Thirteen Defenders present at the Gustafsen Lake Stand-Off were sentenced to penalties ranging from four-and-one-half years in prison for Shuswap elder Wolverine, to community hours for non-Native Sovereignty supporter Shelagh Franklin. Mainstream pundits might see these as lenient sentences. However, if you look into the astonishing evidence which revealed that the R.C.M.P. were initiators of violence at Gustafsen Lake and that they used war-time propaganda techniques to slander the Ts'peten Defenders, you'll see that these people should not have been convicted in the first place. The non-Native people who went to the camp were motivated by the threats which had been made by the ranchers in the area who threatened that the R.C.M.P. were planning an invasion. They hoped their presence would stop such an invasion. Some of these people will now go to jail. The trial itself which was ill-attended by mainstream media provided shocking evidence of outright R.C.M.P. fabrication of the shooting incidents of September 4 and September 7, 1995. On fifty hours of video tape are astonishing conversations of R.C.M.P. planning a "smear and disinformation campaign" and officers seen and heard brainstorming about ways to tailor press releases to portray the Native people as the aggressors although the Crown has introduced no evidence in court to deny that the instigators of violence at Gustafsen Lake were the R.C.M.P.
Why were these sovereigntists considered such a threat? Chubb and Loretta Pascal who have been working with Wolverine for years explained to me that Sovereigntists are perceived as a threat to the economic and political fabric of B.C. and that anyone who advocates a Sovereignty position can be vilified, jailed, drugged or in the case of Gustafsen Lake, shot at with 70,000 rounds. The issues active here include media manipulation, systemic racism, but most importantly, a threat to the land base itself. Although, as Chubb and Loretta explained to me, they are looking to live in co-existence and at one with the land, yet they are treated as "agitators."
A cover article in the Vancouver Sun this spring noted that the Chinese Business Development Association issued a statement that continuing political and economic instability caused by unresolved Native land claims issues is compromising investment potential in B.C. They recommended swift resolution of land claims issues.
Instead of diplomatic initiatives which take the constitutional laws acknowledging Native jurisdiction into account, Chubb and Loretta told me about harassment, imprisonment and a judiciary consistently blinding themselves to Canadian Constitutional Law as the methods of "resolution" chosen by powers that be in B.C. Harold (Chubb) and Loretta Pascal have been working with Wolverine and Percy Rosette who have been convicted at the Gustafsen Lake Trial because the Crown asserts there was a conspiracy there on "private property." The traditional people there have never signed a treaty though and have made numerous submissions to both domestic and International Courts asking that issue to be addressed. The fascinating thing is that it is white law itself, Canada's Constitution which sets out guidelines along which a land transfer can take place, which the judge will not address. He stated that is not of concern to this trial nor the sentencing proceedings. Chubb and Loretta explain what the underpinning issue of Gustafsen Lake is about and shared some of the history of the struggle:
Loretta: We were the ones who started off this issue of jurisdiction and sovereignty in 1990. We brought it forth. It's continuing today with Wolverine. He is bringing it out. He has worked with us since 1990.
Ben: You mentioned that you [Harold Pascal] went down to Albuquerque to the United Nations Panel of listeners, with Wolverine and Percy [both present at Gustafsen Lake].
Loretta: Yes. It's all right, but a lot of people have forgotten that or they don't know too much about the Lil' Wat People. We brought Bruce [Clark] into it.
Harold: The law is his own issue. He doesn't care about politics. He knows our history. He's studied our history. That's one of his problems. He knows who's lying to him, who's going to talk against him and he knows who's going to work with him. He's figured it out. People like ourselves who are not in this for financial compensation: The law says we're entitled to self-government. We're entitled to self-determination. We're entitled to a portion of the resources according to the Canadian's law. And according to our law, we have to share everything. Everything we get today we have to share. It's not materialism. It's one of the things we've been dealing with for generations. We find that the more materials that we acquire, the more that the Earth has to suffer... We don't have the latest technologies available to us to handle a case like this. You'll notice all the lawyers are into compromise except for Bruce. There's a majority of lawyers outside of here that are in agreement to the position of "no jurisdiction." And a lot of academic professors that are in agreement that the "no jurisdiction" argument is the only way to resolve the issue.
B: Although it seems as if Bruce is the only one that's speaking up... And he's been criticized for it, of course. You're saying there are other academics and lawyers that do support him.
L: They won't take the risk. It's too risky for them.
B: Bruce told me that there were judges that had actually come up and said, "You know you're right. But I can't give up my career."
L: We are not asking the courts to make a ruling on whether we have jurisdiction or not. We're not saying 'Do you have jurisdiction or not?' We're telling them, 'You don't have any jurisdiction.' You usurped or assumed jurisdiction but we never gave that up. We didn't give up anything. A lot of people say 'Why do you go to their courts if you're saying they don't have any jurisdiction?' We want the rule of law addressed because they made those laws and they're not abiding by them." The law students take up law but they're not taught the whole thing.
B: Manuel [Azevedo, one of the Sundancers Legal Aid Defense team], even said that he learned a lot the day that Bruce was in court.
Pascal described his association with Wolverine and other traditionalists in the days just preceding the Stand-Off:
H: We were looking to raise this issue in the Supreme Court of Canada in the days before the stand-off. We came to the conclusion that we should go to Ottawa, John Stevens, Percy Rosette, Wolverine, myself, and some other people interested in raising the issue... We may design some sit-ins, or rallies or protests, definitely ceremonies... We wanted to get over there prior to the Git'skan case which has totally manipulated our jurisdiction argument into a land-claims issue. We're not asking for land claims, we're asking to have the law addressed as it's been written in the constitution in international law... That's one of the things that Jones [Wolverine] and I worked on prior to Gustafsen Lake. Gustafsen Lake happened by, as you know, incidents manufactured by the police and the cowboys, [American rancher] Lyle James and all the elected officials who were going to benefit from the killing of my friends at Gustafsen Lake.
B: Do you think they knew that you were organizing in this way?
B: And they were looking in particular to stop - if not kill - the four or five of you?
B: That's one of the things that's been suggested to me as the reason Gustafsen Lake happened. They were trying to draw all the important people into one place and then manufacture consent for a killing of all these people.
H: Yeah. Well, we have the insight to that... We had these feelings prior to all that so we were going to raise the issue in Ottawa. A number of us didn't go to the blockades. I was in Ottawa, John Stevens was on his way, and Jonsey and everyone else was going to follow... They assumed that we were going to get drawn in there...
B: How would they know that Jones would go up there or why? I guess because it was Percy, right?
H: Percy asked him. Percy asked us.
B: They knew that Percy was connected. They knew that Percy had been there for four or five years straight. [The annual Sundance at Gustafsen Lake began in 1989].
B: I see.
H: We had a number of meetings with Percy. We had some correspondence with him. We had some ceremonies with him. We went to Albuquerque, like I said. He was always around whenever we were having meetings about our ad hoc Sovereignty Association ... the issue that Wolverine and Percy were talking about is "no jurisdiction," sovereignty is the only issue and that has gotten to the point where incarceration has more or less weakened Percy's position.
Pascal then made reference to some of the darker moments in the recent history of the struggle. He referred to Renate Andres-Auger, a lawyer and Cree woman, who had challenged the B.C. courts on errors and irregularities of the Delgamuukw case (Git'skan-Wet'suwet'en case). She hired Jack Cram, the lawyer who appeared on the cover of the Georgia Straight in the summer of 1994. That article entitled "Is Jack Cram Crazy?" made the essential observation that either there is a large web of corruption and conspiracy in the judiciary to stonewall lawyers who advocate Native sovereignty positions or that indeed Jack Cram is crazy. As for Auger, the Ts'Peten Defenders note that, "she was doing research on the Delgamuukw case and had dug up information that was very damning to the judiciary... She had proof that the judge, the crown council, and a couple of the lawyers that were supposedly acting on behalf of the Git'skan-Wet'suwet'en in fact were all from the same law firm and had conspired to fix the outcome of that 'precedent setting' case from the outset... She hired Cram after the Law Society seized her office, books, bank account and were investigating her without telling her why."
B: So you feel the Git'skan treaty process wasn't fair then?
H: Yeah, the Git'skan case is part of the fraud. We brought that out when Jack Cram brought that issue out.
B: Oh yeah, I went to the Cram case once when I heard about it and then eventually... whatever, he was silenced.
H: Well, his license got taken away, his bank account got sort of manipulated into the wife's hands or something like that.
B: It was suggested that he was actually taken in the night.
B: And drugged.
B: Is that true?
H: That is my assumption of being true because we were in communication with him also in regards to jurisdiction and sovereignty in our court cases.
B: He was doing good work for you?
H: He was representing another person.
H: Yeah, and she came up with some information in her research that the issue of jurisdiction and sovereignty was a premier concern of the hereditary chiefs of the Git'skan and none of those arguments were presented into the Git'skan case. The Delgamuukw case was never presented in the orderly fashion that it needs to be presented in the courts. That's the fraud that came out of there. They even intervened in our court case where we totally ignored the courts. And they put us in jail. We wouldn't come to court.
B: They put you in jail?
B: That was to do with?
H: Jurisdiction. With Duffy Lake.
B: The Duffy Lake [logging] blockade. And Cram was working with you on that?
H: No. He was working on a case after.
B: The Auger case?
H: Yeah. We were corresponding with him and encouraging him to go ahead and take on the system on jurisdiction arguments.
B: And so what happened to him?
H: Well, I imagine they bought him off or they sent him away... They put him in a psychiatric ward and all this and declared him crazy.
B: Same thing they did to Bruce [Clark].
H: Same thing. Well, they managed to incarcerate Bruce too in the psychiatric ward. They did all these tests but they couldn't prove him crazy. They couldn't prove him insane, you know all that... but they managed to do that to Jo Jo, [Wolverine's son] they drugged him and beat him up.
B: It's been said that he was tortured, that he was beat up [once in interrogation and once in a pre-trial holding facility] That happened for a fact?
H: Yeah. And they managed to keep Bruce awake for two or three days in order to torture him so he couldn't go to court and be his alert self.
B: They were probably trying to prompt him into what they called "erratic behaviour"?
H: Yeah. They tried that, yeah.
B: I heard they had him washing dishing for 10 or 12 hours a day.
H: Must be right. I wouldn't doubt it. These are the schemes that have never been into the focus of the media. Ourselves, we've been continually working in the direction of raising the issue of jurisdiction, and the sovereignty of grass roots indigenous people.
B: In a sense, it seems that people should be more interested in that process than in giving away their precious dollars. It makes more sense to approach you in a direct way than it does to go through this expensive treaty process which will eventually simply give over millions of dollars from the Canadian government.
H: That's one of the things that has come to a lot of the people, they've got their minds so incorporated into financial needs, the material things that they've missed over their lifetime - they have this need to have the latest model of cars, this will do it for them. That's where all these high profile politicians of the A.F.N., politicians of the Union Of Chiefs, politicians of the tribal council... The Tribal Councils are part of the corporate structure that has manipulated our people into believing that that's our government. We've more or less opposed it... They're taking all the financial resources too - all the financial resources that are available to the people are all absorbed by the administration, staff of the A.F.N., staff of D.I.A., staff of the Union of Chiefs, and the Staff of the Tribal Council... Only pennies go to the people, yet they're entitled to $30,000 a year according to taxation.
B: Each person is?
H: Yeah. Each individual indigenous person. It's available through the federal and the provincial government's agreement that they'll collect $30,000 on our behalf. This is where the Indian Act comes into it again.
B: Surely people on reserves are living in Third-World poverty, they're not getting $30,000 a year.
H: They manage to get about $2,000 a year.
B: Where does the rest of the money go?
H: Administration. The Indian affairs, A.F.N., Chief-in-Councils, Tribal Councils and other organizations that have their arms around the whole of the fraud... This is why they're so against Bruce, okay. [His jurisdiction arguments undermine the validity of this administrative and political system.] They've managed to assimilate people into thinking that if they're not registered under the Indian Act, they're Canadian. These are the things that are out and about that are not really true. The imposition of the Indian Act is one of the things that is legislated for us and most foremost in the fraud. We've said for many years we'll do our own registration. We'll have our own criteria on how we're going to have our population registered. We talked about this years ago, people have backed off on it already. So it goes on. The people now are beginning to realize.