance to survive. The male led Assembly of First Nations (AFN), funded and populated by elected Band Council Chiefs, of primarily male led Indian cultures are negotiating with the patriarchal male dominated Canadian Government. Not a single effort is made to consider the matriarchal authority or to have any representation of the true Damelahamid leadership.

The recent measures passed in the Canadian Parliament, the various 'omnibus' Bills and other measures are specifically targeted to destroy the region of Damelahamid and the matriarchal culture.

And it Continues From a Very Recent Past of Canadian Neglect and Abuse for Women

The Highway of Tears, Highway 16 West, from Prince George to Prince Rupert in Northwest British Columbia, travels straight through the middle of Damelahamid. This highway is called the Highway of Tears due to the loss of untold numbers of women and girls on this stretch of road. This is the region where the majority of the women came from who were murdered near Vancouver, BC at Piggies Palace by Willie Pickton. Just as the RCMP and the Vancouver City Police neglected these women and the obvious serial murderer on the loose, the RCMP are also ignoring the missing and murdered on the Highway of Tears. Even the Human Rights Watch report this past February has been ignored and dismissed by the Canadian Government.

While Canadian and British Prime Ministers declare when they, along with other nations, send military forces into protect women’s rights in Afghanistan and other regions across the globe, they exterminate the only true female led culture under their own jurisdiction. The only true culture directed and controlled by female leadership recorded in any historical record is still being directly targeted for extermination. The British traders are long gone but today the Canadian government is ensuring this amazing culture will be, as the British doctor, Dr Helmken desired, only remembered in story.

The Crown of Britain also has a duty, an obligation to ensure this last surviving culture, the remnants of the descendants of Damelahamid survive. To blindly allow this to happen will likely be recorded as the most tragic foreseeable events of the modern age.

From the Past to the Present

In 1862 the Victoria newspaper recorded the following words in regards to the actions of their colonial government and Dr. Helmken;

"... "What will they say in England?' when it is known that an Indian population was fostered and encouraged round Victoria, until the small-pox was imported from San Francisco.

They, when the disease raged amongst them, when the unfortunate wretches were dying by scores, deserted by their own people, and left to perish in the midst of a Christian community that had fattened off them for four years - then the humanizing influence of our civilized Government comes in - not to remedy the evil that it had brought about - not to become the Good Samaritan, and endeavor to ameliorate the effects of the disease by medical exertion, but to drive these people away to death, and to disseminate the fell disease along the coast.

To send with them the destruction perhaps of the whole Indian race in the British Possessions on the Pacific ... . There is a dehumanizing fatuity about this treatment of the natives that is truly horrible ... How easy it would have been to have sent away the tribes when the disease was first noticed in the town, and if any of the Indians had taken the infection, to have had a place where they could have been attended to, some little distance from Victoria, until they recovered as they in all probability would have done with medical aid.

By this means the progress of the disease would at once been arrested, and the population saved from the horrible sights, and perhaps dangerous effects, of heaps of dead bodies putrifying [sic] in the summer's sun, in the vicinity of town ... The authorities have commenced the work of extermination - let them keep it up ... . Never was there a more execrable Indian policy than ours"
(Daily Press, June 17, 1862 in Boyd, p. 182-183, endnote 7).

Indeed - What will they say, what will we do, who will stand with them?

Sometimes females are willing doormats...
Comment by Janice Robinson on 12th March 2013
After Brian Mulroney (the liar of all liars) screwed everything up for the federal Conservatives, a little blonde named Kim Campbell eagerly stepped up to take responsibility and the fall for the whole sordid mess.

After Gordon Campbell (the lying, cheating, B.C. sell-out) skipped the country for bigger, better things, Christy Clark jumped at the chance to be mocked, and politically drawn and quartered for the whole Campbell (Asian) charade.

Regarding lying, cheating, Indian, treaty sell-outs who fancy themselves big chiefs....they couldn't do it without the support and cheers of lying, vindictive Indian "women" with names they just made up!

Pimps also require the support of forlorn, confused, addicted, ladies-of-the-night to pay for their apartments, clothes, cars and drinks at "the club."

True that.
no need to ponder today
Comment by Catherine on 11th March 2013
Merv, every time I read one of your editorials I sit back and ponder them for a few days before I decide to comment. Not today - this one has me burning with utter rage!

Quite simply, they want to force whatever inhabitants there are out of the North in order to rape it for it's riches. Look what happened in China to those who lived along the river that was soon to be dammed up. They were displaced - stripped of their land that used to feed them - forced into the slums of the city as they had no skills to compete for a job. I remember reading somewhere that Falcon and Clark had wished they could expropriate land like they could in China."By the time every bureaucracy took their cut from the final payoff to the poor peasant for his land all he was left with was pennies and no way to feed himself."

These people are feeding off of us - what's it going to take to stop it?