Lil'Wat elder Lahalus (Loretta Pascal), testified with great dignity at the Ts'peten (Gustafsen Lake) trial April 9, 1997. She was called as a witness by self-representing defendant Shelagh Franklin.
"I am Lil'Wat, one of the people of the land. Canada came after us. We have our own laws... the people are our constitution," Lahalus said. "We are spiritually, emotionally, and physically connected to mother earth -- one of our laws is to protect mother earth, and all her children... It isn't just an environmental issue, the survival of our nation is in jeopardy. We are connected to the land in all ways."
Pascal said she's been working with native rights lawyer Bruce Clark ever since the standoffs at Ure Creek and Duffy Lake in 1990. She's been in front of 50 judges over issues of determination, but has never been answered, even though "it's in the Canadian constitution that we have the inherent right to sovereignty and jurisdiction."
"I had to make a stand, myself, that I was no longer going to be a victim of the crimes, abuses, colonialism and genocide," Lahalus continued. "I have found my own identity, I know who I am and where I come from."
Pascal further testified that her husband Chubb, like defendant Percy Rosette, is a traditional caretaker of the burial site, and that she had learned the history of the Gustafsen Lake area from the people who lived there.
Lahalus talked about the 1910 Shuswap-Okanagan alliance, the 1911 Lil'Wat Declaration and the subsequent alliance between all three nations. Her grandfather was one of the chiefs who made the Lil'Wat Declaration; "we were just carrying on where they left off." Just as she, as a Lil'Wat, had supported the stand by the Shuswap at Ts'peten in 1995, Shuswap elder Wolverine, defendant in this trial, had stood with the Lil'Wat at the 1990 Mount Currie blockade.
When Franklin tried to question the witness about violence against the Lil'Wat and their supporters at the Ure Creek blockade, which was unattended by police, Judge Josephson intervened: "there may be endless examples of that, but that won't assist the jury."
Josephson also declared irrelevant defence counsel Azevedo's question as to whether Lahalus thinks there is a pattern of RCMP violence against natives. "I'm sure we could have a two or three year trial on that alone," the judge remarked.
Another self-representing defendant, James (OJ) Pitawanakwat related Lahalus' testimony to his own nation. OJ said that he's Odawa, one of the three fires of Ojibway nation, that they too have their own laws, known as the 21 commitments, and that there's a strong likeness between the commitments and a wampum, a reference to the Gus-Wen-Tah (Two Row Wampum Treaty) of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
Lahalus pointed out that people of different nations come together as an "extended" family to support and protect each other and their lands.
"I've been criminalized for standing up for my rights, and my land, [but] I've freed myself from that Canadian system. I've made my stand, that's my responsibility as a woman and a mother."
Loretta and Chubb Pascal can be contacted at:
PO Box 208
Mount Currie, Lil'wat Territory
VON 2KO, "Canada"
Phone: (604) 894-6640
Fax: (604) 894-6095
email c/o: email@example.com
Splitting the Sky - Phone/Fax: (604) 543-9661Ts'peten Legal Defence Team:
Bill Lightbown - Phone: (604) 251-4949
Manuel Azevedo, phone: (604) 687-0231, fax: (604) 687-0241Settlers In Support of Indigenous Sovereignty
Margaret Clark, c/o phone: (604) 687-0231, fax: (604) 687-0241