Daily Archives: February 16, 2010

Adawkhl Gitsegulka

Gitsegulka ca. 1909. Source: Adawhkl Gitsegulka.

Yesterday, while posting CanadaGood’s flickr set of “totem poles” I found a really interesting document at the web site of the Gitsegulka community of the Gitxsan First Nation on the Skeena River.  Called Adawkhl Gitsegulka, it is a history of the settlement written in 1979, by band members via consultation with hereditary chiefs.  So often we only see these historical pamphlets for settler communities; it is quite fun and interesting and a little bit sad to read through this one written by First Nations themselves.  For example, note how (page 7) the Indian Agent in 1909 respects the hierarchies of the hereditary chiefs, apparently only in order to establish himself as the highest ranking of the lot.  Scroll down to page 35 for a discussion of the motives and means of carving poles.

There is an interesting theme which runs through the whole document: the uneasy relationship between the deeply felt Christianity of many Gitsegulka Gitxsan, and the old ways and practices.  In its informal way, through consultation with numerous elders, with charming illustrations, the Adawkhl Gitsegulka is an intriguing source of information on how the community saw itself in the transformative years of the late 1970s, when land and title claims were once again rising.  Five years on, they were in court claiming rights and title to their territory, and not much more than 10 years later, the landmark, borderline racist, “McEachern decision” of the BC Supreme Court would be handed down (the Gitxsan-Wet’suwet’en case: Delgamuukw vs. the Queen, round 1) which started a transformation of aboriginal rights in Canada.  Delgamuukw 3  in 1997 eventually set the frame for the modern treaty process when the Supreme Court ordered a new trial.  The trial has never happened but the new Supreme Court terms and definitions structure our modern understanding that Aboriginal rights and title were never extinguished and must be reconciled.  The Adawkhl Gitsegulka is an indigenous perspective on a small community about to have its voice heard right across Canada.

The document ends with the slogan of the [then] Gitksan-Carrier Tribal Council:  “Walk on, walk on, on the breath of our grandfathers”.

Drying Berries. Source: Adawhkl Gitsegulka.

Interior layout of a house. Source: Adawkhl Gitsegulka.

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