Aug 27/95: Gustafsen Lake-Did Defenders shoot police?


Settlers In Support of Indigenous Sovereignty (S.I.S.I.S.)
August 27, 1995

Police claim that a police vehicle and RCMP members were fired at when they tried to remove a fallen tree on the road to Gustafsen Lake where Shuswap Nation Sovereigntists are defying a BC government and police order to unconditionally surrender. Video footage of the two police men allegedly shot in the back and saved by their flack jackets, show no marks on the jackets. The mother of a young woman still at the camp said, "We have to wonder if this is a set up."

Assembly of First Nations chief, Ovide Mercredi, condemned the shooting of the police as a criminal act. However, he also said that the police siege strategy has escalated the conflict and inflamed the defenders. "They continue to tighten the noose on the camp," he said. "This can only lead to more tension, not peace."

Communication to the camp was cut off yesterday by the police. It is abundantly clear that the government and the police do not want a peaceful resolution of the conflict, contrary to the claim of the BC Attorney General, Ujjal Dosanjh, who said, "We have done everything possible to seek a peaceful solution." Talks have ceased since Mercredi left the camp yesterday.

Conspicuously absent from the scene is Aboriginal Affairs Minister, John Cashore. He would appear to be in hiding. "I think Mr. Cashore should be at the camp right now, talking to the people, trying to negotiate a peaceful end to this police action," said Ernie Yacub in his media release. "The police, who have been intransigent and provocative throughout the hostilities, should be moved out of the area and Cashore, Ovide Mercredi, the Shuswap hereditary chiefs, and a professional mediator should go to the camp and talk until they reach consensus."

The First Nations Environmental Network (FNEN) has offered to help mediate. "Commitment to a mediation process must be undertaken immediately," says their August 27 news release. "What we need now," says Milton Born With a Tooth, who initiated the FNEN in 1991, "in front line dialogue to concentrate on the root of the issue which is about jurisdiction and respect for the land."

There is much more to the stand-off than the government, the police, and the media acknowledge. The Gustafsen Lake Traditional Sundance site (and most of BC) is beyond the treaty frontier. Therefore, jurisdiction and determination of these lands inherently belongs to the Shuswap Nation and must be respected according to constitutional law.

The Sundance Support Coalition issued a statement: "The Shuswap defenders are not criminals, they are SOVEREIGNTISTS. They have the legal right to defend their land until such lands have been treatied."

The BC Attorney General wants the public to believe that this confrontation is not about land claims, self government and sovereignty. He says it is about law and order. He may be right, if he is talking about the law and order of the colonial regime which First Nations people all over the world know only too well.

Back to SIS