Contemporary Stó:lō Voices Through Recent Interviews

Grand Chief Clarence “Kat” Pennier, Sq’éwlets (Scowlitz First Nation)
 

“Reconciliation is just a buzzword, it’s going to be a lot of hard work to make things change in government. When is the government going to give us our land back? Oh you can go through the treaty process and you can negotiate lands, but that means you’re going to extinguish 95% of your traditional territory. You know, who wants to do that? I don’t. That doesn’t suit our 7th generation in the future.” [29:43-30:18]

 

Arlene Proksa, (Leq’á:mel First Nation)

“I think a big part of reconciliation would be changing the squatter’s status. I think it’s really important that all of this land is being used without permission. No formal grant was given and no money was paid for it and I think that if you really want to reconcile with somebody stop squatting on their land. Pay a lease for it, pay rent for it, pay taxes on it on the profits that you gain on that land.”
(6:48-7:12)

 

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Murray Ned (Sema:th First Nation)

 

“When you think of resource management, the ability to manage within your territory and region, I think that’s an aspiration that if we ever get there that’d probably be true reconciliation. Again, we’ve got so much development and urbanization... if I look at the Fraser River and it’s in horrible shape and some of the tributaries that are out there... so, to try to restore some of that would be absolutely imperative to get to any form of reconciliation... we’ve lost over 150 years and being displaced from that responsibility, trying to figure out how we do that in a contemporary way is the challenge.”

Naxaxalhts’i Albert “Sonny” McHalsie  (Shxw'ow'hamel First Nation)

“... establishing a foothold back out in the mountains close to the berry picking grounds, hunting grounds, trails... I think something can be done there. Right now, we have nothing and I think people go up into the forest and don’t realise that we have Aboriginal Rights and Title up there... with the province and the numbers that they have, they do not give any openings within S’olh Témxw [our lands] for mountain goat. So, someday I hope we can go back to that. We like to conserve, preserve... until that happens and those numbers go up... I think we could be more involved to assist with making those numbers go up and maybe there’s ways we can be involved with the management of the forest industries, or mining industries or any of those things happen out there in the habitat area of the mountain goat, the deer... there has to be some way to be involved with that on a government to government basis and ensuring those numbers come back so we can start using them again...”

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Yvette John

“There’s a lot of roadblocks that are blocking us for having Aboriginal Rights and Title.... the majority of the gates are blocked off to hydro spots, to pipeline spots. There blocking us from where we go to get our medicines, our food, everything, our hunting. They have the gates blocked off and I dislike that very much.”


Yvette John

“Our water, closing our eyes to things that are going into the river. We have things pouring into our river from every direction that has not been taken care of and that’s an issue.”

 

Archival Sources and Contemporary Voices Relating to Timber and Cedar

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Source: Ware, Reuben M. Five Issues Five Battlegrounds: An Introduction to the History of Indian Fishing in British Columbia 1850-1930. Coqualeetza Education Training Centre, 1983, 165.

“Cheakamus Band (Squamish), 17 August 1915:
Timothy: We clear land but it is very small. We tried to chop down few trees for timber and we were stopped right away by the Agent, and if I keep on I am afraid I will be “run in.” I wish to cultivate the soil here, but I have no money to start in with, and the only way we got out seeds this year, was by asking the government for them ...I have no work... and now work is scarce and the white people wont allow us to work. All we depend on is fishing in the rivers and now the government stops us from fishing and now we don’t know what to do...”

 

Naxaxalhts’i Albert “Sonny” McHalsie (Shxw'ow'hamel First Nation)

“Getting access back to timber and also being more involved taking care of that timber. So not only taking care of the animals but taking care of the forest and the actually trees. It’s almost like the new order of government has come in and they look at the industrialization of our forest an say “that isn’t part of your culture.” The use of those trees and even the preservation of those trees was important to use and that’s why in the past, and that protocol is still today: do not kill the tree. So, when we go and take cedar bark we only take it off one quarter of the tree. We leave the rest intact, otherwise if you take all the bark off, you’re going to have a dead tree... same with the roots. There’s four main roots and we’re only allowed to take one. You can’t touch all of the tree [and] the tree will continue living... we used to be able to split planks off living trees. The planks were our longhouses. We’d split it off of a living tree...Getting back to that understanding, the use of land, the use of the forest... We should be getting our timber from our own backyards like we use to.”

 

Archival Sources and Contemporary Voices Relating to Hunting:

 

Archival
 

Source: Ware, Reuben M. Five Issues Five Battlegrounds: An Introduction to the History of Indian Fishing in British Columbia 1850-1930. Coqualeetza Education Training Centre, 1983, 166.


 

[Excerpt]
“Musqueam Band, 24 June 1913:
Chief Johnnie: Before the whiteman came, the Indians used to have all kinds of game to live on, but since the arrival of the whiteman, pretty nearly all the game around here has disappeared... Whenever we go out to hunt for a deer, if we get one, we bring it down and use all the meat, we don’t waste any of it, only the guts and tripe is left behind. The whiteman goes out hunting for deer (and) sometimes they shoot a buck and just take the horns or maybe just take the skin off and leave the meat there... and about the fish, it is the same way.”

 

Source: Ware, Reuben M. Five Issues Five Battlegrounds: An Introduction to the History of Indian Fishing in British Columbia 1850-1930. Coqualeetza Education Training Centre, 1983, 167.

 

“Upper Sumas Band, 12 January 1915:
Chief Slelesmlton (Ned): This is the land and that is what the old people know, that is what they used to say. The Indians have always been poor, that is the reason I have always been worrying... I know the old people used to say that the white people will be shoving you around all over this open prairie to get our food. We used to get our meat, ducks, and fish out on this lake (Sumas) and on the prairie. We go out on the Fraser and catch our fish; and we’d go out on the mountains on each side of this lake and get all the meat we want. If I go out and take my gun, there is always someone to round me up and have me arrested. If I go out and catch a fish, the policeman comes out after me with a gun. Every year we use a net, they come out and take it away from us; and that is what worried me all the time...”

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Source: Ware, Reuben M. Five Issues Five Battlegrounds: An Introduction to the History of Indian Fishing in British Columbia 1850-1930. Coqualeetza Education Training Centre, 1983, 167.

 

“Aitchelitz Band, 13 January 1915:
Chief William Dick: I want my full liberty to go fishing, shooting, and hunting throughout the year.
Commissioner: We cannot give you any more privileges than the law allows. You are at liberty to hunt on vacant lands during the open season for game, and if you want to kill a deer at any time of the year, if you apply to Mr. Byrne (Indian Agent), and if Mr. Byrne feels that you are entitled to it, he will get you a permit... in regard to the fishing, we are now making enquiries into the fishing matter and we shall make such recommendations as we think will be of benefit to the Indians.”




 

Source: Ware, Reuben M. Five Issues Five Battlegrounds: An Introduction to the History of Indian Fishing in British Columbia 1850-1930. Coqualeetza Education Training Centre, 1983, 168.


 

“Schelt Band, 17 February 1915:
Chief George: We heard here in our place that the Royal Commissioner of Indian Affairs... were going to come... and my people... told me to take a piece for us for a hunting place for deer, and they also told me to get some extra land, and they told me to get the sea from where we will get fish for our food. We see now... that not long from now, we will be very miserable because the white people are getting more and more on our place.”




 

Naxaxalhts’i Albert “Sonny” McHalsie (Shxw'ow'hamel First Nation)
 

“Not exclusive rights, other people should still be able to hunt... but there has to be some way of managing it so that we as Stó:lō people get access to the game more than anybody else.”


 

Contemporary Stó:lō Interviews
 

 

Source: 1894 (April) Letter to the Indian Superintendent from Various Stó:lō chiefs – presented to the Indian Superintendent on Thursday, April 26th and published in the Chilliwack Progress in 1894 in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 175.
 

“We are also told at certain seasons that we may catch fish for our own use, but not sell them to white people. We think this very unjust; for there are times when the sale of salmon would bring to us little things we could not otherwise have. And when the salmon are in season, why should the Indians be compelled to pay license or catching and selling what belongs to them?
We would like you as our chief to enter protest against the wholesale slaughter of the sturgeon in the Fraser river. The salmon are fished so much at the mouth of river that but few of them get upstream. We have always been able to get sturgeon, however, and we have said very little about the salmon; but now that the white people are going to destroy what seems to us our last resort, we think the time has come for us to speak.”

Archival Sources and Contemporary Voices Relating to Fishing:

Source: 1902 (October) Stó:lō Letter to the Minister of Marines and Fisheries in 1894 in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 175 - 176.
 

“We are all agreed, that this year’s run through Yale and Lytton Canyons, are the poorest for years past, which we attribute almost solely to the use of these deep nets. We have watched the Salmon run every year, carefully, and as fishermen have added to the depth of their nets. So has the run of fish lessened in the Fraser River where we Indians can carefully note how the run is... What we are anxious for the Department to do, towards all parties concerned, is to adopt a uniform depth of nets of not more than 60 meshes to be used in the future. This will give all an equal chance and leave a big margin of space to allow fish not gilled to pass on to the spawning beds. Unless this plan is adopted, the Salmon industry will be greatly injured in the future. We, on a former occasion, gave the Government timely warning as to the fate of the Sturgeon fishing and with what results we all know now to our loss and regret. The Sturgeon now have been destroyed in the Fraser.”

Source: 1914 (April) Fishermen’s Association Petition in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 180.
 

“As you are doubtless aware, a few years ago, in order to ensure a proper proportion of the Sockeye Salmon reaching the spawning grounds, it was thought advisable to restrict the fishing above New Westminster Bridge to actual settlers or land-holders; however, as it was found that some of the men who fished on the upper reaches of the river for years were not actual land-holders, but were living in cow houses or rented places, it was decided by the Department that any person residing above the Bridge could obtain a license to fish there.”
 

Source: 1914 (June) Letter from the Maple Ridge board of trade to the Minister of Marines and Fisheries in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 181.
 

“These white and Indian fishermen represent an important section of Fraser Valley residence and have done a great deal towards the permanent development of the Valley, being practically all long-time residents in this district, depending principally on the fishing season to provide them with the funds to carry out the necessary improvements on their lands and homes, during the winter months when fishing is at a standstill.”

Source: 1914 (June) Resolution from Fraser River Fishermen in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 181.

“Resolve, that in order to preserve the fishing industry of the Fraser River to the White and Indian Fishermen, that the Dominion and Provincial Governments be petitioned to enact legislation as follows: - That no licences be issued to Asiatics to fish above the Fraser River bridge at New Westminster; that in 1915 and thenceforth the number of licenses to be issued to Fraser River fishermen be restricted to a total to be agreed upon by the interested canneries and this Association, and, that in 1915 and henceforth licenses shall be issued to White and Indian fishermen on the Fraser for one month prior to their issuance to any other persons whatsoever.’”

Source: 1914 (July) Telegram in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 181.
 

“Indians gathering below Hell’s Gate with pack trains, taking salmon which cannot ascend rapids. Also taking what few get above have prohibited all salmon fishing between Hope and Lytton temporarily please ask Dep’t Indian Affairs to instruct their Agent at Lytton to assist in having Indians comply with my instructions this action imperative to enable salmon to reach spawning grounds.” (page 181)

Source: 1914 (c. July) Petition to the Fishery Department from the “Tribes of Indians between Lytton and Hope” in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 181.

 

“Indians throughout my district are holding indignation meetings and complaining bitterly of unfairness in being prevented from fishing in view of fact that canneries and traps which catch bulk of fish are allowed to run with small restrictions while they are stopped totally, thus cutting their main supply of food. Old Indians who do not work rely wholly upon salmon for their livelihood. Season for putting up winter supply is advancing and if not allowed to fish will cause hardship this coming winter. Could you not come to some arrangement with the Fishery Department and so remove this just cause of complaint, the few fish caught by the Indians practically amounts to nil and is only causing dissention and strife. Would suggest that an embargo be placed upon a mile or two of the river where salmon have difficulty in negotiating below and above that is ridiculous in meantime Indians refuse to stop fishing. Kindly advise immediately... We Indians wish to tell you that the way to save the fish is to stop the white men from setting traps and nets, so blocking the mouth of the river that the fish can not get up.The white me are to blame for the scarcity of fish, and yet they would take away from us Indians our only means of making a living after taking everything else from us. This we positively refuse to submit to and look to you for justice.” 

Source: 1914 (July) Telegram in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 181.


 

“Deputation of Indian Chiefs absolutely refuse stop fishing, although notified by Indian Agent Graham at Lytton. Feeling very strong against new prohibition. Hope to Lytton patrolled by special guardians since eighteenth.”
 

Source: 1914 Extract from a Letter to the Chilliwack Progress – August 6th, 1914 in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 181.


 

“…We wish it thoroughly understood that we do not intend to stop fishing and that the Fishery department has no right to attempt to stop us from doing so for our own use, as we are the aboriginal owners of the land and water, which provided food for us as in the past and present, and for all time to come.”

Source: 1922 (February) Testimony of Dennis S. Peters on behalf of Chief Pierre Edward Lorenzetto and Others in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 186.

 

“(1) We want the restriction on Indian fishing salmon above tidal waters removed at once. This is an unjust and unnecessary law or restriction on the Indians.
(2) We want the exclusive right of fishing on all fore shores of Indian reserves, and at fishing reserves.
(3) We have fishing rights which have always been recognized. We must be free to fish salmon for our own use on all parts of the Fraser River within our old tribal territory where we have been wont to fish, and we must be allowed to fish and cure salmon at our fishing rocks between Yale and 5 miles creek above Yale on both sides of the river every summer during July and August and also in September if necessary...”

Source: “Chiefs Protest.” Chilliwack Progress. August 6th, 1914, page 3. Retrieved from:https://theprogress.newspapers.com/image/43154770/?terms=%22Chiefs%2BProtest.%22
 

“We wish it thoroughly understood that we do not intend to stop fishing and that the fishery department has no right to attempt to stop us from doing so for our own use, as we are the aboriginal owners of the land and water, which provided food for us as in the past and present, and for all time to come. We also claim that all the fish we catch in the whole season does not amount to the number caught in one day at the mouth of the river by the fisherman employed in catching for commercial use. We also claim this is an unjust act on the part of the fishery department to attempt to block the source of our supply of food for the winter. We have been accustomed to living on salmon and cannot and will not do without it. We are therefore looking to the Department of Indian Affairs to uphold us in our demands and rights.”

Source: Ware, Reuben M. Five Issues Five Battlegrounds: An Introduction to the History of Indian Fishing in British Columbia 1850-1930. Coqualeetza Education Training Centre, 1983, 2.

 

“4. Indian Management is Best.
            “The tragic destruction done to the fisheries of the Indians of British Columbia under the management of white governments and the exploitation of white corporations is an issue that has long concerned Indians fighting for fishing rights. The evidence of white mismanagement is clear and perhaps the control of the fishery resources should be turned over to the rightful owners of restorations
5. Governmental Regulation.
            The gradual development of governmental, both federal and provincial, restriction of Indian fishing rights is irregular, but steady. These regulations have been a part of many Indian protests and are in important chapter in the history of Indian fisheries...”

Source: Ware, Reuben M. Five Issues Five Battlegrounds: An Introduction to the History of Indian Fishing in British Columbia 1850-1930. Coqualeetza Education Training Centre, 1983, 165 – 166.
 

“Burrard Inlet, 21 June 1913:
Chief Jimmie Harry: When I make this statement, regarding fishing and hunting, it applies principally to the older people, who are unable to work and follow the lines of work that the young people follow in order to earn their living. About 4 weeks from today, there was a net, which was in the stream out here, belonging to an old Indian residing in this Reserve. His only means of getting fish for him to eat and make his living by fishing... the Fishery Warden wilfully and without warning cut his... which was about 15 fathoms long and put it into his boat and took it away. Now this same poor old man has no net and no money to buy another... and therefore, he can not get any more fish to eat. The Indians residing in this Reserve (Seymour Creek) never raise any objections to the white people who come to fish in this creek running right along this Reserve, which Indians claim as their own... it causes hard feeling when the white people object to the Indians claim catching fish to eat. When they do that, the Indians are afraid...to set another net and catch fish... and yet allow the white people to fish all day Saturday and all day Sunday in our fishing grounds... it creates hard feelings, and yet we are blamed that fishing and hunting have been decreasing. Now during time immemorial the Indians, before the whiteman came here, were living on fish and game and (it) never decreased...”

Source: Ware, Reuben M. Five Issues Five Battlegrounds: An Introduction to the History of Indian Fishing in British Columbia 1850-1930. Coqualeetza Education Training Centre, 1983, 166.

[Excerpt]
“...Even the fish in the waters are going the same way... I say that I did not destroy all those things which God made for us Indians, it is the whiteman who came to this country that... destroyed our game and fish... I want to be at liberty at all times, to take and kill fish and game of all descriptions, to support my family and for our own use. I don’t want to be restricted by the whiteman’s law. There was one time that I had trouble. I had bough a net and the same year I took sick and could not use the gear. So I sent two men to go up and get a few Salmon... for my winter’s grub. They were there only one day and an officer came along and took the net away from them... I wanted the fish for the winter and they came and took it away... I have a few words to say yet. It is indeed true what the Chairman said. The Indian’s custom of taking fish was only by the means of a small net, and they only caught very few so as not to destroy the fish with a net only three feet wide. That is the reason that I say I did not destroy the fish. It is the whiteman that brought the long nets and catch all kinds of fish. That is the reason the fish are all going away... The whitemen use a long net, and whenever they get so much fish that they cannot sell them, they throw them overboard. But the Indians do not do that, whenever we get or catch fish, Indians is being seized and destroyed.”

 

Source: Ware, Reuben M. Five Issues Five Battlegrounds: An Introduction to the History of Indian Fishing in British Columbia 1850-1930. Coqualeetza Education Training Centre, 1983, 167.
 

“Coquitlam Band, 8 January 1915:
Chief David Bailey: We, the Coquitlam Band, bring to your attention in regards to our hunting, fishing and game matters. In the former years, we used to get our permit and net tags free, and now we are to pay for the tags before we are at liberty to set our nets of which we do not agree to do so... we should be allowed to sell what little fish we may have to spare for our house purposes... for we must have our flour and sugar and tea...”

Source: Ware, Reuben M. Five Issues Five Battlegrounds: An Introduction to the History of Indian Fishing in British Columbia 1850-1930. Coqualeetza Education Training Centre, 1983, 168.

[Excerpt]
“Chehalis Band, 10 January 1915:
Chief Johnny Leon: Who made this world? Who made me here? Who made everything that is on this earth? Who made the deer and the animals and also the fish that swim in the waters? ...Whenever one of my members or myself goes out and catches a Salmon and wants to sell it, a policeman comes along and puts us in gaol. There are some instances where some people went out to kill deer for their children, and when they were caught they were put in gaol. I think we have more right to those animals than anyone else...”

Source:
“Indian Chiefs Protest.” The Chilliwack Progress. July 11th, 1918, page 3. Retrieved from:
https://theprogress.newspapers.com/image/43151161/?terms=%22Chiefs%2BProtest.%22

“Sir.- We, the representatives of the chiefs and the various tribes along the Fraser river, do strongly protest against the suggestion made and endorsed by A. P. Halliday, fishery inspector, to prohibit the Indians from fishing above the Mission bridge. We here further protest against the statements made by the chief inspector of fisheries to the effect that the Indians took the fish when they had reached the spawning grounds, also when they were right in the act of spawning. It has been our custom not to take fish on their spawning grounds nor when they were in the act of spawning. How then are the Indians the greatest enemies of the sockeye? We do also further protest against the recommendation of the Royal Fishery Commission with regard to the fishing rights of Indians along the Fraser river. Therefore we are bound by our sacred rights to continue our free fishing in our river for our own use as usual.
            We do earnestly urge the authorities to give our protest due consideration and make reply as soon as convenient.”

Source: “Stó:lō Fishing Declaration.” Stó:lō History and Information. Before you know where you are going... You must know where you’ve been... H:wp/1999/KAT/HISTORY-D4.doc. Stó:lō Nation Archives, 39 – 40.

[Excerpt]
“... The Fraser River is the richest Salmon River in North America and this river has provided a livlihood to our people for thousands of years... From time immemorial we have lived in harmony with the great river and we are grateful for what it has provided for our people...We are here today to present to this commission the frame work that will provide a new beginning for our people. We wish also to be heard, some concerns that our people have about our great river and its future. We have lived with the Federal Government’s rules and regulations imposed upon our people and each year we see the decline in the numbers of salmon return up the river to spawn their eggs. Our people are very concerned about the quality of water the salmon must pass through to reach their ultimate destiny. We can no longer sick back and be silent as our great river becomes more polluted each year. Yes, these are only some of our concerns... We are looking to the future and as the first people of this land, we will be implementing a program to insure the future of the salmon in the “Great River.” Our people wish to enjoy the same opportunities as our brothers on the coast who make their living from the Salmon Fishery.” 

Contemporary Stó:lō Interviews

Bobbi Peters (Chawathil First Nation)
 

“With fishing, I think we are losing our cultural practices with our fisheries and our opportunity to practice our fishery is getting lesser, and lesser, and lesser. There’s big conservation issues and our populations are growing, so we don’t have enough resources to feed the whole community... We do a lot of ceremony in the winter and the sun gatherings there’s not always a lot of cultural food, traditional food. And there’s always that... next to conservation, we hold priority over the fisheries. However, [the] economy seems to supersede our food fishery and that’s from the commercial sector and also the recreational sector. I think there’s a lack of understanding on their part on how we are second to conservation and it gets used against us in a lot of ways... But here in our area it’s getting to point that we’re starting to see how our sacred salmon stalks are becoming, even our Sockeye now... There’s zero capacity, they always say... try to make a strong point that fisheries are on a zero budget. It creates challenges not all our fishers are educated about the conservational conditions that we’re subject to because all the stocks have been over harvested. So, we dedicated more of our capacity to fisheries and resources just to give us leverage to educate our community about what’s happening in the bigger picture and offer them a bigger role in the decision-making process.” [35:47 – 42:16]
 

Eddie Gardner (Skwah First Nation)

“So, when we look at it in that terms what does reconciliation means, it means that there needs to be a cross-cultural understanding of who we are and what our relationship is to the cedar, to the salmon, to the mountains, and to the fish, our salmon. Because we consider our salmon as our relatives as well. And if you see any kind of activity that is going on that’s bringing great harm to our salmon. We have to rise to the occasion and say – stop it! You can’t do that. So, reconciliation is a controversial word, because reconciliation means that things were okay in the beginning. But they weren’t okay, always in the beginning. So, we need to kind of rethink what reconciliation means in that context. It might be semantics to some people but it makes a big difference when you see the relationship that we have as indigenous people to this territory, and the relationship that other people have. So, for myself I look at reconciliation in today’s real world. Today’s real world is in a state of chaos, like it was a long time ago. And things have gone sideways in so many ways. Because when you look at the Indigenous philosophy, the indigenous relationship that we have with the natural world. It’s much different than how corporations look at it. Corporations want to extract, keep extracting, and taking, and taking, and taking. And not restoring, not giving back anything, right? Whereas, in our way of life, our philosophy is that we always have to give back. We always have to work in collaboration and in cooperation with the natural world, instead of exploiting it. When we look at the world of today, what’s the most defining Issue, you know, of our times? What is it?” [00:24:37]

Murray Ned (Sema:th First Nation)
 

“I come from an area at Sumas in the Fraser Valley, just a little east from here... they [settlers] drained the lake in 1924 that had all the salmon species in it and it was a major waterway for transportation, water fowl, wild game, everything, it was basically our grocery store and our economy. But they drained it... and our people didn’t even think that they could drain it first of all, and they were astonished when it happened. So how do you even begin to reconcile that lost of wildlife and resources?”

Murray Ned (Sema:th First Nation)
 

“With management... with contact came trade and bartering and so on, and then over time there were regulations imposed on us and that didn’t enable our ancestors to continue fishing in the methods and uses that they liked so then they ended up putting more and more restrictions on them until where we’re at today with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, because the fisheries act is probably a hundred years old too... so with that comes imposed regulations.”