Aboriginal 'People of the Land' Oppose Olympics

Aboriginal 'People of the Land' Oppose Olympics

Aboriginal 'people of the land' oppose Olympics

'Colonial' Indian Act negates bands' authority to speak for them, Thevarge and Louie say

David Burke dburke@whistlerquestion.com
January 29, 2009

Whistler – Carol Thevarge and James Louie freely admit that their views about the Indian Act, aboriginal rights and title and the 2010 Olympics sometimes cause members of the aboriginal community in the Mount Currie/D'Arcy area to advise others to steer clear of them.

That, Thevarge says, is especially true of those in positions influence.

"They won't even talk to us," Thevarge, a holistic healer by trade whose parents are of N'Quatqua (she and others spell it Nka'katkwa) and Lil'wat heritage, said in an interview last Thursday (Jan. 22). "They say, 'Don't be seen talking to James,' 'Don't be seen talking to Carol.'"

Nonetheless, she said, a lot of people have quietly voiced support for their position that Canada's aboriginal band system, constituted under the Indian Act, in essence makes bands arms of the federal government, not legitimate, independently constituted nations comprised of the descendants of the land's original, pre-colonial inhabitants.

They say their people have never ceded, by treaty or other means, rights and title to their people's traditional territory and that no band constituted under the racist, oppressive Indian Act has the right to act on their behalf. They therefore don't recognize the rights of the Mount Currie Band (Lil'wat Nation) or other three groups that constitute the Four Host First Nations (also Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh) to give permission to host the Olympics and Paralympics next year. Groups such as the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and the Assembly of First Nations also are part of that corporate system, they said.

Because of what they see as the Canadian government's original failure to approach the pre-colonial inhabitants on an equal basis, they don't feel their attempts to assert their people's claims can get a fair hearing in Canadian courts.

Rather, they espouse the belief that the "people of the land" should operate under international law, which is based on natural law.

They're dealing with the Organization of American States (OAS), an arm of the United Nations. At the moment they are following the progress of a complaint that's been filed with the OAS's Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, dealing with the forcible removal of an aboriginal woman's children by B.C.'s Ministry of Child and Family Services. Louie, Thevarge and others hope its outcome will establish that neither the Canadian nor the B.C. government has the legal authority to take such actions.

Both Louie and Thevarge insist they're not revolutionaries, but merely want everyone to live in peace and to ensure that the rights of all aboriginal/indigenous peoples are respected — under a system that respects their people's autonomy as the land's original inhabitants, not under legislation that they see as the last vestige of an oppressive, colonial system.

Said Louie, 67, a Lil'wat elder whose name is Pau Tuc La Cimx, "We were independent pre-colonialism, and we will be independent in the future. The colonials stepped in and presumed that they had jurisdiction over us."

However, he said, "It's not the Indian Act system that will tell us how to say who the original inhabitants of this land are."

A brochure printed in the 1990s refers to the historic Lillooet Declaration of 1911: "We have written many letters since 1911, when our forefathers first declared ownership and title to our traditional territory. We know that the natural laws that we comply to are protected by international law and constitutional law."

One group that does seem quite interested in talking to them is the RCMP Integrated Security Unit (ISU) for the 2010 Olympics and Paralympics. A representative recently contacted Thevarge to establish a contact, though she said no meeting has yet taken place.

"They didn't even mention the Olympics," said Thevarge, whose original name is Yitksa7. "They said, 'We've heard you're a good community contact and we'd like to meet you."

Louie, who spent all 12 of his school-aged years at Indian residential schools across B.C., said he suspects the ISU been told the pair and others who hold the same beliefs "might be a threat to the security of the 2010 Olympics."

Said Thevarge, "I don't understand how we can be a threat to a corporate system (the Games) when it's the people they're supposed to protect, not the corporations."

Cst. Bert Paquet, a spokesperson for the RCMP's 2010 Integrated Security Unit (ISU), said contacting Thevarge is part of the unit's effort to establish and maintain contact with people in the community.

"We try to involve people that we feel might be affected by the Games or the security planning of the Games," Paquet said on Monday (Jan. 26). "We want to make sure that they're involved in our planning and that there's timely consultations regarding community engagements… and the need to maintain public safety and security levels.

"We recognize that Canadian citizens have the right to protest within the boundaries of the Criminal Code. Peaceful and lawful protest will be respected, but as always, criminal behaviour will not and will be dealt with accordingly."

Asked whether she might take part in demonstrations during the Games, Thevarge said, "There are other people who have talked about it, but I couldn't give my energy to something like that. But if there are others who want to protest, I'd support them."

Louie said simply, "I'm not saying what I'm going to do."

The pair said that after the International Olympic Committee awarded the Games to Vancouver-Whistler, the Mount Currie Band Council gave its overwhelming support to the Olympics in spite of a vote of band members that was strongly opposed to the Games.

What's more, Thevarge said, the other 10 bands represented on the St'at'imc Tribal Council didn't get to vote on whether they supported the Games. Louie said he thinks their approach has the greatest level of support among younger people.

Phone calls to several prominent members of the Mount Currie/Lil'wat community seeking comment were not returned by press time.