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Poor treatment spurs protest

According to Thompson Rivers assistant professor, there would be no Canada without the First Nations

Dale Bass - Staff reporter
Kamloops This Week
April 30, 2006

[SISIS note: The following mainstream news article is provided for reference only, as an example of how mainstream media treats indigenous resistance to genocide. Mainstream media often presents biased and distorted information, lacking pertinent facts and/or context. Inclusion of this article on our site should not be considered an endorsement by SISIS.]

Imagine a large monolithic government went to Europe one day and took over Scotland and Wales.

It then told all the inhabitants of those two nations they had to relocate to a strip of land in England.

It defines the way many First Nations people feel they have been treated, said Paul Tamburro, an assistant professor in the faculty of social work at Thompson Rivers University and a member of the Piqua Shawnee and Abenaki tribes.

And, he said, it's why many are pushing forward with claims to land they once owned.

Tamburro spent much of his life living in the U.S., and said he was shocked, when he returned to Canada, "at how little information people have about this basic history: there would be no Canada without the First Nations."

In particular, he said, the country would be vastly different were it not for the Six Nations - Mohawk, Cayuga, Tuscarora, Oneida, Onondaga and Seneca - now engaged in a protest that began Feb. 28 over land they once owned in Southern Ontario. It's been marked with blockades, ugly confrontations, plenty of finger-pointing and not much progress.

(Had the Six Nations thrown their lot in with the American colonial army during the U.S. War of Independence, rather than holding their ground, Canada would be part of the U.S., Tamburro said.)

The Ontario government, however, has proposed exchanging several parcels of land near the reserve for the disputed land, site of a proposed 250-house development.

Janice Billy understands the emotions simmering at the Caledonia dispute. She's had her own confrontations as she and others have demonstrated at Sun Peaks Resort, arguing the Secwepemc Nation has a right to land it once owned.

She's been arrested, banned from the ski site, condemned in the media and mocked by others. But for her, the truth is indisputable: the land is her people's heritage, a fact that must be accepted and dealt with.

She said she sees her culture slowly disappearing. First Nations languages are being lost. Her people are being pushed away from their culture of working the land.

Billy said there's too much focus on the federal Indian Affairs department and the need to keep the money flowing from it for economic development at the cost of the land that was taken from them.

"It should be about families and not board of directors," Billy said. "We're losing the knowledge of who we are."

Her quest to reclaim land on Tod Mountain is not one all First Nations people share.

The protection centre Billy and others created near Sun Peaks was condemned by some area chiefs, who have fostered good relations with the resort.

But that, Tamburro said, is the result of First Nations having two government systems: the elected councils mandated under the federal Indian Act, and the tribal councils, with their roots in culture and heritage.

The Caledonia situation is unique in that the elected council has thrown its support behind the tribal council and is letting its leaders direct the talks.

"The one government is imposed," Tamburro said, "and then you have the other one, the traditional government of clan mothers that is recognized by indigenous people and also by the United Nations."

Even his own institution has not been immune to the resentment many First Nations people feel about the loss of their land. At TRU's 2005 inaugural convocation, when Nancy Greene Raine was installed as chancellor, drummers performing for the ceremony wore T-shirts bearing the slogans "Sun Peaks Destroying Sewepemc Land" and "Boycott Nancy Greene's Cahilty Lodge," which located at the resort.

Greene Raine is the resort's director of ski operations.

In writing about the convocation, TRU student Ska7cis Manuel noted the TRU coat of arms bears words from the Shuswap language, but the university does not offer First Nations language and cultural courses.

"The First Nations Student Association [at TRU] believes concerns of First Nations students should be considered in all administrative decisions," Manuel wrote in an independent media website.

"We should not be called upon only to perform ceremonies and then, once our performance is over, shoved aside, only to be thought of again when we are needed to sing and pray at the next ceremony."

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