It looks like the talks aimed at ending the siege of the Sundancers at Gustafsen Lake will continue despite previous hardline statements by BC Premier Mike Harcourt, BC Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh, and the RCMP. The police threatened an armed assault by Saturday night if the Indians, Defenders of the Shuswap Nation, refused to unconditionally surrender. A heavily armed Emergency Response Team of 24 members, with dogs and helicopters, have surrounded the camp in the Shuswap territory of British Columbia.
After 2 days of talks with the Sundance Camp defenders and local tribal chiefs, Assembly of First Nations Chief, Ovide Mercredi, announced "another disappointing day." He said that "the trust was absent today. There is danger to the public peace. The RCMP have cut of communications to the camp. The individuals at the camp are not terrorists. They are people with strong convictions - they are not criminals. However, they are determined that the sacred sundance site will be forever protected."
"If they (police) do raid the camp, there will be violence," said Mercredi. Wolverine, one of the Sundancers, said that he would leave in a body bag if necessary. When Mercredi asked him what the result would be if the RCMP raid the camp, Wolverine said, "The result is we are not moving." Mercredi told the RCMP that they must restrain themselves and be patient. "They must pay attention to the coroner's report on the Oka crisis."
When he was asked the question that every reporter usually asks first, do they have guns, he said, "they say they do. They say they are not as well armed as the police and media are reporting. We must resolve this conflict with peace. We must learn from the bad experience at Oka." There was speculation that the police may have caused the mediation efforts to fail through their military style manoeuvres started two days ago.
According to the Toronto Globe and Mail, the Indian arsenal consists of two guns, machetes, and knives. Staff Sergeant Peter Montague, who earlier called the Sundance people "thugs,terrorists, and criminals", claims that it is the Indians who threaten the peace. This is while surrounding the camp with a camouflaged, heavily armed SWAT (ERT) squad, and harassing the camp with low level helicopter flights, provoking the expected rifle fire, which they then use to further demonize the Sundancers.
They have also cut the communications to the camp. One wonders how a peaceful settlement is possible when the police are demanding an unconditional surrender, have cut off the communications, and are preparing to mount an assault on the camp whenever they deem necessary. Where are their mediators and conflict resolution experts?
Mercredi says that the Sundancers are determined. They will not surrender, but they will talk.
William Johnson in his column in the August 26 Edmonton Journal wrote: "The Mounties say they will move in today and remove the occupiers by force. That would be worse than the blunder Quebec police committed in 1990 by assaulting the Mohawks' barricade at Oka." Bruce Clark, attorney for the Sundancers argues that "the Canadian courts and the police of Canada have no jurisdiction on unsurrendered Indian lands, except to apprehend non-Indians guilty of crimes who may have taken refuge there."
On August 20, Bruce Clark wrote to Mike Crawley of the Vancouver Sun and Barb McLintock of The Province: "Mr. Crawley's question was: what if lives are lost? My clients' answer is that thousands upon thousands of Indian lives have been, and are being lost." He argues that these lives have been lost precisely because they have been "invaded and terrorized treasonably, fraudulently, and genocidally. The high mortality rates of natives in our country are a consequence of the legal establishment's crimes. My clients' intent at Gustafsen Lake is to save many lives at the risk of their own. That is heroism not terrorism."
If you cannot come, show your support in the many usual ways [S.I.S.I.S. NOTE: phone/fax numbers and addresses were in the original post; they have been deleted for this www archive]. But please do some little (or big) thing. Even an acknowledgement of receipt would be useful. You could also let us know what action you are taking, so that we can all learn.
The Sundancers are preparing themselves tonight to make the supreme sacrifice for their belief in a higher principle. They deserve our unflagging support. Let us hope, work and pray for a just and peaceful resolution.
If events overtake this notice, please stay tuned and get involved. We would love to get copies of media reports from your area. Feedback is essential for us to do a better job the next time, and the next, and the next, etc.