ABORIGINAL RIGHTS - BC Treaty Referendum

The majority of British Columbia people want to be
open minded about dealing with Aboriginal title
March 29, 2002
by Chief Arthur Manuel

It is clear that the Council of the Interior Alliance do not feel that the Referendum should be participated in by our peoples but that if British Columbians want to respond to this document they should publicly and expressly boycott the Referendum.

In this respect one of the Elder leaders said that our Aboriginal Title comes from our lands and we cannot undermine those Rights through voting on them through a British Columbia government Referendum. In this regard it was also pointed out that our Aboriginal Rights are not minority rights but Rights that we have because of our special relationship to our traditional lands and territory.

It was suggested that if British Columbians wanted to show their support they could organize a big burning of these Ballots on a specific day across British Columbia. It was suggested that the Council of Canadians, labor, students, woman and churches could do this. It was also suggested that some indigenous spiritual peoples from around the province might be willing to lead in building the fires.

It was also brought up that burning the Ballot could be a violation in itself because it is burning a public document. Burning Ballots was however looked at in view of the Gandhi's burning of certain documents in India, the burning of apartheid documents in South Africa and the more recent burning of water documents in Bolivia.

It was also suggested that a petition should be signed when each Ballot was burned. It was felt that silently boycotting the Referendum would not get the message across the government and the international community that the majority of British Columbia people want to be open minded about dealing with Aboriginal title.

One thing is clear that according to the questions submitted by the province of British Columbia is that from a purely legal and constitutional point-of-view a lot of very basic issues are entangled in the existence of Aboriginal Title.

It is therefore very self-defeating to try and establish certain no go areas on the part of any side on how to reconcile the competing interests of Crown and Aboriginal Title simply because I feel that it is the common hope of both sides to do what is in our best interests and since we are both here to stay, it must be mutually satisfactory.

I think we are all very reasonable people, and in our case very patient, but tying us up with limiting choices that would be best dealt with according to good faith negotiations is stupid.

Chief Arthur Manuel


Southern Carrier
St’at’imc Secwepemc
Nlaka’pamux Okanagan

c/o Shuswap Nation Tribal Council
Suite 304 – 355 Yellowhead Highway
Kamloops, British Columbia, V2H 1H1
Phone: (250) 828-9789 Fax: (250) 374-6331


(Sekw’el’was, St’at’imc territory, March 26 th , 2002) Leaders and people of the Nlaka’apmux, Okanagan, Secwepemc and St’at’imc nations gathered in Sekw’el’was, St’at’imc territory to discuss joint initiatives of their nations to protect Aboriginal Title and rights.

They made it very clear, that the province of British Columbia has no say over their inherent Aboriginal Title and rights, that have been passed down to their peoples over generations and are collectively held by their people. The referendum planned by the Liberal government therefore is illegal. Louise Mandell, Q.C., of Mandell Pinder states in a legal analysis of the referendum question that: “Not only is Crown Title burdened by Aboriginal Title, the province has no power to legislate in relation to Indians and lands reserved for Indians, because this power is assigned exclusively to Canada.”

Therefore the Interior Alliance encourages indigenous rights support organizations and coalitions, including the Council of Canadians, Quaker Aboriginal Affairs Committee of BC and KAIROS, to boycott the referendum and expressly demonstrate their opposition to the illegal process.

Elder Spinks of the Nlaka’pamux Nation made it clear that: “If we vote in this referendum we lower ourselves to another lower government. We will not talk to British Columbia, we only talk to Canada. They have to recognize our title first. The Interior Alliance nations made declarations 100 years ago that we never gave up our rights. These rights are also protected by the Royal Proclamation of 1763.”

Chief Manuel of the Secwepemc Nation said that: ”By having this referendum, the government is acknowledging our ownership and how desperately they are looking for ways of extinguishing it. British Columbia is an unsettled province.” Chief Manuel will be bringing those concerns before the international community, as they will be meeting in the Hague the Netherlands to discuss the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The positions of the Interior Alliance nations were supported b y international delegates and visitors from Sapmi, indigenous land in the North of Europe and Bolivia in South America. Oscar Olivera who led the people’s movement to stop the privatization of water in Cochabamba encouraged people: “Our people realized that a vote is not the solution to our problems, we have to articulate ourselves. The only way to solve the problems is to get the society itself to articulate themselves and take charge of the economy and land management. You are a group of men and women dedicated to your struggle, this means letting go of your fear, after seeing your eyes, feelings and hearing your words, I know that you will be able to triumph.”

Chief Manuel, Secwepemc Nation, cell: (250) 314 7179
Chief John, St’at’imc Nation, phone: (250) 259 8227

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