Fort Rupert, BC -- The 29th annual gathering of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs began with a speech from President Saul Terry that set the mood for the entire three-day affair. In opening the UBCIC Annual General Assembly, the man who speaks for the First Nations in the Province who do not support the treaty negotiation process took shot after shot at both the process and those chiefs who are participating in it.
"Many of our people are living well on borrowed money. Some of our leaders have the arrogance to think they can negotiate their way around extinguishment and genocide," Terry said. He was referring to the fact that First Nations which participate in the treaty process will eventually have to pay back 80% of the money spent to negotiate their treaties. He also referred to the increasingly apparent trend - seen in both the Nisga'a and Sechelt offers, the only government offers to date - of including the extinguishment of Aboriginal rights in all modern-day treaties that are being negotiated in the province.
"We must always be wary of these different strategies that all have the same agenda - to disinherit us and separate us from our homelands," Terry added. "All of these processes have the same intent, which is to take away our lands and our resources forever." Chiefs who oppose the treaty process believe the negotiated end of Aboriginal rights in modern-day treaties is just the latest version of a long history of attempts to eliminate Aboriginal people as a political problem for the mainstream governments. They call it genocide. "Genocide is being perpetrated against Indian people," Terry said. "Indigenous people cannot continue to exist if the processes of termination continues to be practiced."
The UBCIC position has been criticized as extreme and inflexible. "Some people say we are taking too hard a line," Terry said, dealing with his critics. "My God, if our future is in jeopardy, we must state that and stop the dangers in the treaty process and other government initiatives now offered to us."