Chief’s Statement on Crown Lands, 1998

Treaties and Self-Government are Inevitable.

The Chiefs of the Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw (Northern Secwepemc) state that the basic purpose of negotiations in the treaty process is to reconcile the pre-existence of aboriginal society with the Crown’s claim of sovereignty.

Since contact with the Northern Secwepemc the British Crown (Crown) has alienated lands and resources under the belief that by enacting land legislation this gave them the sole right to grant the lands and resources.

The Crown believed the laws they enacted, which made it illegal for an aboriginal society to gather in order to fight for their lands, settled the matter in their favor. They also believed that denying the Northern Secwepemc’s legitimate claims would ultimately result in silence and acceptance.

Well, “We are all here to stay” and no aboriginal society is going to ever accept the Crown as the only sovereign having the ultimate power to determine our destiny. We hereby affirm our sovereignty and are intent on its revival and recognition.

The Crown, as a Commonwealth member, believed in the “doctrine of discovery” which meant the first country to “discover” a new land could then claim the right to settle it. The ‘doctrine of discovery’ did not apply here as aboriginal societies had lived here in their traditional territories for thousands of years prior to contact.

The Europeans in coming here found that the lands were not terra nullius (empty of people) so they changed their laws in order that they could legitimately claim the right to settle the land. They could claim sovereignty over lands if they conquered the original inhabitants in war, or if they signed a treaty with them. If a treaty was signed, then the original inhabitants had to be compensated in some manner to finalize the deal.

British Columbia is the only province in Canada that did not settle treaties over the entire province. British Columbia did not recognize aboriginal title and rights after the last Douglas Treaty was signed on Vancouver Island in the 1800’s. The English Crown told Governor James Douglas that England did not have the money to settle land claims and it was the colony’s responsibility to compensate the Indians and to settle the land.

The land was settled, but there is not one legal piece of paper in existence, which legitimizes the current governments’ claim of sovereignty over the land. There was no war to conquer us and there was no treaty or compensation made to the aboriginal societies of this land.

B.C. has, therefore, since the 1800’s been illegally giving out crown grants of fee simple, land and resource use licences, land leases and rights-of-way.

The province has been dishonest to aboriginal societies as well as to their constituents, as they do not have the power to grant what is not theirs to grant. This behavior in western law is known as theft and is punishable by the same law. By law one is required to make restitution by paying a fine or by going to jail to pay for an illegal act committed upon society.

B.C. continues these illegal acts as their laws and policies are the only ones they recognize and believe they have the right to enforce. They will not recognize the aboriginal peoples’ prior title to the land, and are reluctant to change the status quo. British Columbia is not ready for the transition and sharing of power.

At the heart of the matter is the right of one society to rule another; a society that believes their culture and history is supreme.

Today, the way of dealing with ‘aboriginal peoples’ can change. The Supreme Court of Canada in Delgamuukw ruled that aboriginal title does exist in BC and that it arises from the aboriginal peoples’ prior occupation and it has never been extinguished. Delgamuukw goes on to say the province cannot extinguish aboriginal title.

The court also stated that if there is infringement of aboriginal rights, then there must be consultation, consent and compensation. The court concluded that aboriginal societies and the governments should negotiate settlement of land claims rather than go to court.

We, the Northern Secwpemc, do not wish to go to court due to the cost and the fact that someone else decides the end results. The Chiefs believe the province cannot in all honesty and integrity continues to illegally alienate the lands and resources.

It is time for B.C. to end the sale of so-called Crown lands. If it continues the buyer must beware of the illegal title granted.

The province must negotiate in good faith to uphold the honor of the Crown, and must enter into interim measures agreements with aboriginal groups in order to protect the lands and resources, which are the “subject matter” of treaties.

It is time to accept the fact aboriginal societies are here to stay and it is time to settle this historic wrong. If the government continues to alienate the lands and resources, then they must pay us a share of the revenue earned in the extraction of resources from our traditional territories.

This revenue should not be seen as compensation, it is the share that we are entitled to, with or without treaty. This action would be a step in achieving a just and final settlement.

In Conclusion, the Secwepemc te Qelmucw are committed to the BC Treaty Process and are working with British Columbia and Canada in order to develop solutions which will benefit all of BC. If the current inaction of Governments continues the Northern Secwepemc retain the right to exercise other options to protect their interests.

Chief Antoine Archie – Tsq’escen (Canim Lake)

Chief Larry Camille – Xatl’tem/Stwecem’c (Dog Creek/Canoe Creek)

Chief Dorothy Phillips – Xats’ull/Cmetem’ (Soda Creek/Deep Creek)

Chief Nancy Sandy – Tl’exelc (Williams Lake)