According to the Globe and Mail newspaper (July 26), Canada's DIA Band Council Chiefs began the first day of their national AFN leadership convention Monday in Vancouver "suitably with a golf tournament." Contenders for the $85,000.00 tax-free plus expenses position of Assembly of First Nations' "Grand Chief" will be voted on by approximately 600 AFN chiefs.
Meanwhile across town, away from the fancy hotel rooms and golfing chiefs, the people that Grand Chief Mercredi accused of breaking Canadian law and Chief Wendy Grant called "not very nice" are preparing themselves and saying goodbye to friends and loved ones before Wednesday's sentencing by BC Supreme Court Justice Bruce Josephson. The AFN election is the same day. But it is these grassroots people, not the AFN that have challenged and confronted the colonizer. And for this, on Wednesday, it appears they are to be harshly punished. Wendy Grant's husband Chief Ed John of the BC First Nations Summit, has however already reassured the public that he "doubts jail terms for the Gustafsen Lake renegades sets the stage for a summer of native blockades in British Columbia." (Canadian Press, May 26, 1997)
On Friday, July 25 self-represented Defenders OJ Pitawanakwat, Sheila Franklin, and 66 year old Shuswap elder Wolverine, held without bail since the standoff ended in 1995, spoke to sentencing and tried once more to communicate to this corrupt colonialist court, perhaps for the last time, the simple truth of their 1995 stand on sacred unceded Shuswap burial and Sundance grounds against the largest paramilitary operation in Canadian history.
OJ Pitawanakwat - an Odawa/Anishinabe also being held in custody for whom the crown is asking more than 10 years imprisonment for his resistance during the month long seige - spoke much of native youth and of his duty as a young father to protect the cultural ways:
"I didn't come with firearms. That is a religious site where we gave our blood through ceremony. This situation was manipulated by the politicians and RCMP that were losing face with all the native blockades to protect burial and sacred areas. There was a provoked attack against our very identity - a threat to burn down what is to us our church. You would do the same if your ancestors were lying there..."Shelagh Franklin - a recent mother and the only non-native Defender that has not capitulated and renounced the sovereignty stand, as have the three Bear Watch environmentalists, some of whom have gone so far as to now allege they were coerced by "militants" - also made her final submissions on Friday. Shelagh is facing 2-5 years for a simple mischief charge. Additional charges of contempt of court were recently added when she was late returning some videotaped evidence necessary to her defence.
"A peaceful ending didn't happen because there was going to be a question of who sold the land. The government decided to use genocidal tactics. We had to do what we had to do. We responded when our way of life was threatened - just like throughout history..."
"I thought we were finally going to get justice in this court. Instead our lawyer was denied us. He was assaulted, jailed, brought in here as witness then Bruce Clark was told the law he gave you doesn't apply. These government legal-aid lawyers tried to break our group and they succeeded in making some forget their responsibilities. Calling us "hawks" and "doves". The lawyers saw a weakness and used it to manipulate. Who's interests are these lawyers really representing?"
"...How does this system benefit native people? A policeman gets two years less a day and no jail for killing a native person [in reference to Kenneth Deane, who extrajudicially murdered Aazhoodena activist Dudley George at Stoney Point in 1995]. What kind of message is this sending to my brothers and sisters? That it's OK for Whites to kill Indians but we can't protect ourselves from physical and cultural genocide? I don't understand, maybe you can help me..."
"The Royal Proclamation of 1763 states we are not to be molested or disturbed on unceded territories. This is embedded in the Constitution. You've heard the crown admit there are no treaties, no purchase - therefore the Royal Proclamation applies here. Who were the real trespassers, the ones really pushing violence out there? The native youth are watching you and looking for truth..."
"The Great Law as handed down by Deganawida states that all nations have a natural right to defend against aggressive, hostile powers seeking to colonize..."
"You yourself are on trial before the oppressed of the world. I believe the Creator also has serious charges against you, the Attorney-General, the military and the RCMP. Before you sentence anyone ask yourself if you're not guilty yourself, of fraud, treason and genocide..."
"I guess my final submission to this court is this Great Law and these wampums which I bring before you and to which I have complete allegiance as a warrior."
"Everyone in the world knows that Canada was built on Indian land. Canada cannot keep this dirty secret any longer. Now is a window of opportunity for Canada to honestly deal with indigenous peoples by honouring our covenants, our commitments and responsibilities..."Lance Bernard, the Crown prosecutor in this trial, also spoke Friday. Bernard was involved in the prosecution of Chief Robert Satiacum, a sovereignty activist of the Puyallup nation, on trumped up charges designed to facilitate his removal to the waiting US authorities who had bogus "racketeering" charges to criminalize him. Chief Satiacum was snatched by an RCMP tactical team from the home of his friend Wolverine (William Ignace) with whom he was harboring at the time. He died in custody in BC's Okalla prison in 1991 after "irregularities" with essential medication required for a heart problem. Bernard briefly addressed the sentencing submissions of the Defenders:
"I'm a compassionate, caring human being not a terrorist. I apologize if my submissions irritated or offended you... [Judge Josephson: "accepted"] but I do not apologize for defending those Sundance grounds. You are not my judge. You only have power. I am in the awkward position of rejecting your illegitimate jurisdiction..."
"I went to Gustafsen Lake because I was concerned that Percy and my friends were to be unfairly removed from the land. I was encouraged by seeing a video tape of RCMP officer George Findlay agreeing that the land was stolen. He acknowledged that process was genocide. Findlay was removed..."
"I didn't expect police violence. I believe the rancher Lyle James' title is fraudulent. I base that on my research. I saw and still see no evidence to the contrary. Genocide flies in the face of what I know to be constitutional and international law..."
"We took a defensive stand at Gustafsen Lake for freedom. Free the indigenous peoples of the world! Free OJ! Free Wolverine!"
"The suggestion that RCMP bungled this effort is without merit, but whether true or not it doesn't excuse the defendants..."Prosecutor Bernard concluded by recommending the principles of "denunciation and deterrence" in determing "fit sentences".
"There is no evidence that either the native or non-native communities have anything but contempt for the actions of the defendants..."
Secwepemc (Shuswap) elder Wolverine, aka William Jones Ignace, age 66 - an old age pensioner and an organic gardener of heritage seed - is facing up to 23 years imprisonment for his part in the standoff. It is alleged he fired at the wheels of a 14 ton army APC when the driver, instructed to "eliminate" him, tried to run him down. As previously stated, Wolverine has been in jail since the summer 1995 standoff ended. According to police disclosures, the RCMP thought Ignace would "require killing." He has attempted to have the jurisdiction issue addressed in many venues including the International Court of Justice and the Indigenous Working Group of the UN.
"We feel that after British Columbia has been trespassing and oppressing us for 150 years, the 30 days or so we 'trespassed' on our own land isn't long..."Messages of solidarity or condemnation of the Canadian and BC authorities are needed and much appreciated. They can be delivered to S.I.S.I.S. for forwarding. Attend the Sentencing. Alert your media contacts. Contact your representatives and urge official protests.
"Since 1876 we have watched the theft of our lands. The Crown doesn't want to deal with the facts or the rule of law. They say the American rancher owns the land. Point out the surrender. Where is the treaty? Where is the purchase? Show us the paper..."
"We're standing on Constitutional law. International law. The domestic laws do not supersede these higher laws. All we asked for was for an independent third party to sit on this issue. Instead we got 400 RCMP, land mines and hollow point ammunition banned by the UN. Is there any Human Rights law in Canada?"
"...This Prosecutor is part of a genocide that's 500 years old. He thinks nothing of this. Our people were hunted down, bounties put on their heads - who are the real law breakers?"
"...Sergeant Peter Montague [BC RCMP media liaison] made lies look like truth. So much of what happened at Gustafsen Lake is still covered up. We tried to bring this out. I guess the people of BC don't mind that a sergeant's in control..."
"The A-G says we are squatters. Yet he refuses to appear here to answer questions as to his involvement. Because this went all the way to the Prime Minister's Office, the Solicitor-General's Office. We have a Governor-General derelict in his duty to his Queen. When native people seek a due process right to straighten out jurisdiction you crush them!"
"...You cannot change history. The prosecutor admits no treaty and no purchase. Who is really the law breaker? Is your greed so great that you want it all?"
"Where is the media? Were they ordered to stay away to stop the truth from coming out? A public inquiry must be held here in Canada into this issue and Ipperwash. So if you sentence me I'm not going to snivel because I'm above you. You stand on fraud. I stand on Law."
+++++Demand a Public Inquiry into Gustafsen Lake and Ipperwash+++++
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