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COMMENTARY · 24th February 2012
Merv Ritchie
A very disturbing phone call received at the offices of the Terrace Daily this week has our family in a state of worry and dismay. A recent article published after an earlier phone call had apparently provoked a Kitsumkalum resident to call a second time.

So if our readers are wondering why our reporting has been slowed, now they know.

On February 14 we published a commentary titled; It’s been over 12 hours and the Mainstream stays silent This commentary was about the Terrace City Council voting to take a stand in opposition to the Enbridge Northern Gateway project and tankers in the NW coastal waters.

Within the article we included the following two paragraphs making reference to the Kitsumkalum Band and their negotiator, Roger Harris.

I was on the receiving end of a phone call yesterday from a man who received a brand new home this past year from the Kitsumkalum Band. He was arguing how if the details of a deal leaked out to other First Nations they would argue about the benefits and then the deal would be cancelled. He was arguing to keep quiet and don’t ask about the details, just trust the Band council he demanded.

Just trust the Band Council who has Harris as their negotiator? The man who did work for the illegally operating society that fractured the entire Gitxsan Nation? Is this the plan of the BC Liberal Party, divide all the First Nations people up, within house groups, within Villages, within territories and within Nations, so Enbridge and all others can come in completely unopposed, as Harris has them all infighting?

The same man called again this week and over the course of an hour he berated and ridiculed, he made repeated accusations of being a terrorist and finally reduced himself to stating he would come over and “shoot you” if this ever got out to the Band Manager.

Two Kitsumkalum Band members have publically asked questions about deals the band is making. Both are being labelled as terrorists and/or dissidents and are being encouraged to leave the community and this caller even suggested the band is taking measures to expel them; for simply asking questions of the deals being signed on their behalf.

An agreement, apparently voted on and signed, involves tens of millions of dollars maybe even 100 million was suggested. No one knows for sure because no one has been informed. The threat is; if they told anyone and it got out, the deal would be cancelled.

This apparent deal had just over 30 band members vote in favour of it. It passed because under 40 of the estimated 650 members attended the poorly advertised meeting and vote. It must be asked how less than 5% of a Band can be rightly considered an acceptable vote for a multi million dollar comprehensive deal on treaty lands.

The other question which must be asked is how a Band Council, one that only has jurisdiction over the reserve community and infrastructure can make a long term deal on lands outside of the reserve boundaries?

These treaty lands belong to hereditary chiefs, not elected chiefs; Sm’oogyet, not INAC (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada) mayors who egotistically continue to use the word ‘Chief’.

And it is this that is at the foundation of the “Indian Problem”.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered an apology to the Indians over the abuses of the Residential schools and the past 100 years.

He apologised but offered nothing.

A heartfelt and a complete understanding of the wrong perpetrated including; the destruction of their culture, their language, their villages, their government structure, would have the Canadian Government providing a structure to assist in rebuilding their systems of governance and culture.

To say, “Gee, I’m sorry, now let’s just continue on the way we’re going,” is not anything even close to an apology.

It is under the auspices of this Canadian Governments inadequate and unreasonable ability to address the real issues that the Kitsumkalum can perpetrate or facilitate this type of violence towards their people.

Yesterday a portion of the truth and reconciliation commission was leaked. In it, it addresses the lack of knowledge Canadians and residents who passed through the Canadian schooling and education systems have in regards to the native population and the culture that they purposefully destroyed.

Read a report by CBC here

The same goes for most Indians, or if one wishes, first nations people. Even some of them have no concept of their true culture decimated by the English/Canadian colonialists.

Traditional lands belong to hereditary chiefs, Sm’oogyet, not INAC fake Chiefs who should be called Mayors.

The call we received spoke about the Band requiring and finding one Hereditary Chief to sign this deal on the traditional lands. Even though this persons legitimacy is questioned, the Band and the deal makers have accepted him. This sounds much like the deal Enbridge made with Elmer Derrick and the Gitxsan, one man, claiming to be a high hereditary Chief speaking for all the Chiefs.

That ended with the entire Gitxsan Nation in an uproar and the blockade of the Treaty Society Offices.

The RCMP has been notified of this death threat but the more serious issue is the wholesale action the industrialists are taking against the traditional territories.

The House groups must be fully reinvigorated prior to any decisions being taken on any lands. It is this dilemma that has all people; industrialists, miners, native leaders, municipal councils, Provincial and Federal bodies, all in a state of confusion. Making a deal with one group who does not rightly have the authority, offering huge sums of money to the current Band council, leaves everything in confusion and conflict.

The Delgamuukw ruling was very specific; the traditional territories belong to the traditional land holders, the hereditary families, not the INAC Band Councils.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Federal Government would do well to issue an order to cease and desist on all treaties and land encroachment deals until the wrongs of the past 150 years, the decimation and forbiddance of the Indian governance feasting and name holders, is properly revived in the proper matrilineal manner.

The time this might take to fully reinstate, to settle disputes and resolve boundaries could be considerable. The result however would be real truth, real reconciliation and it would provide a real body in which to negotiate.

Band Councils come and go, the hereditary is forever. Miners and trappers want stability. There is only one way to get it. Resolve the issues of real hereditary Chiefs. Death threats are not the way to silence the Terrace Daily.

The phone call ended with a statement that was even more disturbing than a death threat.

After considering how the Kitsumkalum will be poor again in ten years even if these deals go through the caller who was in favour of the current band council and the deals stated, "We'll let our grandchildren worry about that."