All That's Left is Struggle: Peter Knighton - Qwa-Ba-Diwa Nation



July, 1993

Peter Knighton speaks for the hereditary leader of the Qwa-Ba-Diwa Nation, claiming land including Vancouver Island's controversial Carmanah and Walbran valleys. Knighton says Canada's repressive history has driven a wedge into the communication and diplomacy so valued by the "parents and grandparents" of Native history.

That "damaged history" has isolated Native people from the non-Native public and caused rifts within their communities. Energy has been drawn away, he adds, from the real issue: that jurisdiction over Native lands was never ceded to non-Native governments, and even by Canadian law still rests in the hands of hereditary leaders.

Knighton, on environmentalism and Native rights:

The environmental issue can stand on its own as an issue we all can seriously look at and find ways, tactics, in order to try and save what is left of very important eco-systems.

[Environmentalists] are just on the very edge of looking at the whole sovereignty issue. Of course, they are affected by their parents and grandparents, who had some kind of notion of Native people being in the way of what they would call 'progressive' moves in this country dealing with resources and changing resources into dollars. And simply trampling human rights.

So it's very tough for environmentalists to take both of those issues and try to melt it into one at this point. There are a few environmentalists who at this time have seen enough of the light with respect to human rights damage, and are in fact voicing support for the sovereignty stance.

Of course, many are mixed in with the thing as simply concern for the environment. They, as much as their parents and grandparents, need to look at the whole issue of simple honesty, justice.

From that point we can begin to round together the whole issue of environment concerns as well as a human rights concerns. On the issue of no treaty, and sovereignty therefore existing--[the public] is not simply ignoring it. They're simply not being allowed to get this information.

A whole other tactic would have been education in this country, where the Native's point of view is a lot more than what's available to the general membership of the country.

For many of them, when issues come up even as important as human rights, these people say, "What do these Indians want now? They're always after something for nothing." That's pretty well the extent of their knowledge of the Native side of this issue.

We must set up a communications system which keeps us in touch with new approaches to attaining greater success in educating not only non-Natives, but some of the young Native people who have been bombarded by the tube and magazines and other media. That success lies not with individual jurisdiction, but melting into the Canadian body politic, I think is how they put it.

On the struggle of followers of the hereditary tradition on reserves run by elected band councils:

I want to reach back a bit, to [the] diplomatic approach of the fathers and grandfathers, and say I want to be somewhat forgiving to these people (band councils and their supporters) for the manner they are using what you call 'tactics'. I don't think they are of their own making.

[Band councils] have been slipped a kind of agenda [by the Canadian government]--a couple of agendas, short-term and long-term--which gives these councils an idea that the short-term picture looks good, and the long-term picture looks good, in terms of a kind of self-government. They view it as a progressive thing.

[But] there is a kind of anger toward the fact that in the same breath that [band councils] have been hearing about self-government, they will not allow Qwa-Ba-Diwa to state jurisdiction and sovereignty over its own territory. Instead they go into a kind of suppressive tactic. A lot of what is going on is not right up-front. If you want to talk of conspiritorial tactics involving many arms of the provincial and federal governments, siding with these elected councils, it makes an on-going mental conflict [that is] very difficult to deal with.

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