CONTRIBUTION · 21st June 2013
Cynthia Wunderlich (Nelson)
Charles Nelson from Kitsumkalum and Others including Sam Wise from Kitselas, address the Royal Commission at Port Essington in 1915
Editors Note: The document in whole is attached at bottom of article. Read more from other chiefs and dealings with George Little.
Contradictory to The British Columbia Treaty Commissions Video clip of Charles Nelson - he wanted all of our territories for our peoples - not reserves and not treaties.
Gerald Wesley (killerwhale)(Gispwudwada)(Main Treaty Negotiator) is using Charles Nelsons' (Raven)(Ganhada) chief name (Xpiliha) to promote treaty and negotiate treaty lands, refer to the map below.
Royal Commission On Indian Affairs For The Province Of British Columbia Meeting at Port Essington with the Port Essington Band or Tribe of Indians, Saturday, September 25th, 1915.
Mr. Pearse is sworn to act as Interpreter.
Mr. Chairman: addresses the assembled Indians as to the scope and powers of the Commission, and Chief Sam Kennedy of Kitsumkalum, addresses the Commission as follows:
I thank God that we are permitted to see you Commissioners, and one question I have to ask is who will speak first - one is Kitselas and one is Kitsumkalum.
The Chairman: That is a matter you can settle between yourselves Chief Kennedy: (continuing) We have chosen three of the Kitsumkalums Tribe to speak
- Charles Nelson is to speak now and he belongs to Kitsumkalum.
CHARLES NELSON ADDRESSES THE COMMISSION AS FOLLOWS:
We thank God that we see you Commissioners and you have come to hear from the Kitsumkalum Tribe and now we will tell you what we know.
I was 22 years old when Judge O'Reilly first came up here to make reserves for the Indian tribes on the Coast - he came up to Kitsumkalum to lay out an Indian Reserve for the Kitsumkalum Indians. Our great grandfathers and our fathers met together at once and they asked O'Reilly "what is this about - you are coming up here to set apart lands for us; what is this about?" and he said "we are going to give you power - we are going to make your land stronger". That was his answer to our grandfathers's questions.
Then our grandfathers all agreed and said "All right, put your stakes down, and then they pointed out to Judge O'Reilly the distance where the first stake will be established - where we will get our food, berries and salmon". The size of the place; it is not a new place - it is a place that was handed down from one generation to another and we told Judge O'Reilly to stake it out from one point to another. Judge O'Reilly directed his men to hue down on a certain side of a tree so that it will be the posts of our grandfathers and fathers believed that our land was being made stronger.
Later on after this Mr. Skinner and Mr. Green, who were surveyors, were sent out and these two men put the stakes down much smaller than the place given to us by Judge O'Reilly. The place that we pointed out to Judge O'Reilly that was our established ground where we got our fish and where we used to hunt and that is the place we want. Now the place where we used to hunt and get our berries and where we used to get our money the Government has sold it to the white people and now it is gone not withstanding the promises that were given to us by Judge O'Reilly. He said "If the white men come they will not touch of land and it will be always yours" but now it is entirely gone.
Now that we have troubles - we are pressed - we are put down, and if we step outside of this square place to gather berries as my fathers used to do, white men will come along and tell us "You get out of there - this is my place".
These things hurt our hearts and makes us sorry.
Early this Spring white men have been cutting logs on our reserve - We were told in the first instance that the Indian Reserve was ours and that no white men will come in and touch anything, but this white men came in without us knowing it and cut logs on our reserve this spring - we went to this white man and we asked him "Why don't you ask us permission - why do you come on here without permission to cut logs on our land" and we said "You are breaking the law".
This white man said "Now I will settle with you right here - how much money do you want; I will pay you right here". Benjamin Bennett and Peter Nelson went to this white man, and this white man said "I will pay you money now and don't take me to the Court", so these two men said "You pay so much money and you will be free" and the white man paid over the money to these two men. After the white man paid over the money, the Government, through the Indian Agent, arrested one of the men and put him in (jail), and I was summoned because the money was in my house - Now that is not free life - that is slavery.
The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway came and went through our village at Kitsumkalum with their road, used up the timber and everything else and so far we haven't received a dollar, yet the Government in Ottawa has received all the money and we have not received a dollar yet from the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Company - This is not free life, and another grievance we have is that we are not allowed to enter into a contract to do business with the white men like any other people; we are not able to do it -
we are put down as slaves and animals on this reservation business - On this account the reserve is no good to us - why not take the name away - take the reserve name away and let us be a people - let us be free; that is what we want because God gave us this land to live on.
Chief Sam Kennedy:
Q.I want to know if the Commission has anything to say in reply to Charles Nelson's talk?
A.That will come up in the evidence.
MR. NELSON ADDRESSES THE COMMISSION AS FOLLOWS:
I am very glad to meet you gentlemen who have come up to see us. I have been praying in my own heart for a long time that someone should come from headquarters to investigate our troubles.
The land - there is no question that it belongs to the Indians entirely it has been taken away from us and they have been telling us a lot of things and one time I went to see the Government but they would not give us any satisfaction - I want to go again but I have no money.
The Indian Agents throughout the country they have been planted all over the country; but they are no good - they don't give us any help - This is the proof of what I say - How many years is it since the Grand Trunk Pacific went through our village, and today we haven't received one nickel from the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. We told the Indian Agent about it and we have told him many things we want, and what do we get? - We get nothing, and today it is the same.
I am talking about the things I know - I am not talking about things just because the others have told you about them - I know what I am talking about. All our fishing places up the river are gone, and our Chief so far hasn't received one cent.
The Kitselas tribe was amongst the other tribes that sent a petition down to Ottawa asking that this land should be returned to us because we did not get any pay, but so far we haven't received a word from them. Now you come to look into these troubles of ours, and you will see that we have bore them long enough and now you have come to look into these matters and that is why I am glad to see you here today. We are glad to see you here today and we put these claims of ours before you in the hope that you will fix them up - we want the Government to give us back our land and we want to handle our land just like anyone else.
The Kitsumkalums are just like any of the other tribes - they have been bleeding day and night just on account of the way we have been treated and handled - Why can't we handle our land ourselves while men on the other side of the world they are handling our land for us. Another thing the Government employ people to go about the reserves and pay them high salaries -constables and Indian Agents - all the money that they are paid with comes out of our land money and they get fat on it, but we who own the land get slim, and do slim sometimes that we cannot work while these people they get "swelled up".
Another thing when the Government opens up a road there will be lots of Indians there willing to work and know how to handle tools, but these white men will say "You belong to Indian Reserves and you can't get a job here" while the white men they get $3.00 a day while we, who belong to the country, can't get a job, and this is what makes our hearts sore. If we fail to dry salmon at any time we are going to have starvation; but we are able to dry a few fish and that is what we have to live on.
The Indian Agent visits us and walks through our villages but he never offers to help us to get a living - he just walks through and then goes back again. I am glad gentlemen to be able to stand before you and tell you all our troubles, and if I died with starvation tomorrow I have done my part - I have told the story.
MR. STEPHENS ADDRESSES THE COMMISSION AS FOLLOWS:
I thank you gentlemen that you are here with us today and to hear our troubles. My words will be very few. I was chosen one time to be one of the spokesman in regard to the land question and that is the reason I am speaking to you today - the other two men that spoke before me my words will be almost the same as theirs. We believe that this land is ours - God planted us here thousands and thousands of years ago. Later on men came and told us about establishing reserves amongst us and this man was blinding our eyes. We were children at that time and our fathers were ignorant people, but now as time has passed, we are beginning to see - we are put in a small bit of a reserve and that is supposed to be our place inside the reserve if we do anything, if we get a little money, we are followed by the Constable, arrested and put in jail for breaking the law.
Q.What do you mean by that - if you do anything inside the reserve?
A.If I get anything out of the reserve and sell it to the whitemen we are not allowed to do that.
The Chairman: That must be a mistake - we are encouraging the Indians everywhere to plant crops and vegetables of all kinds - It is a pity that you should have that idea, because that is not so.
JAMIN BENNET ADDRESSES THE COMMISSION AS FOLLOWS:
I am well acquainted with all the troubles of the Kitsumkalums - the beginning of this trouble is the work of the Indian Agent. We are placed on the smallest piece of ground at Kitsumkalum
- if we were to divide the piece of land on which we are now living, it would not make ten acres to one person. This is the troubles we have on account of the reserve, and that is why we don't want it. Your Chairman told us to extend the reserve where it needs to be, and we saw it in your "notice" that any plans that are brought up would be attended to. These are the nature of reserves in our mind and we don't want reserves anymore. I don't know the meaning of that word "Reserve" - I don't know that meaning.
The Chairman: That means that land is kept for the Indians.
I thank you very much for that explanation. This reserve for the Indians to live on, the end is always at the goal. When the Indians found out that the cannery men would not give the Indians a chance to fish, we sent a petition down to Ottawa and we told Ottawa "We are in a bad fix; the cannery men won't let us fish for them, and what are we going to do about it - we want independent licenses, we want to be able to catch fish and sell the fish for the highest price, just like the white people".
And the answer came back, "You are living on a Reserve - you cannot get an independent license - you are not a voter. Only whitemen can get independent licenses - you are living on a reserve, and you cannot get an independent license - you are under the Indian Act, and that Act will attend to your wants". This reserve is no good to us, and because we are living on a reserve we cannot make any money - we are under the Indian Act.
CHIEF SAMUEL WISE Of The KITSELAS TRIBE And Also Of The PORT ESSINGTON GROUP ADDRESSES THE COMMISSION AS FOLLOWS:
I am very happy today and it is very kind of you to come up here to see us and to find out how we are today. I was at Newtown when you gentlemen came up but I did not do any speaking because I did not want to speak. It is very kind of you gentlemen to give us a chance to talk to you today.
The Kitsumkalums have not broken the law and my Tribe have not broken the law and other tribes have not broken the law and why should we be treated like slaves - It is right for you and it is very kind for the Government to select you gentlemen to investigate how we are getting along on this Coast. We have been having a very hard time.
The strong white men he gets all what he wants and us Indian people are left out. The reserve might work some other place but it doesn't agree with us some way or other - we can't improve ourselves somehow - there is no help for us and our mouths won't say a thing as it were.
When a man first finds a child the child is very small and is very weak and is not able to think, but as that child grows up it begins to get big and it is just like us - we are not going to be babies all the time
- we want to grow and these reserves are a hindrance to our growth.
The land on which we used to get our living it is gone, where we used to go hunting it is gone, where we used to pick berries it is gone, and why - because the government just simply took it away without saying a word. If the white men would fight us like they are doing' in Germany today, it would be all right; but they don't - the Government stepped in and without paying us a cent took all our land away and we now see that we have been badly treated.
The Indian people we believe what the Government said when the Government men says "this is your reserve, and no one elses", but when we start to make a little money, perhaps selling timber or fish, why at once the same Government come upon us and put us in gaol and we have to sit down and cry because we cannot dispose of anything on these reserves without being put in gaol.
Q.Are you referring to selling fish at any time of the year?
INTERPRETER PEARSE: When the fish are running in the summer the Indians are not able to sell them - don't you know that?
MR. COMMISSIONER CARMICHAEL: Can't you get enough for your own use?
INTERPRETER PEARSE: Yes, for their own use but they are not allowed to any of them.
WITNESS: (continuing) The man that does wrong should be punished - if there is any law in the country, the man that breaks that law should be punished, and the man that doesn't do any wrong, he should not be punished - Now the Government has done wrong, and he (the Government) is the one who should be punished whereas we have done nothing and we are punished. There is great trouble in regard to the piece of our reserve that was sold by the Government to the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway - The railway bought it from the Government at Ottawa without saying a word about it to us for $2.50 an acre and this is what makes our hearts sore because a man is a G.T.P. man he comes along and buys a piece without saying anything to us about it. They sold 29 acres at $2.50 an acre and this is what hurts our hearts.
After we have been told that these reserves are ours and no one is going to do any crooked work on them, and then the same Government that told us that will come along and sell a part of that reserve at $2.50 an acre without saying a word to us about it and this brings trouble to our mind - that is why we condemn the reserve - the name of the thing is no good and don't help us a bit.
The young people are rising up now - they will have bigger troubles than what we have gone through, and it is up to the Government to put a stop to our troubles - they see what way we have been treated and they will follow us. I wish you gentlemen when you go home and lay down your Report to the Government that this thing should be put right - that these things should be put to an end on account of the reserve. It’s not only us - its all over the country just the same.
THE CHAIRMAN: In the first place we will take up this question of the railway - the Indians are just exactly in the same position as every white man. Suppose you or I had a piece of land here and a railway came along and wanted to go through that piece of land they(the railway company) would come along and put that railroad through without our consent. White men often complain of this very thing but their rights have to be given away for the benefit of the public but of course the white man gets the price agreed upon by the court of arbitration, and so when a railway passes through Indian lands, the Indians get a large proportion of the money that is paid for that land, and I understand that negotiations are still going on to obtain money for the Indians out of the proceeds of that road - I think there was some difficulty about the appraisement, and I think the Indian Agent has been able to get a larger sum of money than was at first agreed upon for the land that was taken away from the Indians, and a large proportion of this money will be paid over to the Indians.
Q.How many years will it be before the Indian Agent or the Government will have the money?
A.That is impossible for me to say - Everything that has been said here today has been taken down in writing and will be sent to both Governments so that the Governments will see what the Indians have said and what we have said.
MR. COMMISSIONER MACDOWALL: One of these railways, the CNR has taken some right of way from me - about three years ago, and the have not paid me yet, and I don't expect to be paid until after the war.
THE CHAIRMAN: Now we have listened to all the Indians about their claim to all the land - this is what is generally known as the Aboriginal Title and we have heard that claim from other Indians: in other portions of the Province. The two Governments, however, have not given us power to deal with that question or claim of yours to all the land in the Province. But notwithstanding this your statements that you have made here today have been taken down in writing and will be sent to both Governments - the Government at Ottawa and the Government at Victoria; but I think you must know that two or three delegations have gone to Ottawa on this very subject, and the Government at Ottawa has listened very carefully indeed to these delegations, and they have passed an Order in Council stating that they will leave that claim of yours to the Exchequer Court to be decided - and not only that they have agreed in case that Exchequer Court might decide in a way that would not be pleasing to you, that you shall have the right of appeal before the King's Privy Council and before his judges - And they have even gone further that that - In order to fully protect you they have agreed to employ counsel for you and pay those lawyers both in Ottawa and in England to look after your case and that Order in Council has been sent to us in order that we might explain it and tell it to you.
Now I am sorry to hear that you don't like reserves. Now I think the reserves are of very great benefit to you in that it gives you that land free from the white men, and the only regret is that a Commission such as this was not appointed eight or ten years ago before all the land had been gobbled up by the white man, and I hope that you will be able to point out to us where there are some additional lands still vacant and if you can do this we shall be pleased to give them to you.
As I told you before the great majority of the Indians have been glad to get these additional reserves and have taken a great deal of pains to tell us where they are - Now at one of these places where we went we were speaking to them about the Aboriginal Title and asked them about some additional reserves and some of the Indians in that place told us we don't like to ask for any more land. If we ask you for more land it looks as if we are giving up claim - if we ask for more land it looks as though we are admitting that our claim is no good. On hearing argument we reported that to the Dominion Government and they told us to assure the Indians that that would have no effect on the claim that you are making and which will go before the Exchequer Court
Now we have also listened carefully to what you said in regard to the difficulties you are having in regard to selling fish.
We have heard that matter also from other Indians, and we have take pains to have an interview with the Fishery Department in regard to that matter, and we are still to have another one) and we hope that some arrangement will be arrived at that will be better for you.
CHIEF CHARLES NELSON IS HEREUPON CALLED AND SWORN.
MR. COMMISSIONER MACDOWALL:
Q.Can you tell me how many people there are in the Kitsumkalum Band?
A.No, I am not able to answer that question.
Q.Could you give us roughly an idea as to how many there are?
A.I could not give you any idea.
Q.Come and look at this map?
A.I will look at it but I cannot understand it.
Q.(Examining map) Do you know the place marked on the map "Old Village" on Kitsumkalum I.R. No.l?
A.Yes, I understand that (examining map)
Q.On a little to the one side (examining map) is the graveyard on the banks of the Skeena river near the mouth of the Kitsumkalum river?
Q.(Examining map) Now from the graveyard and up a little way there seems to be a little level land there?
Q.What do they grow upon this land?
A.We grow all kinds of vegetables on this place.
Q.Do you grow much there?
A.Yes, vegetables grow well on that soil.
Q.Do they grow well?
Q.(examining map) What do they do on the hilly ground just above that up from the river?
A.We haven't done anything on the hill.
Q.Do they run cattle and horses on the hill?
A.No not a thing on account of this - when a white man gets his land he knows it is his own and he will spend money buying implements and ploughs to cultivate the land and when he gets a chance to sell it he sells it and gets money - with us we cannot do that because we have no money to get implements to improve the land, and that is why we haven't done anything with that land.
Q.I am very pleased to hear that - would you like to have the land divided so that each Indian family would have a piece which would be their own?
A.I could not answer that question because there are others besides me that can think. I told you in my speech that we are not able to dispose of it to anyone.
Q.It is because you mentioned that in your speech that I am asking you about it now. Now would you yourself like to have a piece of land for yourself and family so that you would be able to sell the produce off your farm?
A.If I attempted to make a business to sell some things off my land why someone would arrest me.
Q.But suppose you would not be arrested and you could sell your produce would you like that - would you sooner have it that way than have it in a reserve?
A.If we are told - if it is proved that that piece of land will be my own why there is nothing left but to go in to it and spend my money and improve it - if we were told that it would be all right.
Q.Would you like to be told that and the Government send you a man to instruct you how to farm your land and give you implements to improve your land?
A.I am not talking about thinking - I want to have a paper, I want to get a paper saying that this land is yours and here is your title, and when you want to dispose of this land you can sell it to anyone who wants to buy it. I want my land just like a white man.
Q.What you want is to have a title to your land just like a white man?
Q.Do you want the title to the whole reserve of the Band or would each family like to have a title of its own?
A.If the reserve is removed and the land is going to be divided each man will have a title of his own - there won't be any more reserve - then the way is opened for us to improve and spend our time on it, but as long as we are on a reserve we have no hearts to improve it because that land don't belong to us.
Q.Now do you know the Fishery Indian Reserve containing 182 acres?
A.Yes, I know that.
Q.If you had your plot of land here, there and there and each would have their own reserve, now would you like that - Do you think all the others would like that?
A.I cannot think for the others - myself I have told you but I cannot think for the others. Let them speak for themselves.
Q.Now this Fishery Reserve - is not the piece near the Kitsumkalum river good land?
A.I am not going to answer any more questions.
A.We have told you gentlemen why we don't improve our land we have told you all that. There are other men stopping there and you can call them.
Q.Now where do you live?
A.On No.l Reserve.
Q.If you had cattle and horses would that part on the mountains be good for grazing?
A.I am telling you that all the places are good - the reason I cannot tell you everything is because I am not well posted.
Q.Now you made a statement to the effect that a white man came and cut logs off the reserve?
Q.What was the name of the man who came and cut the logs?
Q.What did he pay for these logs?
A.Seventy dollars in cash.
Q.How many logs did he cut?
A.I cannot remember but he cut quite a few.
Q.What did he do with the logs - Did he take them off the reserve?
A.He cut the logs and sold them in Prince Rupert.
Q.We are going to examine the Indian Agent later on and we will ask him about these matters.
Charles Nelson and wife Emma.
Map of whole Territories and the proposed Treaty Lands..Charles Nelson was Ganhada..note that the treaty lands do not include much of his traditional Territory.
This account would make a good ...
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 23rd June 2013
...documentary with a reenactment of the scene addressing the commission. One can almost imagine the frustration that your grandfather must have felt.
You're Welcome...I urge everyone to research our history..
Comment by Cynthia Wunderlich (Nelson) on 21st June 2013
It astounds me how our history is construed for treaty promotion. I urge all public, native and non-native to not take all publications at face value, especially if that information comes from the British Columbia Treaty Commission and their supporters. I have learnt the hard way...it all comes down to land, money, title and the power that comes with it. Research and more research is the only way to get to the true history. Happy Aboriginal Day! This is my ode to my ancestors on this day.
Thank you very much for this history.
Comment by Janice Robinson on 21st June 2013
This is the history, and our ancestors, the Indian treaty makers must betray in order to implement this so-called treaty. White treaty makers take advantage of their uneducated ignorance, their egotistical abusiveness, and their greed. It's a sin, and the behaviours are now fully entrenched like a culture in their family trees. On and on, ad nauseum, from father to child, uncle to niece, etc. They don't even bother learning to read or write any more (going to school) because they know their loyalty to their bastardized culture will be amply rewarded. I don't know how they sleep at night, nor how they keep those phoney smiles at half-mast.....
We have much work to do.....and do not need money to do it.