via Gitxsan Against Enbridge Blog. June 26:
A Society Gone Wrong
By John Olson, Gitxsan Unity Movement
June 26, 2012 Gitsegukla, B.C.
The Gitxsan Treaty Society (GTS) had it all set up, a game plan, an agenda they would carry through, no matter what. They continue to show disrespect for the Hereditary Chiefs of the Gitxsan Nation (Gimlitxwit) and this disrespect appears to be increasing.
On June 26th, 2012, the Gitxsan Treaty Society held a meeting of the Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs. The meeting was to discuss amendments to the Society’s bylaws regarding how the board of directors are appointed and the style of the makeup of the society’s membership. This was to correct a contravention of section 85 of the Society Act (RSBC). One should note there was no inclusion in the meeting notice of an intended vote. The notice issued by the GTS explained the purpose of this meeting was to:
“Inform Simgiigyet or their designated representatives about the proposed process for appointing GTS directors, and seek guidance from the Simgiigyet about this process, select a date for the Gimlitxwit and GTS Extraordinary meeting.”
The proposed process was explained to the Chiefs and it was requested, if the Chiefs chose to opt for this process, they could bring the proposal back to their house groups and select a house member to join the Society as a member.
The Society would then select the board of directors from this new membership. The Society would then bring this evidence back to the Justice of the BC Supreme Court to demonstrate they amended the flaw within their constitution, thus restoring the GTS to a legally functioning entity.
The primary question repeated throughout the day by Co Chairpersons Ardythe Wilson and Larry Moore was;
“Do you support this process? And, if so, what are your questions or recommendations?”
Many Chiefs were heard from however their replies were kept to a maximum of 4 minutes by the Co-chairpersons. Often Chiefs were cut off in mid sentence when their time was up.
Numerous statements were made regarding how the society should not be using the white man’s laws (courts) to deal with Gitxsan matters when the Gitxsan have a system in place that has never failed them since time immemorial.
Statements were frequently repeated claiming the Ayookw (Gitxsan law) will not be recognized in the Canadian legal system.
“Why are we going back to justifying our Gitxsan law to the government?” stated a Chief who had sat through, and gave evidence during, the historic Delgamuukw court case. This lawsuit against the government of BC resulted in the Supreme Court of Canada recognizing the Gitxsan maintained their own governing systems and laws.
Other Chiefs went on to discuss grievances which remained unresolved for far too long. They were quickly cut off by those chairing the meeting and were told they had to follow the agenda.
Another Chief then stated “Our Ayookw has been in place since the ancient times, we cannot change that. GTS cannot stand by the door and tell us what to do”
Of course there were many present who could be considered the GTS stronghold Chiefs; those who have continuously supported all decisions made by the GTS executives. And similar to the previous GTS meetings, they spoke in favour of the proposal.
Other comments made by the Chiefs present, those previously supporting the GTS and those opposing the GTS, were recorded by observers attending the meeting;
“go by our Ayookw, this is held by our Blanket, our strength, we do not want to dirty our grandfathers blanket”
“Government is telling us what to do, if we are going to use lawyers they should try to understand our culture so they can better represent us. We are a society and nobody can take that from us. When this first started there was no talk of treaty, somehow the government has pushed our peoples into talking treaty”
“feast system is broken, we are tired, No Hloomxws, No Ayookw, No Adaawk”
“court should use our ayookw instead of making us use the west laws, they should accept us for who we are”
“questions community based process, court cannot tell us what to do, if we became a society we loose our law, presentation is mixing things up, bottom line is GTS controls us, we need to restructure our organization”
“why do we have to prove who we are”
“not in agreement with this process, we will be going backwards”
Towards the end of the meeting, after many Chiefs had spoken, two staff members of the GTS, Jim Angus and Gordon Sebastian spoke. They explained their reasons for supporting the proposal. This intervention by GTS staff during a meeting of the Chiefs was later rebuked by Chiefs who stated staff should not, and have never been, allowed to participate in Gimlitxwit meetings. Their attempt to influence the decisions and discussions of the Chiefs was claimed to be unacceptable and a conflict of interest.
Chairperson Wilson reviewed the meeting minutes and stated to the outraged Chiefs, that all those present except one Chief were in favour of the proposal.
When it was over Wilson and Moore indicated if you did not publicly state your opposition to the proposal, it was considered you supported it.
Many of those in attendance were refused the right to speak. Once again it became apparent the voice of the Gitxsan people had been stifled for a set agenda. The Chiefs were manipulated into a staged scenario and became part of a process with an outcome decided before they walked in to the meeting hall.
“This has been going on far too long! Same **** (expletive), excuse my language” stated one Chief.
It is clear that the Chiefs want change and they understand how they have become manipulated. Personally I see it as an insult to the Hereditary system, to our Nation and I now understand why many of our high Chiefs will have no part in a society such as the Gitxsan Treaty Society; why some have become banned from these meetings for standing up for their house groups.
It is well known that the Society is well stocked with GTS supporters and mainstream Gitxsan have been excluded during the 18 years of the GTS existence. The end result will once again be carefully selected society members choosing GTS directors.
The GTS tends to rush into its’ decisions and slip them by the Chiefs at their meetings when proper representation of all Gitxsan houses are not present or properly advised. This in my eyes is wrong! It is why we in the Gitxsan Unity Movement have been standing up against this illegal Society. It is why we had been securing the building for six and a half months.
Today I call on the High Chiefs of the Gitxsan Nation to meet away from the Gitxsan Treaty Society. To do what is your inherent right, which is to follow your Ayookw and govern your Nation for the good of the people and the land.
As the Nations in the Northwest of British Columbia are busy with infighting, the rest of the world is making deals with the Government of Canada, extracting or making plans to extract, resources on traditional lands.
We need to, as a nation, protect the beliefs of our origins from Damelahamid. We need to rise above the government agent led conflicts involving the GTS and the Band Offices and join forces as one United Gitxsan people to stop this atrocity!
It is said that the world’s hope lies within the Indigenous people of this planet; through their legal system and on their land.
Roy Henry Vickers stated this morning, “It’s not about opposing ridiculous government decisions; it’s about loving, respecting, and defending our home and native land.”
Gitxsan Unity Movement