Shuswap Faithkeeper Percy Rosette's speech, Summer 1996

In the summer of 1996, a benefit for the Ts'peten Defenders was held at La Quena Coffeehouse, in Vancouver, BC (Canada). The following is a transcription of a speech made by Shuswap Faithkeeper PERCY ROSETTE at that event. Other speakers included:

Mary Pena, Ts'peten Defender
Transcripts are posted here with the permission of the speakers.


(Introduction in Shuswap)

I ask the Creator that I speak in this language and I ask in order that I speak freely in another territory, I offer this blanket to the nation, the Squamish nation, so that I have that right to speak in this land. (applause and drums)

I am from the Shuswap, and am a Faithkeeper of the Shuswap. My right name and spiritual name means Two Rocks -- that's my Indian name. My English name is Percy Rosette. And tonight I want to speak a little on the history of that Sundance ground and go back further so I could tell a little bit about what was happening on the inside.

We started with 28 sundancers going to that area, and we were having quite some time to make decisions on where to have the Sundance. We were dancing in Alberta, down in Oregon and every which way. Some went to the Sioux. So in that way, we wanted to revive the Sundance, the way our Elders, the way the old ones have told us that they had the Sundance also, in our area. So 28 of us went on a vision quest to different areas. We went out, and in about a week, we all ended up. And three of our people had the vision of the Sundance, where it was. It was in that area where the Ts'peten is right today. That's how come the Sundance came to be there, seven years ago. They called renegades -- with that history, I don't believe we're renegades; we're not terrorists, as they label us. What we're doing is to revive a culture because the culture is the heart of that spiritual government. It's always been a spiritual government, because it serves all.

At first, in 1979 and 1990 we had some problems. The rancher said in the paper that I asked him for that ground. I didn't ask him about that ground, you hear it from me. I told him that we were going to have a Sundance there -- I didn't ask or beg the rancher. Because I know that governor Douglas measured off land for the Indians.

That Gustafsen Lake is a man-made lake, made by the Indians of the Shuswap. It has a history that goes back, so far back. Among the old stories, one of them has that the [B.C. colonial land] commissioners, when they first came on this land, they met up with the Indians and the commissioners had a box of money. The Indians couldn't understand what these commissioners, these surveyors were talking about, so they had to go over a translator to talk to the commissioners. So the Indians built a sacred fire there at Ts'peten and spoke through the interpreter to these colonials. They had quite a debate over the land. [These colonials] were going to buy this land with that money in that box. They set the box next to the sacred fire. So in the end, the Indians said, "Whatever these colonials want, we'll do it proper". So they told them, we're going to see if it comes from the Creator. So with the money sitting there there's many days of debate about whether they want to buy the land. So the Indians had a ceremony and told the colonials to step back a little, that they were going to see if this money comes from the Creator; they were going to purify it in the sacred fire. So they took the money and they put it in the fire. And the money burned all to nothing. So they said, "There's no sale for this land". That's the legend of Ts'peten. That land's still not for sale. We've always lived that, and that resides in our ceremonies at all times.

And now, before we said it again, before the stand-off -- two years back, we put up a public forum with the R.C.M.P. and the DIA. The band councils and everyone were invited. We notified them with the help of the Tsilcotin nation -- the Tsilcotin nation is the Chilcotin nation just North of us. Because we're all accountable: each nation that surrounds us, we know. At that time, we put up that public forum the proper way. We had the public forum. The R.C.M.P. didn't attend; they only gave us a letter saying that they recognized the public forum. They all know we tried our best to resolve this.

So as time went on, about the fifth Sundance we had there, we came to know this land fairly well; it's so sacred. There was a graveyard there, an Indian spiritual ground that' s recognized before and a fishing station, and a water reservoir for Dog Creek reservation. And then the Sundance ground, it has everything that goes with it. They establish the heart of the spiritual government.

And in time, the [white] government, CSIS and all these people do their best to knock out what's good for the Indian people. We were blamed for so many things, as you heard and read about in the paper. But what happened at the siege was something. We had the Sundance, but before the Sundance we had an encounter with some rednecks [rancher Lyle James and cowboys] who threatened to "string up some red niggers". They came with guns in their trucks and cracking bull-whips. The rednecks and the government knew fairly well what they were doing, and the R.C.M.P. just stood by. It seemed that no one wanted to listen.

And they labelled us renegades. We went to the tribal council -- the Shuswap tribal council. We asked for a little help but, as you all seen in the paper before the siege, they denounced us. And denouncing your own kind is something fairly grave. And here we are trying to hold onto something for our children, something spiritual. Doing our best to revive what is a culture, because the Sundance is one of the grand-daddies of them all -- big ceremonies. It's revived throughout this Turtle Island.

I thank you for listening to a brief history, a little bit ... I thank you all.

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