May 30/96: Gustafsen Lake-Justice? What Justice?


The Martlet
Thursday, May 30, 1996
John Shafer

I've been asked to write something on Gustafsen Lake. It's the night before deadline. Earlier I had a call about new disclosures made in the pre-trial hearing being held in B.C. Supreme Court in Surrey. A police report indicates an officer was advised by his headquarters to "shoot to kill" someone inside the besieged camp who had gone to the lakeside for water. It's nothing new -- the whole network of lies is unraveling -- the authorities have once again been caught lying. So what else is new? When have they ever told the truth?

It's late and I'm tired and all around me is the detritus of Gustafsen Lake and much of my five years as what? An alternative journalist? -- no, just someone who can't believe that any and all consciousness or concern about what happened last summer is so hard to come by. There was no media attending court when the revelation of the sniper came out.

I'm tired and it's late and my bed and floor are covered with press clippings, news releases, legal documents, and audio cassettes of mainstream's coverage of the crisis at the Ts'peten Sundance Grounds.

It was one of the most beautiful places on earth when I visited last summer -- I never felt such peace -- now the "authorities" have burned it down to ensure that Lyall James's half million acre ranch is safe. The thought of his cattle shitting all over that ancient sacred place makes me feel sad and angry.

Most of what was said about the stand-off were lies -- known to be so by those who told them. So, maybe a little simple truth is in order.

The first truth is that we live in a settler state founded and maintained upon the genocide of indigenous peoples -- their nations, their cultures, their resources and their lives. The second truth is that both you and I already know that. Yet you, apparently, have found a way to habituate yourself to it or to deny it while I have not. Perhaps you realize that everything you have, you enjoy because of this ongoing genocide. You would be correct and I would by hypocritical, hopeless, idealist. Yes? So, no matter how many appalling and terrifying facts, figures, or horror stories I write about how and who Oh-Oh-KKKanada or Brutish KKKolumbia have murdered today (yes, even under the NDP) -- it's highly unlikely you'll lift a finger to stop it.

That's why I think it makes more sense for me to get some sleep rather than once again forcing myself to get it up, pretending that this story is going to make any difference. If and when you decide to stop bullshitting yourself about the horrors taking place all around you -- name one local reserve? Then, maybe, we can talk, or better yet, act. Because at Gustafsen, when my white sister Susu was blown up by an RCMP mine, then shot by snipers, they were all terrorists, squatters, cultists, anarchists, renegades -- and colour didn't matter anymore.

So when you decide to move from the Sierra Club and trees, owls, seals, whales, or marxism, socialism, or NDPism; then I'll tell you what really happened at Gustafsen Lake.I might even point you in the direction of the next `crisis'. Maybe we'll go together. Maybe it will be white blood spilled for a change. Maybe we can get some honour back.

In the meantime, my friend Wolverine, who has the wickedest sense of humour, the best political mind, and more patience with racists and colonialists than I'll ever have, sits in a concrete hole -- and has been since September. Percy Rosette, Toby and family have been burned out of their home. Flo Ignace, Trond, JoJo, Brent, O.J., Dacajewiah and everyone else has to figure out how they're going to make it through a three month trial in the lower mainland when they live in the Shuswap Territory.

At least JoJo's out on bail. Every time I went to court it was obvious they had beaten him up. The lawyers said it was to get to Wolverine. To try and break him. In 1990-91 they beat up Chubb Pascal so bad they had to keep him hidden in jail until his wounds healed. Beatings are pretty common if you're Indian. So are deaths.

The Canadian public have been and continue to be deeply complicit in the longest and largest ongoing holocaust in human history: that of the indigenous nations of the Americas. Arguably, with trade treaties like NAFTA and FTA, our genocidal reach extends throughout the hemisphere.

Indigenous Peoples are, as it is, "locked in a room with the socio-cultural equivalent of Hannibal Lector." The American Indian Movement supported the Shuswap Defenders. AIM knew that what was happening here was similar to Wounded Knee. AIM knew it was B.C. and Canada that handed Leonard Peltier over to the American FBI for a fixed trial and two double life prison terms. AIM knows that appealing to Lector's sense of justice, honour, or rule of law haven't stopped his psychotic, cannibalistic savagery.

One's liable to get eaten. That's pretty much what happened at the lake last summer. Indigenous people have been attempting to reason with a monster for generations because the monster pretends to be human. But the monster keeps devouring, and increasingly, from Oka to Ipperwash to Gustafsen Lake to Chiapas, talking to the monster is viewed as a dangerous, perhaps pointless activity. Besides, it's been tried for 504 years.

So, dear reader, if you're interested in Gustafsen Lake, try the Surrey Supreme Court. Can't afford to go? Neither can anyone else that has to be there. Why not ask the media why they aren't there? Maybe the law school will order court transcripts; maybe the monster will turn out to be human after all.

A kangaroo court is now preparing to pretend that due process exists in this country. Sometime in July a jury in a "secure, anti-terrorist courtroom" in Surrey will try a group of people that I know to be the bravest and best people I have ever met for alleged crimes ranging from attempted murder to trespassing.

Others equally brave and strong-hearted that I do not know across the hemisphere and beyond find themselves in similar situations. Heroes being tried in courts run by criminals. Those of us who know the truth will continue to do the work that must be done. Gustafsen Lake will move on as it has for 504 years and will happen, is happening, again.

My love and deep appreciation for all brothers and sisters in resistance everywhere. Freedom!

"Our object is to continue until there is not a single Indian that has not been absorbed into the body politic of Canada and there is no more Indian question. That is the whole purpose of our legislation." - Duncan Campbell Scott, Department of Indian Affairs, 1920

"No one can really determine what they want or just what the issues are. We kind of think they're fanatical and they're terrorist -- and they seem to want to engage in war for some reason." - RCMP Inspector Len Olfert, August 20, 1995

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