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A message from Sinixt Nation representatives in Canada.
A message from Sinixt Nation representatives in Canada.
This message is not meant to cover all of the work that we have been involved in our northern territory but concerns issues of immediacy that you should be aware of.
We would first like to state that our work in the north is and always has been to uphold the whuplak’n (the law of the land). Our mothers/elders guided us to the whuplak’n teachings as we brought back the remains of our ancestors. Bringing home the ancestors was the first priority of the mothers/elders. They spoke of how the ancestors viewed the water and land all things of the land and water and how we were placed here to have reverence and to behave responsibly for all of those things within our territory. We have brought back 62 ancestral remains and each one of those ancestors we have brought back represents at least one teaching and sometimes there were many teachings attached to the return of remains.
We have been speaking and acting on behalf of the land and water by trying to protect the land and water and the beings of the land and water through the courts. Most recently we were trying to speak on behalf of perry ridge which is the land mass between the slocan and little slocan rivers. There were 4 cut blocks that the ministry of forests allocated for cutting on the north end of perry ridge. For those of you who are not familiar with perry ridge it is where our occupation camp is located, where the colville property is located, the site of the heritage site/archaeology dig (oldest carbon dated pit house and largest pit house structure documented to date). Perry ridge is home to many endangered and threatened species. Specifically documented within the 4 cut blocks is the western toad and critical corridor and habitat for wolverine, grizzly, wolf, caribou. Recently a lichenologist from Germany documented species of lichen that were never previously documented in the world. It represents many unique micro climates and would require many years of study to document what this landscape holds. How can we know what we are responsible for if we do not know what is here? We must not allow destruction to the land and water.
While trying to protect species, water, land/habitat by demanding to be consulted so that Sinixt interest and demands could be documented and put on record the Attorney General of BC stated that we had no standing to bring court action on behalf of the Sinixt. While the court case proceeded Okanogan Nation Alliance (ONA) and Colville Confederated Tribes (CCT) joined the Attorney General of BC to deny protection for all that we were working to protect. ONA was represented in that court case by the law firm of Mandel Pender. We feel this was a direct conflict of interest by Mandel Pender as they represented the Sinixt previously and in representing us stated/defined/represented the Sinixt as autonomous from any other representational group including the Okanogans and Colville Confederated Tribes. CCT was represented by attorney Underhill. When I asked Michael Finley why they would have Underhill represent them as Underhill has a long history of representing the government in anti-Indian cases in the past, Michael Finley stated that CCT hired Underhill on the recommendation of CCT lawyer Stuart Rush. Why would CCT pay Stuart Rush $279,000.00 retainer every year to represent them and then pay another lawyer to represent them in this case and have to pay Underhill as well? Underhill is the government lawyer fighting our neighbours, the Burgoons, in an Environmental Appeal Board (EAB) action. This EAB case is to protect Mcfaden Creek (also on perry ridge)from a developer who wishes to dewater the creek at one point and reinsert the water at another point down stream to the detriment of the stream/habitat/water. Underhill represents not only anti-Indian law he is also representing an anti-environmental legal stand. We feel that Underhill and Rush are in positions of Conflict of Interest as they both sit on the West Coast Environmental Law (WCEL) board of directors. Underhill is the Chair of the Board. WCEL funded the Sinixt Case and then Underhill represented the CCT against the Sinixt. Rush is on the Board and the lawyer representing ONA is also on the board of WCEL. How can board members of an organization that funds cases upholding environmental protection fight against the very cases they are funding? WCEL also funded the case to protect Mcfaden Creek that Underhill is representing the government now to destroy?
Why wouldn’t CCT want to protect the land and water? Why would the CCT go against their own people who stand for the land and water? If you look around the Colville Reservation do you see the whuplak’n being represented in resource/water management? Are sustainable practices being engaged so the future generations will have clean water and a healthy environment?
We might not agree on many things but we feel there are many issues that the CCT and Sinixt north could collaborate on for all of the peoples past, present and future. We encourage CCT to do the right thing and not fight the people who are fighting so hard for the water, land and resources. We have worked on behalf of the land and resources and brought our ancestors home without taking anything away from the CCT.
CCT has a budget of $100,000.00 funding a liaison position held by Jim Boyd. Jim Boyd has only visited the Sinixt north once in all of the months that he has been paid as a liaison. Jim Boyd has used his liaison position to come into this area and speak poorly of the work that we have been doing. We ask you to stop the liaison position from doing this negative work. Why would you pay someone that amount of money to come into our northern territory without knowing what we are doing and say negative things about good work?
Bob Campbell/l’lmkw’m/appointed head man
Robert Watt/Appointed Caretaker
Marilyn james/appointed spokesperson