Why The Nisga'a Agreement Must Not Be The Blueprint
Khatou News, August 1998, by Saul Terry - Union of BC Indian Chiefs
Dear Citizens of Indian Nations, Canada, and British Columbia:
The agreement with the Nisga'a is being desperately pursued by the Federal and Provincial Governments because they fear they are running out of time. First, the BC Treaty Commission is in shambles and second, more and more people (Native and non-Native) are coming to truly understand the push behind both the Federal Comprehensive Claims Policy and the British Columbia Treaty Commission. The main reason that the powers that be in government are imploring religious institutions, corporate associations, trade unions, etc, to support the Nisga'a initiative is that the process may get out of their control before the deal is signed.
Whether knowing, or unknowing of government policy I am certain that the general upbeat feeling expressed over the Nisga'a Treaty are genuine. As a leader I am mandated to protect Aboriginal Title, at the same time to explore avenues to settle the outstanding land question between the Federal Crown and Indian Nations fairly and justly through a solution which practically accommodates our Peoples within the state of Canada. But we, that is Native and non-Native people, have begun to really understand what is being done politically, economically and socially in the so called 'land claims' negotiations. Our message may finally be getting through. The truth will have a shocking impact upon our various Nations, indeed all fair minded people should be dismayed when they learn that the agenda is more than creating certainty for the economy.
Treaties and their certainty provisions are really about 'TAKING - OUT' (extinguishing) the Indian Nations. Changing Nations to mere delegated village council or federal municipalities. In some parts of the world it is now called "ethnic cleansing". It is practised to a much more subtle level upon our people but it is still genocide. The most deplorable fact in this case is that they expect us to provide our consent. Genocide may seem harsh terminology, but this treaty once and for all, alters the reality of Indigenous Nations. We are being asked to give our consent to eradicating or renouncing that we are distinct Peoples, with distinct identifiable territories, with our own governing systems, with our own distinct languages and histories.
We are being asked to use our power of consent to deny to our future generations the benefits of Title from their homelands. The traditional leadership, along with ordinary Indigenous People, have been usurped by neo-colonial leaderships that are working with the settler governments to bring this aberration of settlement to a final conclusion. The thinking seems to be that if we give consent to such an agreement it cannot be seen as genocidal. The rest of us are being held in reserve ghettos until we capitulate to giving up our priceless homelands for a few hectares of settlement land which will soon be too small to be of benefit, much like the Indian reserves are now. The few million dollars being offered by the federal and provincial governments as compensation in these negotiations, will, in a short years, be recouped by taxes collected from our people's income and the newly acquired privilege of fee simple land taxes.
Taxes for land indigenous People once owned outright under Indian Title. The Federal and Provincial coffers will be more than replenished. In essence, with such taxes, we will be paying ourselves for the loss of Title. The Federal and Provincial Governments will walk away without concern for financing "land claims" settlements. So much for the settlements bankrupting the economy. Ask now who shall be truly bankrupt? It will be the Indian Nations as we will be forced to surrender over to Canada our territorial integrity and all the riches that that represents. Furthermore, the governance system which emerges from this deal is defined by the settlers, authorized by the settlers and to serve the settlers. Our traditional Indian governments are replaced by the delegated authority of a "third order" of government sanctioned by the Federal and Provincial Governments.
This is not self determination, this is permission to be self-administering Canadian laws and systems. What are the division of powers going to mean and are they going to be real division of power? Will such an agreement really mean self-determination for our Nations? We shall also be distracted by involvement in another colonial quagmire of internal renting of what is left of our lands and resources. Our hereditary and elected leadership will have to deal with the resulting socio-economic fall out. This is the stage which has been set for us. I feel there is a drop door to this stage floor.
Nowhere in any of the media, is it seriously reported that law suits have been filed by Nisga'a hereditary chiefs and ordinary citizens against the apparent neo-colonial administrations that have been negotiating these treaties of surrender and capitulation. There seems to be a deliberate policy of hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil, therefore report no evil. The Gitanyow people, as a part of the Gitk'san Nations have experienced first hand the dishonour of the crown as demonstrated in the land overlap issue. This has exposed the Canadian treaty policy of first come, first served.
In this way other communities or Nations are being strategically forced to the treaty table or as in the Gitanyow case to the court to defend their infringed upon Title. One must conclude that this is just another reason not to be involved in this sham of a scheme. In retrospect, to paraphrase a saying after the holocaust of Jewish people: Where were we when they took the lands of the James Bay Cree? Where were we when they took the homelands of the Yukon Peoples? Now that they are coming to take a Nation's land and resources in our own back yard, where are we?
Union of BC Indian Chiefs