May 27/97: Urgent action needed for Ts'peten Defenders

S.I.S.I.S. Bulletin


May 27, 1997

The Ts'Peten Defenders are facing sentencing and they need your support now.

In the summer of 1995, a group of native and non-native people came together to protect the Sundance grounds at Ts'Peten (Gustafsen Lake) and were met with massive state force - including 77,000 rounds of hollow point ammunition, Bison APCs, and a police and media smear and disinformation campaign.

The Sundance site is unceded Indian land, territory of the Secwepemc (Shuswap) people. The federal and provincial governments of Canada continue to attempt to bury the land issue and its messengers. The defenders have been criminalized for standing on International and Constitutional laws concerning native jurisdiction and land rights, and defending themselves against threats and assaults by ranchers, police and military.

The judicial system has once again refused to address the law. Judge Josephson prevented the jury from considering key evidence, testimony and legal arguments. After a ten month trial, the defenders have been convicted of various "mischief" charges to "private property" on land the Crown never legally obtained by treaty or purchase.

SENTENCING will take place on June 6th and 10th, 1997 at the Provincial Courthouse in Surrey, BC. Wolverine - a Shuswap elder and organic farmer who has been held as a political prisoner for almost two years without bail - and three others face life imprisonment. Twelve defenders face ten year prison terms. This injustice must not be the last word on their stand for aboriginal rights!

We are calling for people and organizations across Turtle Island and across the world to express solidarity with the Ts'Peten defenders by protesting at Canadian embassies, consulates and band councils. Demand an independent third party tribunal into land and jurisdiction issues in British Columbia and a full public inquiry into the genocidal assault by the RCMP and military at Gustafsen Lake and the ongoing judicial corruption!

ACTIONS: MAY 31, 1997

On SATURDAY, MAY 31ST at 12 NOON there will be simultaneous actions in:
VICTORIA: leafletting and information at the Captain Cook statue on the lower causeway (across from the Empress Hotel).

VANCOUVER: protest rally on the lawn of the Art Gallery downtown, at Robson and Howe, with speakers and free food.


Please write! You can use the sample letter below or compose your own. You can send it to S.I.S.I.S. for forwarding (PO Box 8673, Victoria, BC Canada V8X 3S2, email: or mail copies directly to politicians and human rights organizations; you'll find addresses, fax numbers and email links at:

In all cases, make sure you include your name and full address so they'll have to acknowledge your letter. And be sure to send one copy to S.I.S.I.S. so the Defenders can know they're getting support.

:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:SAMPLE LETTER:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:

Dear Prime Minister Chretien;

I am writing to condemn in the strongest terms possible Canada's handling of the Ts'Peten (Gustafsen Lake) matter, and to demand the freedom of the 15 Ts'Peten Defenders who have been convicted in your court system.

Canada claims to have jurisdiction over Ts'Peten (Gustafsen Lake), though government lawyers admit that Canada has never legally obtained the land by treaty or purchase from the Secwepemc (Shuswap) nation. These traditionalist Secwepemcs and their allies have been convicted of "mischief to private property" for refusing to abandon sacred Sundance and burial grounds in their own Secwepemc territory. They have been vilified in propaganda disseminated by media, government and police as "squatters," "fanatics," "cultists," and "terrorists." They have been criminalized for defending themselves when the RCMP "declared war" on them (The Province, Aug. 20, 1995), besieging them with the largest police/military operation in Canadian history, and attacking them with Armoured Personnel Carriers, land mines and 77,000 rounds of internationally prohibited hollow point ammunition. Government lawyers have indicated they will seek harsh prison sentences, including a life sentence for 66 year old Secwepemc elder Wolverine.

This is outrageous, but it is consistent with Canada's continuing colonialist policies toward indigenous nations. The state's attempted murder of the Sundancers at Ts'Peten - not all of the 77,000 rounds fired by RCMP can be dismissed as warning shots - is not an anomaly. In the context of the internment, systematic deculturation and horrific abuse of aboriginal children in residential schools, the deliberate spread of small-pox, the concentration-camp-like conditions on many Indian Reserves, the forced sterilization of indigenous women, and the long-time prohibition of core structures of indigenous identity, like the potlatch, the Ghostdance and the Sundance, it becomes apparent that the Canadian actions against the aboriginal traditionalists at Gustafsen Lake are part of a long-standing campaign of genocide.

This explains why Canada flatly refused to refer the legal question of jurisdiction over unceded native territory to a third-party tribunal - the Defenders' only demand. It also explains why the Canadian judge in their trial ordered the jury to disregard all arguments that the land came under Shuswap, not Canadian jurisdiction. The whole process has demonstrated amply that the Defenders were correct in asserting that the Canadian court system, an interested party in the dispute, is not unbiased.

Genocide is a crime against humanity and has no time limit on prosecution; Canada will continue to be liable even after it abandons its current agenda of extinguishment. Yet Canada could still send a message that it will begin to respect the rule of law. The Ts'Peten Defenders are not criminals, they are political prisoners. Canada should:

1. Free them immediately;

2. Allow a full and comprehensive public inquiry into all aspects of the Gustafsen Lake operation, with international observers present to monitor the process;

3. Attorn the dispute about jurisdiction over unsurrendered Native land to an independent, impartial, third-party tribunal, like the World Court at The Hague or the special constitutional court first instituted by Queen Anne to resolve this type of disagreement between colonist and Native nations.

World-wide, indigenous peoples are asserting their internationally recognized rights of sovereignty and self-determination, and rejecting colonial mechanisms of control such as the Indian Act Band Council system. Most of BC is still unsurrendered Native land and Canada cannot continue to offer fraudulent "solutions" like the BC Treaty process, which does not recognize existing indigenous sovereignty and is headed by Alec Robertson, a former director of Daishowa (the logging giant infamous for attacks on the Lubicon Cree). Nation to nation relations must be grounded in truth, respect and consent, and that will be impossible until Canada squarely and honestly faces the travesty of justice it committed at Gustafsen Lake.


(your name)

[S.I.S.I.S. note: addresses are at the following locations:

  Local politicians, media, police:

  Canadian politicians, support organizations, media:

  International human rights organizations:]

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