Press Release: Armed standoff in B.C. (fwd)

Robert Johnson (johnsorl@COLORADO.EDU)
Thu, 31 Aug 1995 00:13:15 -0600

Original Sender: (Wendy Ancell)
Mailing List: NATIVE-L


Statement on the standoff at Gustafsen Lake
by Chief Saul Terry
President, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs
August 28, 1995

I am gravely concerned over the escalating confrontation taking place at
Gustafsen Lake in the territory of the Shuswap Nation. For over two weeks,
the RCMP, the Attorney General and the media have gone to great lengths to
discredit the Shuswap sundancers and their supporters at Gustafsen Lake as
dangerous fanatics in order to justify the use of armed force to remove them
from the sundance grounds. In recent days, the RCMP has chosen to cut off
communications and isolate the sundancers even further, contrary to the
strategy usually followed by police when trying to de-escalate and
peacefully resolve similar emergency situations involving firearms. In
trying to discredit and isolate the sundancers, the RCMP and the Attorney
General are laying the groundwork for bloodshed -- needless bloodshed. I
condemn the RCMP and the Attorney General for the dangerous provocative
course they have embarked upon. I call upon them immediately to cease and
desist before it is too late.

The positions expressed by the sundancers on their nations' sovereignty and
aboriginal title and rights are not "extremist". They are shared by many
Indian peoples across this province. British Columbia is unceded Indian
land. Our nations' ownership of their respective territories (our
aboriginal title) has never been extinguished. We are not "squatters" or
trespassers in our homelands. Recognition and accommodation of our
aboriginal title and rights must be negotiated on a nation-to-nation basis
with Canada. Our peoples demand JUSTICE and RECOGNITION but whenever they
stand up for their rights, they are subjected to the RULE OF LAW and POLIC

Since 1990, the Federal Government has refused to discuss a nation-to-nation
option for negotiations with our respective peoples. Instead, they have
steadfastly defended their BC Treaty Commission extinguishment process to
the exclusion of all other options and possibilities. As recently as June
23, 1995, BC Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Cashore wrote to me and the
Hon. Ron Irwin, Minister of Indian Affairs, urging Canada and the Union of
B.C. Indian Chiefs "to meet at the earliest opportunity to begin work
towards a [nation-to-nation] treaty process for those First Nations who have
not joined the BC Treaty Commission process." Yet, the Federal Government
continues to refuse. It now appears there is more concern by governments
that the so-called "squatters" at Gustafsen Lake will "undermine" the BC
Treaty Commission process than about constructive alternatives. If the
situation at Gustafsen Lake is to be resolved peacefully and future
confrontations are to be avoided, a nation-to-nation alternative to the BC
Treaty Commission process must be devloped and implemented as soon as possible.

In conclusion, I am willing to meet with the sundancers at Gustafsen Lake,
if requested and if there is any possibility that my involvement would be
helpful in bringing about a just, honorable and peaceful resolution to the

Contact: Chief Saul Terry (604)256-4125