The following is an edited interview conducted on June 25th with the Native Youth Movement's Rose Caldwell from the Westbank Indian reserve.
S.I.S.I.S.: For some time the Native Youth Movement (NYM) has been protesting the bogus and fraudulent BC "Treaty" Process, currently ongoing in British Columbia. This process has been described as "legitimizing the theft of our lands" by Haida Elder Lavina White. "Extinguishment by consent" of Indigenous sovereignty is the probable consequence of the BC Treaty negotiation process involving the various Band Councils, settler governments, and the First Nations Summit (FNS). In protest against these "trick or treaty" negotiations, grass roots peoples, traditionalists, and native youth are mobilizing. NYM has protested at the First Nations Summit, and mounted occupations of BC Treaty Commission offices in Vancouver, and the Westbank Band Council office on the Westbank reserve of the Okanagan Nation. That Band Council has threatened, indeed instructed the authorities to remove NYM members from the Westbank reserve.
Greetings to you Rose Caldwell and NYM. Perhaps we can start by asking you to briefly sketch in the recent protests of NYM?
Rose Caldwell: Ok. In April there was a protest down at the BC Treaty Commission offices in Vancouver. My daughter and myself were a part of that. There were 14 of us arrested at that incident. Then my daughter arranged the Okanagan Nation Youth Cultural Gathering, here on our property. Everything was done here, the cooking etc., and everybody stayed here. Through that meeting it was decided that we would protest in the Westbank Band office, because Westbank is one the farthest into this BC Treaty process, and my daughter and myself are from here.
On the 25th of May we went into the Westbank Indian Band office and shut it down. We were in there for 33 hours. There were 23 of us at that incident that got arrested. We are now in the process of going through the legal system. They - the Westbank Indian Band Council and BC crown counsel got together and we went to court 2 weeks ago today. They decided that the charges would be raised from civil to criminal [contempt of court]. So we are now charged with...
S.I.S.I.S.: ...failure to obey the court order?
R.C.: Yes. Two weeks ago NYM members were all there. We talked to the judge and asked him whether I could appear for all of us, for the next two court appearances. Then it would go to trial. So today, court dates were set: one for July 9, 1998, to let the court know that I have informed everybody as to when the court date is. There is another court date on September 14, when all of us have to appear. The trial date is set for October 5 - 16th.
S.I.S.I.S.: And that will be in BC Supreme Court in Kelowna?
R.C.: BC Supreme Court #1 in Kelowna at 9:30 AM.
S.I.S.I.S.: This business of criminalizing indigenous protesters - in BC Ts'peten Defenders Wolverine and "OJ" are two political prisoners that come to mind, for standing for rights and freedom of expression, is very disturbing, yes?
R.C.: It certainly is. It restricts your freedom of speech or freedom to make up our own minds. The Westbank Indian Band (WIB), has gone further than charging us. They have, in fact, served us with a Band Council Resolution (BCR) last Friday that orders all of the demonstrators off of my property. When an individual band council goes into something like that it really raises a lot of questions. The majority of people staying here are of Okanagan Nation descent. So they're [WIB] are in the process of negotiating a "treaty" and already they're setting limits as to what can and can't happen on the reserve. Is this preparing to go into a dictatorship? It just doesn't make sense.
The section that they're quoting in the Indian Act is Section 30. If you look at the history of section 30, it comes from when the reserves were first made. A long time ago, there were a lot of non-native "squatters": hunters, trappers, that kind of thing. That's where Section 30 came from. It was very rarely used. There was an attempt to use it against the Gustafsen Lake people. And the judge wouldn't even hear it. So the precedent that they're setting is not very well thought out.
I have a few people on this list of 18 names that they've provided me, where it involves a daughter not being able to visit her father, one of the boys not being able to visit his brother, a girl not being able to visit an Auntie, etc. The immediate question in my mind with these negotiations into "self-government" or "land-claims", is they're already dividing family structures, And these are blood ties, blood lines that they're interfering with. Its totally crazy.
S.I.S.I.S.: In fact, one of the objections that grassroots, traditionalists and others have with this BC "Treaty" Process, is very real questions about whether any of this proceeds with the consent of peoples affected. Do you think negotiators for the Westbank Indian Act Band have the consent of people here in the Okanagan Nation?
R.C.: Absolutely not. And that's why there's such a good support system as far as the youth goes, here. It's because they don't [have consent]. We have an elite section of people - negotiators who are primarily white and the band chiefs and councils. In my opinion it's a money grab.
S.I.S.I.S.: How much are they making Rose?
R.C.: Here the [Indian Act] chief makes $65, 000.00 a year. Our former chief (Robert Louie) made $120,000.00 a year. You bet they're going to try to hang on to that by tooth or nail.
S.I.S.I.S.: Some describe what's going on as a process of surrender negotiations, not any kind of legitimate treaty process.
R.C.: Yes. That's just it. I read some information yesterday that talked about the kind of dollars put into this BC treaty process. Out of $95 million dollars, approximately $75 million of that has to be paid back. Each and every aboriginal person in this province is responsible for paying that money back.
S.I.S.I.S.: So these politicians, lawyers and the negotiating industry are making some pretty hefty cheese off of this process?
R.C.: You bet they are. Take a look at the First Nations Summit Committee. The Summit Committee member makes a thousand dollars a day. I know they're in the process of a four day Summit meeting in Vancouver now. That's 4 $4,000.00 a day per head for this committee. That doesn't include the incidentals like food, hotels or travel. So yes, the amounts of money that are pushed through this process are phenomenal.
S.I.S.I.S.: So now NYM is being subjected to persecution not only by the police and judiciary, but by the DIA Band Council where you are. Am I correct in understanding that you yourself are included in this eviction order - from your own home?
R.C.: Yes. Publically they're saying that I'm not included nor my daughter. But if you read the BCR it says: "all demonstrators". Well, I'm one of the demonstrators. This land is the only thing I have. It's 2 1/2 acres with a house on it. Its the only thing I'm going to be able to pass down through my line. I'll be damned if anybody's going to take it away from me.
S.I.S.I.S.: Well I'm amazed to still find you here because the last thing I heard on CBC was a news clip with an RCMP officer serving you with these papers. It looked like the police would shortly be arriving. That hasn't happened so far.
R.C.: That's exactly what we had thought. And at that point in time, the people here put out the call for support and for all their relatives to come. We had probably 60 or 70 people here. When I was served, the officer said he had to go back and talk with his superiors and find out what was going on. But he said they would be back.
S.I.S.I.S.: So at any time, if they decide to play it stupid, you could have the police breaking down the doors?
R.C.: That's right, that's exactly right. There have been a lot of phone calls that have gone from these kids' aunts and uncles, grandpas and grandmas, mums and dads, telling the Chief and Council: "if my child suffers in any way, shape or form it's no longer in Rose Caldwell's hands or even Chief and Council's hands. We'll come and we'll do something about it." And that is the cry across the country. We have contacts all over BC and elsewhere. You know, it really upsets me that is has to come to this point of disarray because they think they're untouchable and can throw the Indian Act at us, bully us and do whatever they want.
Well we're still here. I figured maybe this morning when we all left to go to court, that they'd blockade us from coming back.
S.I.S.I.S.: What can people do if they want to help or keep the heat backed off? Should they be calling their so-called representatives? What kinds of things might they do?
R.C.: That's one avenue to go - the positive avenue to go. One of the things we'd like to do is make a call to write us some support letters. My address is NYM c/o Rose Caldwell, 3523 Ridge Estates Drive, Westbank, "British Columbia", "Canada" V4J 2H5. The average ages of our members go from 14 to 30. It really upsets me that they're not being heard. It's almost like the old 'kids should be seen and not heard' thing. Well that era is over. These people are going to be our future leaders and they're very well versed in what they do. That's what attracted me when we went to the Youth Conference in Prince George. They know the dates and proclamations, the White Papers and the history of assimilation. It's really amazing to watch them work.
S.I.S.I.S.: Yes, it's very inspiring to many people native and non-native. Just to see people standing up for their rights and sovereignty, as well as encouraging other people to stand with them. After all, a crooked politician is a crooked politician and something we're all increasingly familiar with.
R.C.: And that is just the way it is. It's really scary to think that a lot of these high wages that certain people are taking advantage of, are something these youth are going to have to pay back out of their future. At any point, these politicians and negotiators can walk away from the whole deal but the whole bill is still attached to the youth, adults and our future. There are certain bands that have no economic base. It they get themselves into the hole $5 million bucks, how are they going to pay it back? These politicians have already put it into their bank accounts and retirement funds.
S.I.S.I.S.: The Haida elder Lavina White says the BC Treaty Process is to "legitimize the theft of our lands".
R.C.: Exactly! At the end of day they're going to give us a monetary settlement only we're not going to see it. It's going to go to pay off the bill the negotiations have run up. So, we're paying for our own [dispossession] negotiations. How ridiculous is that?
S.I.S.I.S.: ...only in BC...
R.C.: No kidding...
S.I.S.I.S.: It's been a pleasure and we'll keep in touch and see how this persecution masquerading as prosecution goes.
R.C.: My final words are that this Band Council is charging us criminally. There are a lot of allegations about damage they say we did. All I can say is that if the Westbank Indian Band Council have made a decision to hose their insurance company off the backs of their children - that's something they will have to answer for in future.
S.I.S.I.S.: We'll talk again soon.
R.C.: It's been a pleasure.
S.I.S.I.S.: Take care.
NYMVOICE YOUR PROTEST:
c/o 3523 Ridge Estates Drive
Westbank , "BC" "Canada"
BC NDP Premier Glen Clark
Phone: (250) 387-1715
Westbank Indian Band Council
Phone: (250) 769-4999
Fax: (250) 769-4377
Kelowna RCMP - NO RAID ON NYM!
Phone: (250) 762-3300
"We young people fully understand that the BC Treaty Process was designed to dispossess us youth of our aboriginal title to our lands. No single band or so called, self appointed first nation has the right to sell out our inheritance or birthright. We will not be sold out by these people who pretend to be native leaders."