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The Sinixt Nation: "We are still here"

Indigenous struggles and solidarity

by Tami Starlight Original Peoples, →Environment

Slocan Lake - the first full day in the region (looking north from the town of Slocan) Photo: Tami Starlight
Slocan Lake - the first full day in the region (looking north from the town of Slocan) Photo: Tami Starlight
Me performing a smudge ceremony. Photo: Tami Starlight
Me performing a smudge ceremony. Photo: Tami Starlight
Remenants of the road blockade. Photo: Tami Starlight
Remenants of the road blockade. Photo: Tami Starlight
Tree ribbons. Photo: Tami Starlight
Tree ribbons. Photo: Tami Starlight
More tree ribbons. Photo: Tami Starlight
More tree ribbons. Photo: Tami Starlight
"Sign of the times" - Photo: Tami Starlight
"Sign of the times" - Photo: Tami Starlight
Did not call ahead - Photo: Tami Starlight
Did not call ahead - Photo: Tami Starlight
Beautiful! (from Perry's Ridge looking north over the Little Slocan Valley) Photo: Tami Starlight
Beautiful! (from Perry's Ridge looking north over the Little Slocan Valley) Photo: Tami Starlight
Better sign of the times. Photo: Tami Starlight
Better sign of the times. Photo: Tami Starlight
"Looking up information" = Our awesome hosts, story tellers jamie & Lauren (little Slocan Valley) Photo: Tami Starlight
"Looking up information" = Our awesome hosts, story tellers jamie & Lauren (little Slocan Valley) Photo: Tami Starlight
Sacred fire - Sinixt Pitt House. Photo: Tami Starlight (L to R - Austin & Britta)
Sacred fire - Sinixt Pitt House. Photo: Tami Starlight (L to R - Austin & Britta)
Sinixt Pitt House. Photo: Tami Starlight
Sinixt Pitt House. Photo: Tami Starlight
Sinixt Pitt House & area. Photo: Tami Starlight
Sinixt Pitt House & area. Photo: Tami Starlight
Sinixt stone lodges (L to R womens & mens) Photo: Tami Starlight
Sinixt stone lodges (L to R womens & mens) Photo: Tami Starlight
Tommy Treehugger! (In Nelson) Photo: Tami Starlight
Tommy Treehugger! (In Nelson) Photo: Tami Starlight

Also posted by Tami Starlight:

The Sinixt peoples: We are still here, and we are strong!

~Unceded Sinixt territory~

Upon arriving in the Slocan Valley (as it is now called by “the settler” population), I felt a sense of awe, regarding how diverse and beautiful the region is.

This, of course, was tempered by my previous knowledge of the injustices and struggles of the local indigenous people regarding a long history of extermination and resource extraction.  Mining, logging, hydro-electric projects, water exports and all the pollution that comes with many of these unauthorised, unchallenged, and illegal capitalist activities.

That the land may look a certain way in the moment I am experiencing it now, but it looked much healthier before and beyond what one can see “beyond the highway.”

Indigenous peoples of North America

The long standing struggles of First Nations, more commonly known as Indigenous or Aboriginal peoples of North America, have been somewhat well documented. However, much of this historical documentation is minimized, inaccurate or the truth of it completely destroyed and forgotten.

Bob Campbell, an elder with the Sinixt Nation speaks of, “the death blankets,” where those directly connected to “the crown of England” purposely put cuttings of blankets infected with small pox, into small gift boxes given as presents when they came into contact with Indigenous people. The “officials” working on behalf of the crown of England referred to this as “getting rid of the indian problem” said Bob.

This is just one example of many atrocities indigenous peoples of Canada endured.

First contact with the Indigenous peoples of this land was quite mixed. Those who were simply along for the ride for adventure and pay, certainly did not have the idea of killing the people who were here already.  

Of course, some believed the lies they were told by The Hudson Bay Company, the arm of the Monarchy and Government of England. Along with the creation of the RCMP, sought to rid the land of its first peoples from day one, in order to secure their place on this “new land.” They believed that indigenous people were backward and “unclivlized” and did not deserve the same respect and rights as they did.

From the battle of the “Plains of Abraham” where the Indigenous peoples of North America fought with the French, to the Red River rebellion, to the Oka conflict with the Mohawk peoples, there is a long history of fighting for their land, water and place in this colonized land by European settlers.

This story is not meant to be an exhaustive account of the aboriginal first peoples struggle against injustice, occupation, assimilation and annihilation, but to give some account of the Sinixt Nations struggle in its historical context of this colony called Canada.

The Sinixt Nation

As far back as 12,500 years ago, according to recent archaeology findings, the Sinixt Nation (interior Salish) lived in relative harmony with mother earth and others. She is a matriarchal society since the beginning. The Sinixt are “the mother tribe,” centred around the Lemon Creek & Winlaw area in the Slocan Valley, British Columbia, Canada. Their traditional territory extends north of Revelstoke and as far south as Kettle Falls, WA, surrounded by the Monashee and Purcell Mountain ranges. (Purcell – settler name).

“We would swim in all kinds of places, where ever we would catch fish,” recalls Robert Watt, the Sinixt Nation's “warrior on the move.” Watt is the caretaker at the Sinixt Pitt House/Vallican Village, B.C. “Now we can hardly drink any of the water on the land without having to boil it,” he stated in an interview in the Sinixt Pitt House.

The Sinixt people are not only stewards of the land, water and air of their traditional lands, but, as Marilyn James (Sinixt Spokeswoman) shared in a recent interview “this land does belong to the Sinixt peoples, but also we belong to the land. It is this land that lays out the laws for everything,” she said.

Eva Orr and Marilyn Jame's work was galvanized because of the unearthing of six ancestral Sinixt peoples' remains, which were transported to Victoria’s “Royal BC Museum.”  

Marilyn explains that it is their "responsibility as decedents of the ancestral remains to make things right," by upholding their cultural laws and bringing back their bones for proper burial and repatriation. In 1990, they were the first ancestral remains to be repatriated in Canada. Since then, they have brought back another 61 ancestors and repatriated their bones accordingly. Their burial place is on Perry’s Ridge.

The Perry’s Ridge Battle

Perry Ridge is an unusual landform, which is located in the Selkirk Mountains in southeastern British Columbia. The mountain or ridge is a dome-like structure bordered on the east by the Slocan River and on the west by the Little Slocan river. Perry Ridge has a rounded gentle top with abrupt and steep side slopes that drop, at the southern end some 4500 to 5500 feet to the valley floor.

The ridge is approximately 15 miles long and some five miles wide and runs generally from the southwest to the northeast. At its highest point it reaches some 6800 feet above sea level. The lowest point of the Slocan Valley below is some 1600 feet above sea level.

The timber company Sunshine Logging has been harvesting in the region for over 20 years and is the capitalist company in question regarding the court battle and ongoing road blockade. Perry’s Ridge is here.  It lies between the Slocan Valley & the Little Slocan Valley on top of the mountain overlooking the Little Slocan Valley. Issues of unresolved territorial rights and destroying habitat and watersheds.

The Sinixt Nation is still in court fighting Sunshine Logging (based in Kaslo, BC), stating they were not consulted and the crown failed to notify them of the “timber sale licence” to Sunshine Logging (licence # A80073). Apparently BC Timber Sales is quite well known to environmentalists and activists throughout the province. 

This is the heading from their website:

BCTS was founded in 2003 with a mandate to provide the cost and price benchmarks for timber harvested from public land in British Columbia. Through 12 Business Areas and an operational presence in 33 locations, BCTS manages some 20 percent of the provincial Crown allowable annual cut. In its first five years, BCTS offered more than 73 million cubic metres of timber to the market, sold 63 million cubic metres and generated $430 million in net revenue for the Province.

It was BCTS which granted the timber licence to Sunshine Logging.

As stated in by the Association of BC Forest Professionals:

The original BC forestry model is designed to satisfy three main goals. The first was to ensure the orderly liquidation of old-growth and its replacement with new stands, often plantations, to be managed on a sustained basis. The second of the traditional tenure system was to attract private capital to fuel the province’s economic development by opening up vast primary timber resources. The third and final was to create stable income and employment in timber dependent communities.

This has been disastrous for most of the wonderful, pristine, and endangered wild places on this native land. One may make the connection and argue that this is an obvious reason capitalism is such a terrible and unjust societal idea. Where everything is “for sale.”

In my conversations with Lauren and Jamie, whom I met while performing a smudge ceremony at the road blockade, they spoke of the water becoming undrinkable, landslides and flooding becoming more frequent because the lack of forest to filter and retain the water and ground. Both of them live “off-grid” in the middle of the Little Slocan Valley.

 

They have joined in the fight for the protection of Perry’s Ridge.  Many more local residents and people from far away have supported the Sinixt Nations battle to protect their traditional lands and rights.

Conclusion

My belief as an Indigenous person from the Peguis Nation in Manitoba that is primarily Cree & Objibway is that Indigenous struggles are everyone’s. That an injustice to one is an injustice to us all.

We have much to learn from our Indigenous elders and cultures. How we disrespect mother earth in our insatiable greed is a reflection of who we are as peoples. Because – EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED. What we do to mother earth – we do to ourselves. How we treat first peoples of lands we are newcomers are a reflection of ourselves. We are all mirrors.

www.sinixtnation.org

All my relations / Namaste

Tami Starlight – Occupied & unceded coast salish territory

Cree-Peguis Nation/anti oppression & decolonization community organizer.

twitter: tami_starlight / email: tamistarlight at gmail dot com

"Until all of us are free, the few who think they are, remain tainted with enslavement."
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Decolonize-Anti-Oppression-Workshop-Tour-...

http://theantioppressionnetwork.wordpress.com/

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Comments

lim limt Tami!!!!!!

Good job! Love the photos. Thanks for keeping it real!

For further Sinixt background info:

http://www.firstnations.eu/invasion/sinixt.htm

http://www.firstnations.eu/invasion/sinixt-vallican.htm

Also these books:

Ghost Peoples by Cliff Woffenden

Geographies of Memory by Eileen Delehanty Pearkes

Lots of love from Sinixt land,

D

Thank you D!

Get a hold of me, ok?

I put my twitter and email on the end.

Peace brother and thank you for all you do!

Alll my relations

tami

sinixt oppreson of all people

It is so, our heart does tell truth and feel the injustice to all. I was born into this Kootenay place and the air I breath is as free as the land I occupy...so it should be. The anscestors warned us that the day would come when we would not beable to drink the water from the streams let alone eat the fish. That day is here. Man kind (thinking being) has come to learn that he can not eat the dollar. We must stand tall and speak truth from the heart. Stand tall means move mountains of problems. The White Man (Paper Tribe) seems to think that we can just put another band aid on every thing they invent that causes problems in our health.  Free The Land.

wow excellent article and pics!

You have outdone yerself gel!  Fabulous article and as usual outstanding Tam-pics.

If settlers had abided by the Royal Proclamation, none of this shit woulda happened...as it predates and overrides so called "Canadian jurisdiction"

Cheers,

Roz

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