Tag Archives: BC Treaties

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.

Songhees claim for Cadboro Bay land compensation: update

There is a fairly progressive editorial in the Times-Colonist on the Cadboro Bay land compensation issue.  The editorial cites John Lutz’s excellent book Makuk:A New History of Aboriginal-White Relations, to boot.

Lawyer Rory Morahan, acting on behalf of the Songhees, says the Chekonein village sites and fields were never surveyed, reserved or protected as required by the treaty. “The colony, or the province, appropriated the lands and issued title to the lands to other parties — that is, non-aboriginal colonists,” he says. The statement of claim says the Crown never paid compensation for taking the treaty land between 1851 and 1871.

The case will be complicated, given the variety of historical documents that will be presented to the court. Some basic facts are not in dispute, since even Roderick Finlayson, an early chief factor for the Bay, mentioned the Cadboro Bay village in his memoirs.

Beyond what is written in the treaties, the court might need to consider whether the Lekwungen actually understood what they were agreeing to. Lutz’s research has raised questions about the communication gap between the aboriginals and the whites.

Douglas signed nine treaties with aboriginals on southern Vancouver Island and, as Morahan says, this lawsuit could set a precedent if successful.

The decision could have ramifications elsewhere in the province. The Lekwungen were the first aboriginals in British Columbia to be dispossessed by settlers, but similar actions — land grants given, then taken without compensation — occurred for decades.

If it is proven in court that an injustice has occurred, the governments should act quickly to make things right. After a century and a half, it’s time.

This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed a fairly progressive editorial slant down at the TC – good for them, as the comments on their pieces show, there is a lot of resistance to the notion of fair compensation.

Songhees claim to Cadboro Bay

Songhees claim to Cadboro Bay lands promised by Douglas. Source: TImes-Colonist.

The Douglas Treaties have stood up well in court but the fact remains that the rights to hunt and fish are severely compromised by urban developments.  Further, it is a widespread shameful pattern that the government went out of its way to reduce the sizes of the few, small reserves that were established and to eliminate some altogether.  It is very welcome to see the strong assertion of the Songhees Nation that they have the rights to 200 acres surrounding Cadboro Bay.

Lawyer Rory Morahan said the band is not trying to reclaim the land promised to it in one of the Douglas Treaties, but is asking for compensation and a declaration that it is Songhees land.

A statement of claim was filed in B.C. Supreme Court yesterday, but it is likely to be at least a year before the case is heard.

The key to launching the lawsuit was finding historical documents, Morahan said. “There’s oral tradition about the village site, but in the courts you need more than oral tradition. We have been working on this for about a year, getting the details down,” he said.

The treaty with the Chekonein people, ancestors of the Songhees Nation, specifies that they would have 200 acres (80 hectares) around their Cadboro Bay village site, adjacent to the beach, and about 40 acres (16 hectares) of camas and potato fields.

“Under the treaty, the Songhees ancestors were promised that their village sites and fields would be protected for their use and the use of future generations, and that their villages and fields would be properly surveyed,” Morahan said.

Clearly, the Songhees are not asking for the land to be returned, but for compensation for its unlawful and duplicitous preemption.  The were successful in obtaining compensation a couple of years ago for the land under the legislative assembly, ironically enough and I imagine they have a good chance of success with this case as well. There is certainly an inarguable case for the archaeological significance of Cadboro Bay.

The comments in the Times-Colonist article are some of the most pathetic, racist, ignorant drivel I have ever seen, though.