THE HISTORY OF IN-SHUCK-CH’S TREATY MANDATE

In-SHUCK-ch has a long history of pursuing aboriginal title to its Traditional Territory. This history is the basis from which all negotiations of a Final Agreement took place.

In 1763 the British Crown issued a Royal Proclamation that recognized aboriginal title to land in Canada, and decreed that the only way land could be ceded was to the crown through a treaty. As colonial rule moved west across Canada, colonial powers entered into historic and numbered treaties with First Nations. However, after only a few small treaties in BC the colonial government stopped creating treaties. Much of British Columbia, including In-SHUCK-ch’s territory, remains unceded.

The people of the lower Lillooet River saw early on that their rights and title were being violated by both the Province of British Columbia and the Dominion of Canada, who ignored the necessity of negotiating treaties with BC First Nations. There is evidence that the First Peoples living along the Lillooet River were fighting for their title and rights, in one form or another, as early as 1873 if not earlier. In 1874 the Chiefs of the lower Fraser river, Douglas-Lillooet, and Howe Sound area traveled to the Queen’s Birthday celebration in New Westminster, and presented a petition to the first Indian Superintendent for British Columbia voicing their grievances.

Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 8.25.59 PMOn May 10, 1911 the Chiefs of the Ucwalmicwts-speaking bands signed the Declaration of the Lillooet Tribes. In this declaration the Chiefs deny the Crowns claim to their land, assert that they are rightful owners of their traditional territory, and resolve to stand for their rights and settle the land question.

The Declaration of the Lillooet Tribe is considered by In-SHUCK-ch people to be the original mandate of the In-SHUCK-ch Nation to negotiate a treaty with the federal and provincial government.

“I encourage you to keep up the work on the declaration. That paper was put there for us to follow, so that we would know what we are doing.” – the late Dennis Williams, Stl’atl’imx Gathering, Mount Currie, May 11, 1990

The Declaration of the Lillooet Tribe, and others like it, spurred the federal and provincial governments to create a Royal Commission to settle the question of Indian title in British Columbia (BC). In August 1915 the Commission travelled through the Lillooet River Valley. Our Chiefs spoke of the conditions faced by their people, and demanded more land for their people and unrestricted access to their traditional resources. Chief Harry Peters of Samahquam, and Chief Paul of Skookumchuck claimed title based on their oral traditions, and specifically referred to In-SHUCK-ch mountain and T’sek hotsprings.

When the McKenna-McBride Commission Final Report was published, the Allied Tribes of British Columbia rejected its findings and made its own recommendations based on meetings with First Nations across British Columbia, including several Ucwalmicwts-speaking bands. However, the  federal and provincial governments accepted little of the Allied Tribes recommendations, and the Commission’s findings were approved by the federal and provincial governments, and in their view the Indian land question was settled once and for all.

Of course, for In-SHUCK-ch and other First Nations, this was not satisfactory. However, in 1927 the federal government amended the Indian Act to make it illegal for First Nations to obtain legal counsel to pursue their land claims. Aboriginal title and rights discussions were not over, but they went underground until 1951 when the Indian Act was amended again and the prohibition regarding the pursuit of land claims was removed.

Over the years First Nations in BC slowly gained momentum in their fight for recognition of their rights and title. In 1982 Canada’s Constitution recognized and affirmed Aboriginal and Treaty rights. A series of court cases, starting with the Calder decision in 1973, began to recognize that aboriginal title had never been extinguished.  The Supreme Court urged the Crown to negotiate comprehensive agreements with First Nation to resolve title, but there was no formal process yet.

At the General Assembly on July 21 and 22, 1990, before the modern-day treaty process had even been formalized, the In-SHUCK-ch membership voted unanimously to mandate our band councils to open dialogue with the Government of Canada. On September 24, 1990, our people embarked upon a formal recognition of our title and rights when we sent a letter to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney asking for a dialogue with the Government of Canada respecting the issue of our title and rights to our territories.

In 1993 the BC Treaty Process was formalized. On December 15, 1993 In-SHUCK-ch Nation was the first to submit its Statement of Intent and the treaty negotiation process began.