Oct/97: Tsilhqot'in Sovereignty Declaration


Wolf Howls - The Tsilhqot'in Nation Journal
October, 1997

The Tsilhqot'in Declaration of Sovereignty of 1992, as revised from 1984, was in response to the British Columbia Treaty Commission and was read by Chief Ervin Charleyboy to Federal Minister of Indian Affairs Tom Siddon at a Tsilhqot'in Nation Assembly held at Tl'esqox [Toosey] which was witnessed by some 500 Tsilhqot'in members. Although there will be some minor revisions made to the Tsilhqot'in Declaration of Sovereignty, it will be put into effect as a working principle for the Tsilhqot'in Nation Government Council of Chiefs and staff, and the members of the Tsilhqot'in Nation in dealing with any issues regarding their people, culture, land and resources. The declaration reads as follows:

General Assembly of the Tsilhqot'in Nation - A Declaration of Sovereignty

Territory - From the Fraser River to the Coastal Mountains and from the territory of the Stl'atl'imx to the territory of the Carrier Nations is Tsilhqot'in country. The heart of our country is Tsilhqox (The Chilcotin River) and its tributary lakes and streams. This has been the territory of the Tsilhqot'in Nation for longer than any man can say and it will always be our country; the outlying parts we have always shared with our neighbors - Nuxalk, Kwakiutl, Stl'atl'imx, Carrier and Secwepemc - but the heartland belongs to none but the Tsilhqot'in. Our mountains and valleys, lakes, rivers and creeks all carry names given to them by the Tsilhqot'in people: Anahim, Niut and Itcha; Tsilhqox, Taseko and Chilanko; Tatla, Nemiah and Toosey. Our territory is that which is named in our language. All living things in our country - animals, birds, insects, amphibians, reptiles, worms and flies, fish, trees, shrubs, flowers and other plants - also bear the names given to them in the language of the Tsilhqot'in.

Affinity - The Tsilhqot'in are part of the greater nation of the Dene whose language is spoken in territories that extend from Hudson's Bay to Alaska and Asia, from the northernmost forests to the equator. The Apache and Navajo are Dene. The Sekani, Tahltan, Gwich'in, Nahani, Kaska, Sarcee and Chipewyan are Dene. So are the Carrier, the Hare, the Dogrib, the Yellowknife, the Slave and the Beaver people. The Dene Nation is vast and we are part of it. We are the Tsilhqot'in.

History of illegal colonization of our Nation - The first white men to enter our country did so only with our permission and when we told them to leave they left. When men settled in our country without permission, we drove them out. When the Queen of England extended to our nation the protection of her law, by including our territory in the colony of British Columbia in 1858, she did so without our knowledge or consent. When the colony joined the Dominion of Canada in 1871 it was done without our knowledge or consent. Since that time, whilst our people were suffering from the effects of European diseases, our country has been invaded and despoiled. Our people have been deceived, impoverished, oppressed, exploited, imprisoned and maligned. Our sovereignty has been encroached upon and our jurisdiction ignored. Yet we have survived and once again we thrive.

We are Tsilhqot'in and we declare to all men and women that we are an independent nation, proud and free. We accuse the government of Canada of invading the territories and jurisdiction of a neutral state whose sovereignty it is bound, by its own laws, to defend and protect. We accuse the government of the Province of British Columbia of invading our territories and plundering our resources in clear violation of its own laws and ours.. We accuse all three governments of conspiring to invade our nation; of conspiring to destroy the foundations of our ancient way of life and to oppress our people; of crimes against land, air and waters over which they have no jurisdiction; of permitting the slaughter of the native wildlife; of encouraging or ignoring the over-harvesting of our forests, lakes, rivers and mountains and the destruction of our natural gardens and orchards. We accuse these governments of repeated and shameless violation of their own laws and of international agreements and covenants.

Jurisdiction - The Tsilhqot'in Natin affirms, asserts, and strives to exercise full control over our traditional territories and over the government within our lands. Our jurisdiction to govern our territory and our people is conferred upon us by the Creator, to govern and maintain and protect the traditional territory in accordance with natural law for the benefit of all living things existing on our land, for this generation and for those yet unborn. We have been the victims of colonization by Britain, Canada and the Province of British Columbia. We insist upon our right to decolonize and drive those governments from our land.

Constitutional Conference - We have often declared our willingness to negotiate terms of union with Canada. We repeat that offer now. We make only one condition: The process for negotiation and the final settlement must carry the consent of the Tsilhqot'in Nation. We have asked the United Nations to supervise discussions between the Tsilqot'in Nation, and Canada to assist us in our decolonization. We feel that international assistance is necessary because Canada has stolen our lands and continues to have an interest in maintaining control over them. It is difficult to ask a thief to sit in judgement on his theft.

Should the negotiations prove fruitful, they will define the terms and conditions of the union of the Tsilhqot'in Nation with Canada. However, if Canada again refuses to negotiate or chooses to bring unacceptable conditions to the negotiations, the Tsilhqot'in Nation will consider itself free to pursue whatever course of action it may decide upon. That will no doubt include the assumption of our rightful place in the United Nations' Organization and other international groups, either as an individual nation or as a constituent member of a federation or alliance of nation-states.

"Non-Status" Tsilhqot'in - To all those people who know themselves to be Tsilhqot'in, but who have been denied recognition by Canada, the Tsilhqot'in Nation declares that they will be granted Tsilhqot'in citizenship and that they should inform their local band or regional office of their desires to be so recognized.

Indian Reserves - The Tsilhqot'in Nation declares that the reserves established by Canada and British Columbia for the use and benefit of "Indian Bands" in the Chilcotin are inadequate and illegal, having never been approved nor consented to by the Tsilhqot'in people. The Tsilhqot'in Nation declares that all so-called Crown Land within Tsilhqot'in tradtional territory is forthwith reserved for and owned by the Tsilhqot'in Nation.

Declarations - To the governments of the Crown, the Tsilqot'in Nation declares that they should henceforth honour their trust and obey the Royal Proclamation of 1763 as the supreme law in their relations with us. Especially, to the government of the Province of British Columbia, the Tsilhqot'in Nation declares that it should henceforth cease and desist its lawless plunder of the resources of our country. The Tsilhqot'in Nation declares that on (a date to be set) the laws enacted by Canada and British Columbia will have no force or effect in the Tsilhqot'in country and that the laws of the Tsilhqot'in Nation will prevail. Before that date, all holders of licenses, permits, deeds and other documents issued by those governments must seek the permission of the Tsilhqot'in Nation to continue the operation of their interest following that date.

Recognition - The Tsilhqot'in Nation requests the recognition of all nations on Earth, the understanding of the people of Canada, the trust and goodwill of the people of British Columbia and the active cooperation of all indigenous people.

Respect - To those people who have settled amongst us in our country the Tsilhqot'in Nation declares that we bear no enmity towards you, as long as you respect us: it is the policies of the governments, the courts and the churches of Canada that have done us so much harm and that must now change. We do not blame you; we ask you to understand that change must now take place for all our children. We govern according to principles of consent. We ask you to understand that what we are saying is not unique or peculiar to the Tsilhqot'in - it is happening throughout the Americas. The period or era of colonization is passing; the Fourth World is emerging.

Tsilhqot'in National Government
102-383 Oliver St., Williams Lake
Chilcotin Territory
via BC, Canada V2G 1M4
Phone: (250) 392-3918
Fax: (250) 398-5798

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