I’m writing in response to last week’s “Question of the Week” and the news of the injunction against and arrests of representatives of the Sinixt Nation.
The question, “Should the Sinixt First Nation protesters be permitted to block a Slocan Valley logging road?” is backward and misleading. Do we ask ourselves, “Can I block my own driveway? Can I have a barbeque in my own backyard?”
No, we don’t.
The Sinixt have lived here for millennia, their culture and people having evolved within this land, their tum’xula7xw (homeland). A more interesting and accurate question to explore would be “Should the Sinixt Nation allow logging roads to be built in their traditional territory without consultation?” And, “should we settlers continue to allow development to proceed on public lands, without input and consent from the Sinixt?”
In spite of being declared extinct in 1956 the Sinixt continue to uphold their responsibilities to their ancestors, their contemporaries and future generations. These responsibilities are ongoing and inseparable from this land.
Both international and Canadian law recognize the rights of indigenous people such as the Sinixt. (See Canadian constitution s. 35 and The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.) The Canadian settler public is also increasingly recognizing that the agreements that were made with First Nations so that we could settle in North America, are not being honoured. (Treaties, Royal Proclamation of 1763.) More and more of us are deeply concerned about the injustices that are being perpetuated in our names. We are increasingly shocked and dismayed that “our” courts continue to obstruct justice and violate international agreements by ignoring basic human rights.
The more I learn about First Nations’ traditional cultures, the more I realize that their aims — peace and harmony, balance and respect for all peoples and all creation — are my aims. In the face of the increasing corporatization of Canada and the disregard for all our rights and living environments, I can see that my allegiance is clearly with the original people of this land. It is my dream to be part of a living, thriving culture that we, settler and Sinixt, create together through decolonization.
So, should the Sinixt be consulted? Hell yes! Will I allow development to proceed without including all the voices of the people who belong to this land, in the past, present and future? Hell no! I wholeheartedly support Marilyn James, Dennis Zarelli and the Sinixt Nation in the stand they’ve taken on Perry’s Ridge.
I encourage others to join the growing movement working to shift the paradigm of greed and ensure our collective future in Sinixt Territory and on this beautiful Earth.