Splitting the Sky, aka John Hill, the National coordinator for the campaign to free Wolverine, spoke last week in Peterborough. He told the audience that he intended to speak the truth about Gustafsen Lake "to undo the lies and the deceit that was purposely manufactured and consented by the mainstream media with the assistance of the RCMP."
The Peterborough event was one stop in "Colonialism in Canada", an eight city tour organized by the Anti-Colonial Action Alliance. The tour aimed to raise support to free Wolverine, aka Jones William Ignace, a 67 year old Ts'peten political prisoner. Wolverine was sentenced to eight and a half years in jail as a result of attempts to defend his life and unceded Shuswap territory at Gustafsen Lake. He has been a political prisoner since September 29, 1995.
The event began with a showing of "Above the Law," a film which outlined what happened at Gustafsen Lake and the subsequent court proceedings where 18 defendants faced charges. The film explained that a Sundance Ceremony was held at Gustafsen Lake on land claimed by a B.C. rancher, Lyle James, who could not produce a deed for the land. The Sundance took place in June, but after its end a group decided not to leave because of their assertion that the land was unceded Native land which did not belong to the rancher. The group was asking for a Privy Council inquiry into the mistreatment of First Nations in Canada, since before Confederation.
The Canadian response resulted in the costliest RCMP mission in their history. Four hundred tactical assault team members, five helicopters, two surveillance planes, nine Armoured Personnel Carriers, eight RCMP 'deta sheets' (land mines), flares and 77 000 bullets were all deployed by the RCMP. Splitting the Sky stated in the film that "we saw the rise of nothing less than a fascist police state." The RCMP began the confrontation on August 23rd, and it lasted until mid-September.
The B.C. Attorney General branded the stand-off as strictly a criminal matter, refusing to consider political negotiations. The Ts'peten defenders were branded as terrorists, even though they took an entirely defensive position.
After the film Splitting the Sky discussed the effective smear campaign ensued against the defendants. Splitting the Sky asserted that it was necessary from the point of view of the State so that people would not believe the state was "engaging in a Nation to Nation war with the legitimate occupiers of Gustafsen Lake."
Disclosure revealed that RCMP were fully prepared and ready to kill the defenders and that the RCMP purposefully promoted a smear campaign. Splitting the Sky described the purpose of the smear campaign:
"They knew that you would have to see us as other than a legitimate resistance movement that was standing on international constitutional as well as our own national laws so they started calling us terrorists, they started calling us religious fanatics, they started calling us militants, renegades, thugs... [but] they are guilty of every single level of discredit and defamation of character that they assert on us. They themselves are practising colonialism, illegal theft of land and the genocide of people."Almost all of B.C. is unceded territory. Central to the stance of the Ts'peten defenders was the assertion of First Nation's sovereignty. The smear campaign was an attempt to distract from this fact, according to Splitting the Sky:
"They knew that Canada would be exposed for illegally selling Indian land... people are assuming that the Crown has title of that land and the Crown has no title because title was never willfully ceded by the majority consent of the Shuswap or the various nations to the Crown. It wasn't purchased according to the 1763 Royal Proclamation."In asserting First Nations rights entrenched in Canadian Law the RCMP, Canadian courts and governments "criminalized the true freedom fighters," according to Splitting the Sky. For the act of self defence Wolverine was convicted, as was O.J. Pitawanakwat. Splitting the Sky pointed to the double standards of Canadian courts by citing the light sentence given to the O.P.P. police officer who killed Dudley George of Stoney Point First Nation in the same summer as the RCMP siege at Gustafsen Lake.
"Now William Jones Ignace, known as Wolverine is doing eight and a half years, and O.J. Pitawanakwat is doing four years for defending their territories, while Kenneth Deane of the O.P.P. is doing 18 months community service with pay for killing Dudley George. Sounds to me like a two-tiered justice system."Presently, supporters are demanding a full citizens inquiry into RCMP activity at Gustafsen Lake. They are also demanding that the fifteen hours of police surveillance tapes which are banned to the public be shown at public forums. Finally, supporters want the media to report live from public showings of the tapes. Splitting the Sky argues that the tapes do not match police testimony and police records. "We appeal with this film and with this information to the newcomers, our relations and our allies who will hear and look and listen to the truth," said Splitting the Sky.
The talk emphasized that Wolverine and O.J. are political prisoners:
"Wolverine and O.J. sit in jail with thousands of political prisoners and prisoners of war all throughout this country and the world. They sit in there with Leonard Peltier, they sit in with Robert Cross, Warren George [defender of Stoney Point First Nation] will be sitting in there with these comrades - people determined to be a free independent sovereign people. Is there something wrong with that notion, for Native people to protect their homelands against foreign incursion? Or should we just be a willing participant in our own genocidal demise?"Splitting the Sky concluded by reminding the audience of their duty "to guard against the rise of fascism." He suggested that supporters write to demand a citizens inquiry and that they write O.J. and Wolverine expressing understanding and recognition of their status as political prisoners.
Wolverine (William Jones Ignace)
Abbotsford, BC V2S 5X8
James Pitawanakwat (OJ)
c/o Mission Institution
P.O. Box 60, Mission BC V2V 4L8
For information: Splitting the Sky - (604) 572-8154 or (403) 865-1784