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Gitxsan and Tsimshian territories in conflict due to BCTC and Treaty negotiators
COMMENTARY · 10th April 2013
Merv Ritchie
This article has been updated with new map attachments and video links for more clarity on the issues. Kitsumkalum Band Members will be voting today on the Agreement in Principle (AIP), which will in effect state they believe they can claim Gitxsan and Gitlaan Territory.

Click Here and Watch a Gitlaan member attending a Kitsumkalum Meeting. See how Gerald Wesley and Alex Bolton both acknowledge the claim and even agree to talk. They never did.

Click Here and Watch two Kitsumkalum members explain in detail how they treaty team do not have a mandate or the authority to even engage in treaty talks. Both Wesley and Bolton acknowledge this as well, explaining they were entering a process to develop a framework to get a mandate, which again they never did.

The recent threat of war against the Tsimshian Nation by the Gitxsan Nation was not only predictable it has been actively pursued by the British Columbian Government with their Treaty Society negotiators.

Much of the lands the Government has offered Kitsumkalum and Kitselas in a Treaty settlement package are not their traditional lands; some belong to other tribes and some to other Nations.

Conflict must have been the desired result as these boundaries have been known to all parties since 1915 and reinforced in 1926, 1982 and 1992.

On Wednesday, March 20, 2013, the Gitxsan Simgigyet’m (Head Chiefs and Matriarchs) of Gitwangak issued what essentially amounts to a public declaration of war in the local newspapers.

Numerous clan territories are being impacted by the agreement negotiated by Gerald Wesley on behalf of the Tsimshian Villages of Kitsumkalum and Kitselas. And it is not only the Gitxsan Nation clan territories which are being impacted. Many Tsimshian clan territories are being offered to Kitsumkalum while others are completely ignored.

The most significant is the Clan Territory of the Tsimshian Gitlaan. The majority of the Lands being offered to Kitsumkalum do not belong to them and never have.

The entire Zymagotitz River Watershed belongs to the Gitlaan, which have kept their traditional culture and house group alive by holding traditional feasts and respecting the names belonging to the lands.

Like the Gitxsan declaration stated, the Tsimshian Gitlaan also follow the Ayook, their Adawx, the traditional laws of the nations. The Treaty negotiators have disrespected all traditional laws and are fostering hostility.

Each tribe or clan of the Tsimshian Nation knew the boundaries of their lands.

Each had the opportunity to share in the resources available on each others territory as the people knew the bounty was good and there was always enough to share.

But it was also a tradition to acknowledge and show respect to the caretakers of the region they were partaking in the harvest from.

This was how the Coastal Indians came upriver in the Skeena and the Nass to share in the Oolichan harvest as did the up river and inland Tsimshian share in the Salmon and sea otter harvest from the Coastal islands and inlets.

These were bounty sharing regions, not ownership sites.

Currently the Treaty negotiators are attempting to claim down river sites along the Skeena and onto the Pacific Coast as part of Treaty lands for the settlement of a final agreement.

This will create further hostility within the Tsimshian Nation.

All of these hostilities are a carry over from the Residential School era. During the end of the 1800’s and during the first three decades of the twentieth century all Tsimshian and all British Columbian and Canadian Governments knew the boundaries of the Territories.

After the children were taken from the Indian families the ability for the elders to pass on the knowledge was interrupted. Many children were never told the stories passed down over thousands of years.

Yet many were and the documentary evidence survived and is available to those who wish to learn the truth regarding the lands. The governments however always knew and have all the documentary evidence at their fingertips.

With the availability of this information and the maps it cannot be a mistake the Treaty negotiators have trespassed. Two of the principals engaged in the process, Mark Stevenson and Gerald Wesley, have been involved for over 20 years.

The Gitxsan of Gitwangak have made a formal public declaration;

“We have called their Chiefs to come and meet with us but they have not responded.

They don’t seem to have Chiefs; they use the band council system.”

The Tsimshian of Gitlaan have approached the Kitsumkalum in a more private manner, but have made their opposition known to the Kitsumkalum Band Council regarding the Treaty Lands claimed by the Treaty Negotiators and offered to them by BC and Canada.

The claims of rights to further territory, that of the Gitzaxlaal, Gitwilgyoots, Gitsiis, Gitnadoiks, Gispaxlo’ots and Gitando while completely ignoring the land belonging to those living within the Kitsumkalum Community, the Giluts’aaw, makes the Kitsumkalum people outcasts and raiders, the new pirates for the corporate world.

They are facilitating the divide and conquer tactics used by the traders and the settlers of the last two hundred years.

The Gitxsan have publically stated they will not stand for it and they are prepared to defend their territory.

The Tsimshian Gitlaan desire to resolve this peacefully.

The first step is to discover what the Gitxsan have rightly determined to be the problem, the Kitsumkalum have no Chiefs, “They use the band council system”.

During a public meeting in 2005 Don Roberts yelled at Wesley and the Government negotiators how the treaty talks must stop and along with many others claimed the new society was not endorsed by the people and did not have a mandate to continue without the entire Tsimshian Nation at the table.

Today when Don Roberts introduces himself he states he is Chief Don Roberts from Kitsumkalum. This is not correct. Accurately he should state, ‘I am Chief Councillor Don Roberts.’ This is because he is an elected member of the Band Council of the Reserve Village of Kitsumkalum.

The authority of the band council is restricted to the boundaries of the reserve only.

The Indian Affairs branch of the Canadian Government calls the head of the elected body to administer the reserve “Chief”. In actuality this person is the same as a Mayor and many Reserves now refer to these people by this term. Don Roberts is only the Mayor of the Reserve Village of Kitsumkalum.

This is the foundational problem the British Columbian and Canadian Treaty negotiators have facilitated. They were able to ferment these hostilities by not resolving the issues they created by the implementation of the residential school system, the forced abduction of the Indian children and the attempt to stifle the government system of the Tsimshian, Gitxsan and Nisga’a, among others.

The tragedy of the residential school system is continuing under the guise of; band councils, the BC Treaty Commission and Treaty Societies, which all disrespect the Indian peoples and their traditional culture.

All these systems of governance are based on the British Parliamentary democracy system.

An apology by the Government of Canada for their implementation of the virtual genocidal practices of the last hundred years and then continuing with the attempt to exterminate the remaining vestige of the traditional system of governance by fostering conflict and hostilities between the few remaining peoples is disgraceful.

Watching Indian leaders blindly participate in this crime against humanity is just simply embarrassing.

All Simgigyet’m, Sm’oogyet of the clans, tribes, p’deeks of the various northwest Nations must unite to stop this disrespect of the ancestors and children yet to be born.

The BC Treaty Commission and the Negotiators for the Kitselas and Kitsumkalum are participating in an action the corporations, industry and governments have used in all regions of the globe, create hostility and conflict then conquer the people and take their resources.

It is up to the Tsimshian, the Gitxsan, the Nisga’a, the Haisla. the Haida, the Tahltan, the Wet’suwet’en and the Tilingit to recognize all will be lost without all becoming united to take back what the British and Canadian governments attempted to, and continue to, destroy.
Gitlaan Lands offered to Kitsumkalum by Treaty negotiators
Gitlaan Lands offered to Kitsumkalum by Treaty negotiators
The very public declaration of the Gitxsan
The very public declaration of the Gitxsan
A portion of the map well known to all governments as to the rightful territories of the different clans - Note Kalum Lake as a reference point and how the map below supports these claims.
A portion of the map well known to all governments as to the rightful territories of the different clans - Note Kalum Lake as a reference point and how the map below supports these claims.
A Gitxsan map demonstrating their territorial claims - Note Kalum Lake as a reference point and also how the territorial lines of the cross hatched region of the above map match this one.
A Gitxsan map demonstrating their territorial claims - Note Kalum Lake as a reference point and also how the territorial lines of the cross hatched region of the above map match this one.
My apologies Janice...your comment gives me hope
Comment by Cynthia Wunderlich (Nelson) on 12th April 2013
Thank you Janice..I am so happy to hear that you and your family have honored your ancestors through true Tsimshian protocols. The only feasts the council and their families speak of, and don't give any evidence of, are the ones where they didn't follow Tsimshian protocols. Adoptions and names they claim, that aren't passed down from our ancestors, seems to be the only ones they stand by.
May 10, 2001: A Tsimshian feast at Kitsumkalum.
Comment by Janice Robinson on 12th April 2013
On May 10, 2001, the esteemed Tsimshian Eagle House of Gitxon held a traditional naming feast at Kitsumkalum Hall. This was a heroic effort by my Mother, Sgidmhanna'a Sim Maguul (Pearl D. Campbell) to move our house and nation forward.

Despite multiple efforts by non-traditional, Indian politicians, et al, the House of Gitxon took a momentous step forward. No money and no support was received from any government agency. Names were passed down, and legal/traditional adoptions were performed. What a day it was!

The House of Gitxon is a royal house, so you know much controversy and commentary about the event swirled about. Detractors stood angrily outside the door, vainly trying to scare attendees from entering the hall. The local RCMP was officially invited by Sgidmhanna'a Sim Maguul, and a contingent attended in their glorious red serge! The pictures are wonderful.

The feast proceeded, the names were called, Simoighet Niis Waatk danced for his name.....we all danced for our names! The attending/visiting Simoighets (male and female, from near and far) were were all the guests, and the the gifts were distributed.

The feast started and ended with a prayer. Songs and drums filled the hall, and beyond. Ancestors from the other side also attended, and could be felt and seen by many! It was a spiritual experience.

I was so proud of our Mother, Auntie Bernice and other Elders that day. I thought it was going to be easy... I am proud of Waap Gitxon, and so proud of my family. Minor conflicts did not diminish my love.

(This well-attended, traditional feast was not attended by Kitsumkalum band council members, treaty negotiators, employees of the band...nor their family members).

Why wah.

Whii Nea ach.
Speaking of protocols.....
Comment by Cynthia Wunderlich (Nelson) on 10th April 2013
Gerald Wesley is not a Raven (Ganhada), he baggared an old woman to hold the name (Xpiliha) and to secretly be adopted into the clan just to pretend to have some validity in the treaty process.
He is a killerwhale (Gisbuwada) and what a coincidence that all of the treaty lands are mostly killerwhale territory.

Gerald told us at a meeting that they will build a monument for the eagles, wolves and Raven's in honor of losing the bulk of their territories and that we have the governments permission to go and pick berries!

I was told by our true hereditary chiefs that all he did to thank the elder that was pressured to participate in the phoney process was dump a truck full of fish on her lawn and drove away.

He did not have a feast to use the name and he has done nothing for the house in the 25 years that he claims to have the name.

His little meeting in the basement of the house of Sim-o-gets in 1987 was not witnessed by other True Tsimshian Chiefs or stood up within true Tsimshian protocols.

In fact, I don't believe any feasts performed in Kitsumkalum followed true Tsimshian protocols. I have asked for the records and/or photos and film and I was told that they forgot to take pictures of any feasts?

So the whole process is a sham, these are just the type of people the government loves to buy to sell off their members territories for resource extraction.

And why have the RCMP become personal bodyguard for corrupt band councils and British Columbia Treaty Corporation? The members in Burns Lake were abused and harrased. They had 92% of their people in agreement to close the band office, why does that not count? the only time the voting process seems to work is when it is to the benefit of gov, sell outs and corporations and even those votes are not advertised properly or run fairly. Once again their excuses are that they lost the band list or they don't have everyone's addresses. How long does it take to find 700 people? 25 years? this process is all a joke. We can't trust anything they say or put before us, it is all trickery. I had to wait 2 years for financial audits and the only way I got them was thru INAC themselves.

I have asked where the treaty financial audits are and that no person in their right mind would take on more debt without first seeing where the first "loan" was spent! He must think we are all stupid to not want to see how they are spending the treaty monies before voting to go into debt more.

Of course no answer from Gerald. Both him and Alec do not answer calls from the Gitxsan or Gitlaan. They hide and pretend they are not in the office. Does that sound like good chiefs? Does that sound like they are proud of their process?

We can only hope for a miracle that most of our members have seen through their propaganda and tricks and vote no. Hopefully there is a independent body that is watching over the voting process.
We are requesting your permission to forward your article
Comment by Anita Davis on 10th April 2013
Hello Mr. Ritchie,

We, the Simgigyetm Gitwangak, were extremely impressed by what you had to say with regard to our Press Release submitted to the Terrace Standard Re: This Terrace Daily article

Further to our meeting today, we are requesting your permission to forward your article to other communities and newspapers.

Thank you,
Comment by maggiejo johnson on 10th April 2013
Thank you for bringing this to the forefront.

Like we don't have enough in our lives to deal with and then there's this?! Hopefully there is a resolution in the works soon.

If not? Eeks.
Comment by Janice Robinson on 7th April 2013
At treaty "meetings" I have attended, facilitators (negotiators) sound like broken records and parrots. Same things, over and over and over again. Blah, blah, blah.

At the last one I attended, I heard ONE NEW THING!

A facilitator clearly stated:

"We (Tsimshian) own nothing until a treaty is signed."

That is their starting point, when it comes to treaty making. That means they (negotiators included) do not recognize that this is Tsimshian territory to begin with! We are beggars in our own land, and should be happy with anything they choose to offer us.

I just about puked in my mouth. I looked around the room, and left.

Gitxsan! Tsimshian! It is not yours until they tell you it is yours!

The War Claim Scheme!
Comment by Kitsumkalum Band Member: on 6th April 2013
The problem faced is that tax exemption to Status Indians is a provision of the Indian Act (sec 87). While we want the Indian Act removed from our future, it encompass the tax status issue. It is no secret the federal government wants this gone anyway as they feel Indian should get this special privilege. This further complicates negotiations to retain it. As Chief Negotiator, I confirm we will continue efforts to retain personal property tax provisions in which a tax regime can benefit the community as a whole.

Letter: April 03 2013

Addressed To Kitsumkalum Members

Gerald Wesley Chief Negotiator sent a letter around Kitsumkalum April 03 2013,

Into Kitsumkalum Indian Reserve.

The community is concerned of the welfare of their Indian Status ( Tax Exemption).

Learning from Gerald Wesley "openly" saying the Canadian Government - Provincial Government "Wants to get rid of our special rights as Indian Status. That is no secret.

Then he promises us to pay taxes that benefit Kitsumkalum Community as whole.

As Kitsumkalum Band Member when we read this statement. As a reader and sending a strong message. Do not accept to "Pay Provincial Tax as Shared Revenue". Not to a corrupt government of Canada such as Canadian Institution of Governing Body.

We are smarter than to surrender our (Tax Exemption) which is used not only Kitsukalum Indian Land but any were there is a business on any Indian Reserve across Canada.

In the AIP it says "Kitsumkalum Indians". The removal of Indian Act. Well we be Kitsumkalum Citizens no longer Kitsumkalum Indians. There is a legal difference.

As for this "WAR CLAIM". Is a loaded pistol of bull crap. There is no War!

The Gitksan Tennemgat claiming "Wolf Territory of Tsimshian Gitsumkalum. Well from what I learned this was a Wolf territory of Wolf brothers - Sisters in this region.

Kitsumkalum Lake Ayook = Adawk = Malisk we have that story. All tribes used this area as harvesting trade route. Like a inner highway between the Gitksans - Tsimshians - Nisgaa a major trade route.

From what we learned:

There is a Pipe Line Proposal to pass through this Junction. That is why Tennemgat whom is apart of the Gitksan Treaty Society (GTS) Wolves - and Kitsumkalum Treaty are both engaged in.

They both want Gitksans to surrender there Indian Status Tennemgat is pro "Treaty Gitskan Government Model".

Here in Kitsumkalum Treaty there Pro Treaty both wanting a chunk of the pipe line proposal (Private Tax Revenue Fee).

They both want to "Surrender Indian Status" to get this chunk of financial claim.

Reason the Indian Status is blocking them. Because no Indian Land can be for Sale.

The Indians as long they live the Indian way of life there Indian Rights remain.


So Tennemgat - Kitsumkalum Treaty are both in the same boat. To use the communities pit against one another is based on ignorance.

Kitsumkalum Members will not surrender there Indian Status for there gain. We need our Indian Status its clear.

The Gitksans will not surrender there Indian Status either.

So give it up already there is no war.

thank you,

Kitsumkalum Member

my heart aches as I read the two nations are at war.
Comment by Aldaxt'sin Glenna Johnson on 4th April 2013
I agree that the Government is enjoying the fact that two Neighboring Nations are at war. This is not the way of our people. I will not Participate in war against the Tsimshian. I was born and raised in Terrace but am full blooded Gitxsan. My 4 children are half Tsimshian. We should not be fighting each other. We should be standing together in unison and go to the Government and state together the rightful owners of the land. Show the Government we will not act as they did when the settlers came and gave our land away in exchange for a sack of sugar and alcohol then arrested our people for consuming alcohol. We can do so much together.Let's stand together and fight a fight worth fighting; like the fight against hunger, homelessness. T he majority of homeless are our people because of the negative affects that were left within us from the residential school.
Tsimshian are not aggressive:
Comment by Janice Robinson on 1st April 2013
We are engaged in a silent conflict, and many injustices have been perpetrated against us...often with the embarrassing cooperation of uneducated and untraditional secular, Indian politicians and their families. I respect the Gitxsan Nation's right to stand in defense of itself.

Our own Tsimshian Tribal Council (created for/by Hereditary Simoighets and Sgidmhannas) was blindsided and sabotaged by those same politicians.....who aggravate you now! The Tsimshian Nation does have Hereditary leaders (male and female)....contrary to what you say. Unfortunately, we do not have the money that seems to be available to you all. Any effort by us to meet collectively is almost impossible under current circumstances. Many non-Tsimshian have been co-opted in this most unsavoury treaty process....and are allowed to vote!

Our own house territories have been disrespected and/or ignored by those who have no traditional authority to negotiate these shameful treaties and infringe on your beautiful territories. We all have been sold out.

I support the war you have declared on the BCTC and their friends. Carry on.

Why wah!

Whii Nea ach
Waap Gitxon, Eagle Clan.
Kitsumkalum Village,
Tsimshian Nation.
True Symoygyets
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 31st March 2013
First this is a commentary (not reporting) on the issues brought forward by true Symoygyets.

It was the Gitxsan who raised the issue and took out a full page ad to bring a level of awareness to the matter.

This commentary is providing the maps and details so the uninformed "True Symoygyets" and the general public, including the Band members, can see some of the deceit and deception going on behind the scenes.

It is the True Symoygyets who need to join together, away from the Band Councils, to address their historical and accurate claims. As was stated during the 2005 meeting at Kitsumkalum, the True Symoygyets should be negotiating "Treaty" while the Band Councils are actually negotiating "Land Claims".

These are two very different issues. And they need the real Tsimshian to be at the table and vote on Treaty. Having non-Tsimshian Band Members vote on the release or acceptance of "True Symoygyet" lands is an offense to any right thinking person.

These True Symoygyets need to be brought together away from infiltrating governments, government agents, provocateurs and band councils. There they can share and exchange their Ayook and resolve all grievances cooperatively; not in acrimony as the Treaty Team and the Governments are facilitating.
Disputed territories
Comment by Alfie McDames on 31st March 2013
True Symoygyets will not respond to this kind of reporting. These matters have their own protocol.
About Time
Comment by W. A. Ron on 31st March 2013
How is it that every hard done by story about FN's always blames somebody else. It is not the residential schools fault that "Indian leaders blindly participate ".
When you feel that somebody is always taking your stuff it is always easy to blame others but for once FN must realize that there is far more land claimed as traditional territory than actual available land. That generally creates a problem. This is why the the world has seen wars for thousands of years.
I don't think it is going to take the governments to destroy what there is now. First Nations are doing a good job of that on their own.