From the Native Youth Movement
To All of Our Relations
This morning, as the officials and administrators of the BC Treaty Process gather to congratulate themselves on a job well done, there will be another voice. The voice of youth. The voice of truth. Today we say once again: the Native Youth Movement is opposed to the treaty process now underway in the province of "BC". We state once again: these lands are sovereign. They have never been ceded or surrendered. Seven generations ago these lands belonged to us - the youth of today - just as these lands today belong to generations not yet born. They are not here to speak for themselves, but we are. And we know it is our people's responsibility, we know it is our responsibility, to speak for them.
We are sovereign Indian nations. Despite every effort of colonization, despite the resisdential schools, the theft of Native children, despite the imposition of the band council system, despite the attempted murder of our identity as Indian peoples, we are still here to say to the world: We remember who we are. And we remember that we are sovereign, free peoples. These lands hold the spirits of our people. They have never been surrendered, sold, or taken in war. They have, however, been stolen. And that theft continues to be carried out right before our eyes. But we have eyes and we can see.
Treaties are internationally recognized agreements made between sovereign nations. That means they are subject to international law. The province of "BC" is not a sovereign nation, and the involvment of the provincial government means the treaties being negotiated in the BC treaty process are not real treaties. To present it otherwise is fraud. Using terms such as "First Nations" and giving the appearance of 'sovereignty' to band and tribal councils does not change the fact that they are employees of, and administrators for, the Canadian state. They do not have the authority to negotiate on behalf of the people for the sale of ancestral territories. We question the legitimacy of any such transactions. The strategy of the government during negotiations is not to pursue 'justice' but to manipulate and control us. This is clear in a "secret" document entitled "Guidelines for Federal Self-Government Negotiators (No.2)," in which negotiators are instructed to avoid certain wording, such as 'peoples', as it "may raise implications vis-a-vis the right of self-determination at international law." Negotiators are told to use terms such as 'First Nations.' It also states,
"2. Use of the term 'distinct peoples' raises other considerations. While a good argument can be made that Indian people...are a distinct group, the more larger the collectivity is sub-divided the less likely it is that distinctiveness can be demonstrated. This is underscored in the case of the Fort Frances Framework Agreement where the negotiating group (the First Nation as defined in the Framework Agreement) do not represent all of the Anishnaabe but only some of them. (Guidelines for Federal Self-government Negotiators No. 2, "How to Deal with Requests for Recognition as 'Distinct People(s)'", Inherent Rights Directorate and Department of Justice, March 15, 1996.)Clearly the government's plan is to divide our peoples up, and then negotiate with individual band councils. At the same time they seek to silence our voice at the international level by denying that we are sovereign peoples, instead portraying us as an ethnic minority - an internal "domestic" concern. The government says it is pursuing "modern-day treaties" as a way to resolve historical grievances, to undo past wrongs. Hmmmm... It seems to us that these lands in "BC" remain sovereign Indian lands, with some small exceptions (ie. the Douglas Treaties, and Treaty 8). And the government knows this. Even according to the law of Canada, the same law they so rigthteously claim to stand on, these lands were to be surrendered to the Crown before any settlement or even trade could occur, according to the Royal Proclamation of 1763. To this day Canada is bound by this proclamation; it remains law.
The government is now making treaties because it wants to end all legal challenges to its legitimacy and authority. Its aim was, and always has been, to destroy us as sovereign nations, to dismantle our societies, to kill our spiritual ways. From genocidal wars to the Indian Act, from the band council system to the residential schools, from the theft of Native children to the use of military/police force against our peoples, to this - the treaty process - the government has attempted to assimilate us into a system that offers nothing to us but despair, suicide, prostitution, cocaine, poverty and hopelessness.
Yes, against all reason, we are questioning the history we have been told of how things were, and how things are.
Only the people of a nation can decide their fate, together as a people. Only by keeping us ignorant have the land-thieves managed to maintain this charade. They keep us ignorant by secret meetings, secret documents and conferences no one hears about. Too many of those in the band councils knowingly participate in these deceptions. The government feeds their egos with all these secret meetings, secret documents and planes, cars and hotels for conferences no one hears about. They must feel so important... and they should, because they are making plans in secret about the future of Indian peoples and our lands!
This is why in so many areas people are unaware that the band council is even involved in treaty negotiations. This is why in so many territories treaty negotiations go on with little involvment from the people, and especially from the youth. We say it is the youth that will have to live with these treaties, and the generations unborn. It doesn't matter how much money they give us now, where will it be for our grandchildren, our great grandchildren, our great, great grandchildren? Will we be able to say to them "We carried the responsibility to defend the people?" Will we be able to say "We did all we could?" We do not have to accept this fraudulent treaty process; we have a choice. And we have eyes, even if they try to keep us in the dark. And we have a voice, even if they try to silence us.
We are not here today to demand anything from the First Nations Summit, from the federal or provincial government. We are here to say: This is the truth we feel in our hearts. We call on our peoples, we call on the youth, to listen to their hearts. To remember the truth of who we are, to remember that we are sovereign peoples, to remember that our ancestors lived and died on these lands that we could be here today. Let us honour them by carrying that responsibility for the generations unborn. Together we can start a fire, because in our hearts we carry burning desire for change.
Brothers and Sisters from the Native Youth Movement
in a secret meeting held in Occupied Salish Territory