On Monday, the indomitable Secwepemc (Shuswap) elder Wolverine aka William Jones Ignace began his final summation. The 65 year old activist and organic farmer has been imprisoned since shortly after the end of the month long 1995 armed siege of sacred Shuswap Sundance grounds by Canadian army and police. He is self represented, having been denied his counsel of choice, native rights lawyer Dr.Bruce Clark.
Wolverine began by reiterating that "this court does not have the authority or jurisdiction to hear this matter. There is a legal mechanism to resolve these issues, they didn't need all their automatic weapons. According to law we are allies, not subjects of the Queen. Yet we find ourselves, 'the landlords,' on trial by the 'tenants'. Does the Landlord- Tenant Act now supercede constitutional law?
"We say constitutional law binds this court. Yet you have heard Dr.Clark say that BC Courts, including this one, have refused to listen to the law over 41 times. That is why we are here today." Wolverine said of presiding Supreme Court Justice Bruce Josephson: "that man sits in a conflict. He sits on stolen land."
After giving a quick survey of the relevant constitutional and legislative instruments, precedents and statutes confirming the sovereignty of native nations "beyond the Treaty frontier", the elder told the court, "I only had a grade seven education; I had to learn this stuff myself."
Ignace outlined the history of the large tracts of land laid out in preparation for treaty making by Governor Sir James Douglas, and their diminishment by the fraud, theft and chicanery of provincial and federal authorities in contravention of the law.
"There is a conspiracy here. We tried to have the Governor-General open the door to the independent third party Queen's Privy Council, but the politicians like the BC Attorney-General refused us. Now we must ask 'Is the Queen herself complicit in the genocide of our people?'"
Wolverine spoke of the many fabrications and media manipulations, lies, and the many years that he has been "under surveillance" for "trying to get our rights recognized." He talked of his earlier cross examination of RCMP Superintendent Len Olfert, whom he referred to as having the "mark of an experienced officer." He then explained that when Olfert's testimony was effectively demolished, "he just pulled another story out of his pocket. That's what I meant by "the mark of an experienced officer." "Bullshit sells, truth doesn't," said Ignace.
Of his son JoJo, severely damaged by beatings, interrogations and drugging while in captivity, and also charged with attempted murder for allegedly firing a shot at a heavily armed RCMP "covert probe" on August 18,1995, Wolverine said, "I'm trying to clear my son. My phones were tapped. They know my son was at home and not in the camp that day."
On the harassment and attempts to portray Indian activists as agents of intimidation and harm to their people, he said "it is not the warrior societies that jeopardize the rights of the people, it is the paid puppets who sit at desks. Only the DIA Chiefs are listened to. The grassroots people are not being heard. This is the conspiracy that has been ongoing since the 1880s."
Wolverine spoke of a delegation of traditional hereditary Chiefs from the Okanagan-Shuswap Confederacy who traveled to London to meet with the Imperial Crown in the early years of the century, and of the medallions received by those Chiefs and their quest which Ignace continues.
"As traditionals, we think 7 generations ahead because we are protecting all our relations...we are all related."
Of his attempted murder charge arising from shots he fired at the wheels of a 14 ton armoured personnel carrier called a "Bison", Ignace said that "If I hadn't flattened the tires, the tires would have flattened me. They said that I could outrun that tank, but we have seen how the RCMP have stretched the truth... You've seen how mad they get when the truth comes out. That truth was pretty near undermined in this courtroom. For once we should look at the law as it is written. We are not a greedy people, we can coexist if we get the recognition of our rights. You cannot legalize something based on fraud."
Wolverine said that he went to Gustafsen Lake "with a good heart to help my friends." He told of his intention to have the issue addressed, "or come out in a body bag." When his granddaughter insisted on staying with him, he said he didn't feel he could allow that and "I see what Chief Joseph might have felt like when he cried."
Wolverine asked the jury to:
(1) say "we refuse to render a verdict based on complicity in genocide"Wolverine also alluded to the need for a public inquiry: "we've only heard half the story...the other half is still hidden away."
(2) if a verdict is rendered, say all defendants not guilty, and
(3) recommend that from now on all indigenous land disputes should go to an independent, international, 3rd Party tribunal, "not like here, where this judge is in conflict."
[We hope to obtain verbatim transcript of these final summations soon -- S.I.S.I.S.]
Free the Wolverine Campaign
Splitting the Sky - Phone/Fax: (604) 543-9661
Bill Lightbown - Phone: (604) 251-4949
[SISIS note: The following mainstream news article is provided for reference only, as an example of how mainstream media treats indigenous resistance to genocide. It may contain biased and distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context.]
Wednesday, April 30, 1997
Holly Horwood: Staff Reporter
The militant native leader of the Gustafsen Lake standoff used the courts yesterday to urge a renewed struggle for native rights. Onlookers in the heavily secured BC Supreme Court room broke into cheers as Jones William (Wolverine) Ignace suggested that if he's convicted, more natives will take up his cause.
If you find me guilty, you'll be imposing a life sentence on me," the 65 year-old former logger told jurors in Surrey. "Why (would you convict)? I'm standing on the law. If you impose a life sentence on me, then let my life be the seeds of liberty of red people."
Ignace, who is defending himself, faces several charges, including attempted murder of RCMP officers in the 1995 month-long armed siege on disputed land. He has repeatedly reminded the court of the 1763 Royal Proclamation and the 1867 constitution, which protect aboriginal rights in Canada - and which, Ignace maintains, are ignored.
"I don't mind when people say there should be one law for all people - they're talking about the Creator's law. But if they're talking about one law for an unjust society, then it won't work," he said. An articulate ex-alcoholic who was once charged, and acquitted, of manslaughter, Ignace represents the extremist wing of the 18 accused in the mass trial.
Ignace urged jurors either to acquit all the accused, refuse to return a verdict, or send the land-claims issue to a third-party tribunal. "This is what it (the case) all boils down to - the land issue," said Ignace, who has been in custody since the trial started last summer. "It's still unceded territory, according to law." Crown counsel is expected to make submissions today. justice Bruce Josephson is then expected to address jurors before final deliberations begin.
STANDOFF - At Gustafsen Lake on remote south Cariboo ranchland. The month long siege in the summer of 1995 was punctuated by shooting incidents but ended peacefully on September 17.
ISSUES - Natives who had permission since 1989 from rancher Lyle James to conduct a Sundance spiritual ceremony on the land lingered on. Issues of land entitlement escalated as RCMP called in military weapons and denounced camp supporters as terrorists.