Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Naming and Claiming by K.Linda Kivi

My last blog entry was about the Ktnuaxa Qat’muk Declaration affecting the Jumbo Valley and the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort. At a recent Jumbo Wild! rally in Nelson which was organized by the NDP a leaflet was distributed by Settlers for Sinixt Sovereignty commenting on that very same Declaration. Most of it is excerpted below. As a Jumbo Wild activist I've been acutely conscious of and troubled by the Sinixt/Ktunaxa conflict for a long time. Summarized very briefly, this conflict is about the Ktunaxa claiming lands that include Sinixt traditional territory. As the Sinixt were declared extinct for the purposes of the Indian Act in Canada in 1956 (though aren’t) their territory has been seen as up for grabs by neighbouring nations. This has been deeply upsetting for both the Sinixt and people like myself who support them.

Hence, I would like to add the commentary of the Settlers for Sinixt Sovereignty to the mix. As Luanne wrote in her previous blog entry, there is such power in naming and in who does the naming of what. Naming is claiming, as we well know from the history of settlement in North America. With the Qat’muk Declaration, my glee was about indigenous people claiming and naming the Jumbo Valley. In that glee, I momentarily overlooked the complexity of that naming, even among indigenous people. My fantasy that all of us who oppose the machinery of consumer, capitalist, imperialist culture could always get along, work together and present a united front against the fundamental forces of exploitative power is a long, long way from being realized.

So, in the meanwhile, how do we in the west kootenay, who suppport both Sinixt sovereignty and Jumbo Wild! situate ourselves vis-a-vis this situation? I don't believe there is an easy answer to this question. I keep hoping for some healing between the Ktunaxa and the Sinixt but I know this is not even remotely possible as long as the Ktunaxa continue to ignore and attempt to obliterate the Sinixt claim to their own territory. How then do we effectively refuse to be divided and ruled?

“The Qat'muk Declaration, Ktunaxa Collaborators, and the theft of Sinixt Land and Culture

The Ktunaxa Nation council's Qat'muk Declaration at first glance looks like an assertion of Indigenous sovereignty to protect a large watershed, grizzly bears and an endangered fragile ecosystem from development but is actually a plot created by native and non-native politicians to quicken the theft of traditional sovereign Sinixt territory through false land claims and the BC
Treaty Process in the interests of industry, business and the dominant settler society.

Kathryn Teneese is the recently appointed Chair (Council chief) of the Ktunaxa Nation Council. Since 1996, she has also been the nation's Chief negotiator. Teneese recently lead a delegation of Ktunaxa Nation members to the BC legislature in Victoria to declare opposition to the controversial Jumbo Glacier Resort and declared it as Ktunaxa Nation territory and as a sacred place to the Ktunaxa.

The problem with the Qat'muk declaration is that the Jumbo Glacier is traditional Sinixt Territory.

Stories surrounding the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers tell of an ancient Salish mother tribe (Sinixt). Through the Indian Act the Sinixt (Arrow Lakes Indian Band) were declared extinct in 1956 after the uninhabitable Oatscott Reserve was found empty. Even though hundreds if not thousands of Sinixt were elsewhere in their traditional territory, predominately south of the US/Canada border (or wherever one could take refuge from racist bounty killings, and the overall impact of disease and settler society). Today the Ktunaxa Council and BC government through the BC Treaty Process are trying to strip the Sinixt of their traditional lands.

Three weeks prior to the Ktunaxa council's Qat'muk declaration trek to Victoria, Kathryn Teneese and the Ktunaxa council made a “Strategic Engagement Agreement” with the BC government receiving nearly 1.7 million dollars to further engage in the land use planning, resource extraction and treaty making over Sinixt territories. A photo of this so-called historic agreement shows Teneese with the biggest smile in the room, signing the document with the Minister of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources Bill Bennett, and Pat Bell the BC Minister of Forest and Range.

With millions of dollars in funding from the BC Treaty Process the Ktunaxa Council has been engaged in the land theft, cultural whitewashing, and profiting from the development of Sinixt territory for years. According to Sinixt elders, the Ktunaxa are outsiders to the area with their namesake, the Kootenays. Historical evidence suggests that the Ktunaxa are from east of the rockies with possible relations to Algonquins who traveled with the fur traders west. Other evidence suggests that they most definitely traveled westward from the Plains after possibly being chased out of occupied lands in the Rocky Mountain foothills by the Blackfoot.

The Ktunaxa council goes as far as to claim ancient Sinixt cultural sites, and Sinixt stories and legends as their own to further their business, political and economic interests at the expense of the Sinixt.

After (a) historic battle the Sinixt who were also suffering from the impacts of disease epidemics granted the Ktunaxa use of some fishing and hunting grounds within portions of traditional Sinixt territories.

Canada's and BC's control over Indigenous nations has taken many forms, including police & military violence, churches, Residential Schools, & Indian Agents. Today, chiefs & councilors acting as collaborators have become a vital part of the colonial regime's ability to control indigenous peoples. Colonialism always prefers to deal with collaborator chiefs, who can more effectively control their people than can direct government agencies. This is most often done by setting up puppet governments comprised of indigenous collaborators. The state gives its full support and recognizes only them as the legitimate representatives of the nation. This strategy is known as neocolonialism.

These chiefs serve to pacify & confuse native populations, appearing to fight for 'rights & title' when in reality they are working along side the government & corporations. Many, like Ktunaxa Nation Chair Kathryn Teneese and Treaty Commissioner Sophie Pierre, are themselves politicians, businesspeople, and lawyers, who gain wealth, status and power from the colonial system. This involves acting as a legal agent (i.e., as a band council or political organization) on behalf of Native nations, legalizing the theft & exploitation of ancestral territories (in the case of the Ktunaxa... other nations ancestral territory). By helping government impose its policies & strategies on Natives, these types of collaborators aid in the assimilation of their own people.

The BC Treaty Commissioner and former Ktunaxa Nation Administrator Sophie Pierre was a strong advocate for the 2010 Olympics and encourages VANOC's Olympic vision of dealing with indigenous nations and their unceded land bases through the BC treaty process, according to the introduction by Ms. Pierre in the BCTC 2010 annual report.

Pierre and the Ktunaxa Nation, have a 40-million dollar stake in the St. Eugene Mission Resort, a BC residential school turned upscale 4.5 star, 125 room resort and casino just minutes from the Cranbrook airport. Pierre is also the acting President of the holdings company that operates the resort.

Major economic interests and benefits are behind the Ktunaxa Nation council's fraudulent claims to Sinixt lands. The Ktunaxa council and its councilors are trying to make agreements and treaties with the BC government on lands they have NOT inhabited “since time immemorial” as some politicians would suggest. Traditional Sinixt families use and occupy these lands to this day with archeological evidence supporting their existence and use of these lands for over 12,000 years.

It is unfortunate that the Ktunaxa Nation council has jumped on the band-wagon (no pun intended) to “Keep Jumbo Wild” while trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the local settler society and their own people. Their declaration against the Jumbo development holds no integrity in the context of the larger violation of indigenous sovereignty. Put simply, the Chief and Council are opportunists against Jumbo.”

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