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Archival Sources and Voices 2

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Envisioning Reconciliation: Indigenous Governance, Customs and Law

Source: 1885 (April) Speeches of Cowichan Chiefs in regard to the Potlatch Act in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 174.

“At every village I have visited to invite guests friends came to cry with me at the loss of my son. I told everyone this was the last I would attend that truly wished to pay back what I owed not to lend more. If I am allowed to entertain my friends. I will see that no more property is lent, only our debts paid. If anyone do more than this let him be punished for breaking the law. It cannot be wrong to pay what we owe this is the only way to do it we are not yet like white people and it is one of our laws that these payments shall be done in public. If I am not allowed to hold the gathering the disgrace will be greater than I can bear. I should be sneered at by every Indian they all know I have always supported the government Dr. Powell. I am likely to be the first to be punished. I owe over 300 blankets and nearly as many dollars for other property. Food is already bough for the Potlatch, it will spoil what must we do, the stores will not take back what we have.”


Source: 1889 (February) Petition of the Indians of the Cowichan to Sir J.A. Macdonald, Superintendent General of Indian Affairs in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 175.


“We the undersigned Indians of the Cowichan Agency beg respect fully to ask you to use your influence to have the clause in the Indian Act forbidding the Potlatch and “Tamanawas” Dances repealed. In asking this we would point out that these are two of our oldest customs, and by them we do not injure any one... Some only [of] us dance now, and we do not wish to teach others, but when one is seized with the (“Que ul lish”) dance he cannot help himself and we believe would die unless he danced... We know the hearts of most of the Coast-Indians are with us in this, we therefore ask you to have the law amended, that we may not be breaking it where we follow customs that are dear to us.”

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Source: 1914 (April) Petition from the Capilano Squamish Band in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 180.

“All the Indians of Squamish band think your Department of Indian Affairs ought to know this and this is why they are writing you, the Petition which I speak of above is about the Potlatch and the Indian Dances, the Indians says we do not harm the Laws of White people when we give Potlatch and the Indian Dances. Indians big times was with Indians when God made this world and we can not stop it are no one would do it.”

Source: 1914 (April) Petition from the Squamish Band in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 180.


"We do not hurt the White men’s Law when we give Potlatch and Indian Dance, the Potlatch and Indian Dance has been custom to the Indians since God made this world there fare they say they do not wish to give it up.” (page 180)

"We the Indian Chiefs and Sub Chiefs and main mens of the various Indian tribes of the Province of BC hereby make our plan and petition to the Government of Canada in regards to our Native Costume [custom] as Indians and Children of the Forest, that we want our old Costume to stand by with out no alteration whatever, and we strongly submit the following reason. ...We earnestly pray to the Government of Canada to take considerations of our plans and petition, as the Government knows this is our own and it is our fashions. We did not imitate it from no nation but our own and we don’t see where we have harm anybody to be stopped. There are peoples reporting saying some severe words against us and what we’ve done harm to them. We don’t see. Therefore we can’t see why we should be prohibited as we don’t harm or interfere with nobody or don’t harm no nationality, but we dance among ourselves and in a peaceful manner and it is ours.”

Source: 1914 (September) Petition from Various BC Tribes in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 181- 182.

Source: 1914 Petition of Various BC First Nations to the Government of the Dominion of Canada protesting the banning of the Potlatch in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 182

“In the first place, we maintain that the rigid enforcement of the law against Potlatches would have a harmful effect in breaking up the unity of the tribe. The life of the Indians has for many generations been found up with the giving of feasts and Potlatches. This more than anything else, has given the Indians something to look forward to, has brought tribe to tribe, and has established friendly relations among the members of each tribe and among the tribe themselves... We plead, then, for the repeal of the Potlatch law because we see in it a real danger to our continued existence as self-respecting men and women.”

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 “We beg the Government to seriously consider that the aforesaid Indian customs are absolutely opposed to civilization, religion, prayers, etc.; that at the time of the Indian dances two or three months are passed by the pagan Indians in mere wild enjoyment…”

Source: 1914 Petition of Some Sechelt Chiefs supporting the banning of the Potlatch in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 183.


“The object of our writing is to strongly protest against the action which the Government has taken lately, for time immemorial we had our little festivities, we like the white people want to have some fun, we know they have their dances they have their celebrations during which lots of money is spent. Why then would we not be allowed to have some innocent enjoyment? Therefore we humbly petition the Government not to interfere with our celebration we let white people have theirs therefore we expect to have ours. We are oppressed from all sides we never have any satisfaction given to our many petitions sent in. We notice that all times the white people are listened to, but we seem to be forgotten. Now our patience is coming to an end and we hope you grant us our humble petitions and let us have our enjoyments as in time past.”

Source: 1914 (December) Letter from Cowichan Chiefs to the Superintendent of Indian Affairs in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 183.


 “That the Indian Act should be amended so as to prevent Potlatches, dances and other Pagan ceremonies carried on from time to time by some of the Indians in this vicinity, and provision made for imposing a penalty on those who take part in such festivities.”

Source: 1915 Petition Supporting the banning of the Potlatch in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 183.


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“Most of the said Indians from the Musqiem tribe was found up Squamish. Could not get money to pay their fare home and could not get work for to earn money to pay their way home and had hard times up their hardly any thing to eat. Now this year is same the last year. People did not earn hardly any thing during the fishing and hop times. The man that’s putting up the Potlatch he fished for money.”

Source: 1918 Letter from Simon Pierre to Duncan Campbell Scott in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 184.


“Your petitioner therefore humbly pray that steps may be taken to bring about the abolishment of this noxious law so far as they are concerned, and that a fair and independent person may be appointed for the purpose of inquiring into the matter and collecting evidence, in order that the Government may have authoritative knowledge concerning the nature of these festivals and to what extent objections there to are of substance.”

Source: 1921 (March) Petition from the Indians of Vancouver Island and Adjacent Islands to Arther Meighan, the Premier of Canada in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 185.


“The Indians of British Columbia, prior to the advent of the Whiteman, had achieved a social and political organization very high for a primitive people. Owing to the fact that they were without writing, the only alternative was the administration of all their affairs with certain ceremonies, solemnities and certain publicity: this was done through what is commonly termed the “Potlatch.” The Potlatch in its broadest sense is the gathering of those who are directly or indirectly concerned, either of one tribe, or more than one tribe, for the formal publication of some event whereby the status of an individual, or group of individuals with respect to another individual, or group of individuals, or to the tribe or nation was altered or fixed. The extent of the evens thus proclaimed was extremely wide, including political or administrative, judicial, economical and social... It cannot be too strongly stated that the Potlatch as an institution was not a religious institution, nor a heathenish rite, but was the machinery through which the organisation of the Indians was perfected and the will of the people... There is no reason why the Potlatch practiced to the limited extent desired by the Indians, should in any way conflict with the existing institutions of the Whitemen, owing to the fact that the scope of the Potlatch institution desired by the Indians is merely supplement the Whitemen’s institutions where our laws do not function.”


Source: 1922 (February) Petition to the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs from Various BC Indian Tribes Protesting the banning of the Potlatch in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 187-190.


“The Creator gave us laws that govern all our relationships to live in harmony with nature and mankind. The laws of the Creator defined our rights and responsibilities.”

Source: “Stó:lō 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, 28 – 30.


Source: 1976 (June) Musqueam Declaration in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 191.

 “Our ancestors aboriginal right and our aboriginal right, is to live upon and travel over our aboriginal lands, seas and waters without foreign control or restriction; to utilize, trade and consume all the resources and products of those lands, waters and seas. It is our right to govern ourselves and our communities to up-hold and determine our own customs, beliefs and laws. ...We announce our intent to establish control of our own communities and our own resources in order to control, determine and guarantee our future.”

Source: Letter from Gilbert M. Sproat to the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs. Library and Archives Canada. RG 10, Reel C-10117, Volume 3669, File 10 691. “Correspondence regarding the Potlatch and an Indian Confederation in British Columbia (newspaper clippings). 1878 – 1879.”

“The writer I believe is not unknown at Ottawa. He is one of a class of “Old Residents” here whose notion of Indian management is terrorism and who after using efforts to prevent the Indians getting pieces of land seems now to have his race prejudice stirred to its depths by the simple proposed of the Indians to take steps for educating their children and doing other things connected with the material and social wellbeing of the people.”

“11. With such beacons to guide our steps, and profiting by the lessons of experience so acquired, we may perhaps succeed in escaping the manifest evils of both systems; the great expense and the debasing influences of the American system, by making the Indians independent and the settlements self-supporting; and to avoid the rock on which were wrecked the hopes of the Spanish missions, I think it would be advisable studiously to cultivate the pride of independence, so ennobling in its effects, and which the savage largely possesses from nature and early training.
12. I would, for example, propose that every family should have a distinct portion of the reserve land assigned for their use, and to be cultivated by their own labor, giving them however, for the present, no power to sell or otherwise alienate the land; that they should be taught to regard that land as their inheritance; that the desire should be encourage and fostered in their minds of adding to their possessions, and devoting their earning to the purchase of property apart from the reserve, which would be left entirely at their own disposal and control; that they should in all respects be treated as rational beings, capable of acting and thinking for themselves; and lastly that they should be placed under proper moral and religious training, and left, under the protection of the laws, to provide for their own maintenance and support.”


Source: Excerpt written by Douglas in address to the Secretary of State in 1859 but provided by Sproat to illustrate Douglas’ policy towards Indigenous peoples in British Columbia. Library and Archives Canada. RG 10, Reel C-10117, Volume 3669, File 10 691. “Correspondence regarding the Potlatch and an Indian Confederation in British Columbia (newspaper clippings). 1878 – 1879.”

Source: L. Vankoughnrt. “Report of the Deputy Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs.” Indian Affairs Annual Reports, 1879, page 15.

“A movement was inaugurated among the same Indians to amalgamate the different bands composing the Neklakapamuk Tribe under one Head Chief and a Council. It was not, however, considered politic to recognise the proposed confederation, and the Indian Superintendents and Indian Reserve Commissioner were instructed to the above effect, and requested to discourage the movement.
            The Commissioner reports that owing to the settlement of white people on the most of the valuable lands in the District of New Westminster, it was most difficult to adjust matters in that section of country for the Lower Fraser Indians.”


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            “I have attended the Indian meeting at Lytton and have now to describe what took place. The meeting was the most interesting Indian meeting which has taken place in this country, for it was _______ by themselves for their own purposes; and the whole business was managed by themselves.
            The discussions, I am told, embraced a variety of subjects such as the Govt[?] would wish the Indians to consider.
            They came to decisions on some ______, and left other matters over for consideration, or for my decision as their referee in open council.
            I annex[?] a list of the tribes present or represented. They form a large group of Indians extending about 80 miles of Fraser River about 50 miles up the Thompson River about 80 miles up the Nicola River, and 50 miles on the Similkameen[?] River.
            Though scattered over the great extent, they are sharply defied as a “nation” or group, distinct from the Flatheads in the New Westminster District and _____ from the Shuswaps and Okangans South east and north of them.
... I was not present at their daily meetings, and did not direct their discussions. They did it at[?] themselves, sending occasionally a committee to confer with me on ______ ____, and to what would not be ______ the laws of the province.
            It is certain that these Indians can be easily trained to manage their own affairs ______, with a little guidance and encouragement at the _____ and thus the expense of white agents amongst this large group of Indians might ______ for visits when ______, be saved to a large extent, because the chief administrative officer could do almost everything through the Head Chief.”

Source: Letter from Commissioner Gilbert M. Sproat to the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs. Library and Archives Canada. RG 10, Reel C-10117, Volume 3669, File 10 691. “Correspondence regarding the Potlatch and an Indian Confederation in British Columbia (newspaper clippings). 1878 – 1879.”

Source: Letter from Allen C. Anderson, Indian Res. Comm. For the Dominion Government to the Attorney General and Premier of British Columbia. Library and Archives Canada. RG 10, Reel C-10117, Volume 3669, File 10 691. “Correspondence regarding the Potlatch and an Indian Confederation in British Columbia (newspaper clippings). 1878 – 1879.”

“We greatly deprecate any system which will allow Indians to have independent judicial authority __________ to enable them to enforce restrictive laws with ______, as we consider that all law should reach both the Indian and the white through the same tribunal.
            We consider as unwise and premature the union of semi-civilized Indians upon a basis which ignores religions teaching, and are of opinion that this circumstance alone would render the proceeding unworthy of any official ________.
            We desire especially to bring to your notice that the past safely and security which we have enjoyed in the Province is owing to the fact that the large Indian population of the Country has been divided into _____ all bands without a head Chief possessing general authority or influence, and without the ability to unite and constitute themselves a powerful and formidable force.
            ... That at the present time these hereditary Chiefs have little authority or influence for good, and in our opinion a combination of the sustained by official authority as proposed by M. Sproat is a grave mistake which cannot be for strongly deprecated or too speedily rectified – On the other hand should the action of the Commissioner by sustained by the Government of the Dominion it is certain to be attended with enormous and constant expense with serious trouble, and probably bloodshed, arising from the _____________ of uncivilized Indians to enforce laws amongst themselves without constant appeals ________ authority.
....we venture to suggest, for the consideration of the Government, that any interference with Tribes in that extensive locality where important fishery interest are involved, apart from the great expense of such a proceeding, can only be productive of evil, as the safest and most practical method of dealing with lands at present _____________ by intertribal laws and where there are few if any white settlers, is to set them aside from time to time as emergencies arise and the Knowledge of the Government as to the real necessities of the Indians justifies.”

Source:  Library and Archives Canada. RG 10, Reel C-10107, Volume 3617, File 4563. “Personal memorandum regarding the Indian situation in British Columbia from Gilbert Malcolm Sproat 1883.”

“Two things give me hope that, at least, a suitable parallelism in their institutions, and ours may be established. Being unorganized, or loosely organized, they are cooperatively[?] plastic[?] on the hands of the __________. Again, of our own institutions, it may be said, that...[corner missing] they present no great hindrance to Indian institutions, in some respect _____ though now infiltrated[?] with a complex social state they _____ [corner missing] a natural growth.”

Source: Library and Archives Canada. RG 10, Reel C-10122, Volume 3696, File 15 314.

“Lytton Agency – Correspondence regarding the Indians living between Yale and the Fraser River who wished to organize, under the Indian Act, in a similar manner to the Nehlakapamuks. 1879.”
“...stating that the Indians between Yale and the mouth of the Fraser River want to organize as the Neklakapamuk Indians.”


Source: “The Great Meeting of Indians At Lytton.” Mainland Guardian. August 23rd, 1879, page 3. Retrieved  from

            “The resolutions given in last issue were those adopted by the entire ________ of Indians; the following are those framed and adopted by a council of four, and subsequently submitted to and accepted by, the full meeting. On the mode of proceeding being explained to the Commissioner, he naturally suggested that in the event of a disagreement, it was quite possible that they might come to a deadlock in the event of the Council being equally divided. This however, they stated was never the case; if there was any dispute they went out and argued the point, always returning perfectly in accord. This is a very remarkable feature in the Indian character.
... PROCEEDINGS OF TRIBAL COMMITTEES COUNCIL.- The Tribal Committees of Council must give notice to the tribe they are going to sit to hear a case, they must hear it, and state their _____ and their decision, in open ____, and their decision must be noted ___ time so as to be remembered, and ___ not be changed after sitting of court[?].
            They are not empowered to imprison ____ persons, but if any one does not taxes, fines, or assessed damages, the committee may take his property for the ____ and sell it; and if the person has sufficient property, or the Committee ___, for good reasons, not to press for ___ fine at once, they may give the ____ time to pay it in, but the whole amount of the one must be paid, and the particulars of all outstanding fines, or portions of fines or monies due to respect of taxes or assessed damages, must, together with the names of the defaulters, be reported by the Tribal Chief to the Council at its annual meeting.
            22. Every person in a tribe is strictly enjoined to respect the proceedings of the Committee of Council, and to assist in enforcing their decisions.
            LYTTON, B.C., 17th July, 1879.
            The Nekla-kap-a-muk Council framed and agreed to these twenty-two rules in my presence, and requested me to submit them for confirmation by the Governor-in-Council in accordance with clause 64 of the Indian Act, 1870.”

Contemporary Stó:lō Voices through Social Media

Source: “Indians were Kind.” Chilliwack Progress. September 10th, 1914, page 1.


“A case exemplifying the real brotherhood of man, as the aboriginies look at the principle, is related in connection with the arrival of the Indians at the hop yards last week... The Indians, however, showed the woman and children consideration, providing food and blankets. They brought the case to the attention of the authorities but with little success. The woman’s strange benefactors, however, prevailed and the next morning the much perplexed mother started to earn something to provide food for her children. She will now, no doubt, be well looked after through the generosity of valley people.”

Jago, Robert

Jago is a head of an educational firm and writer on numerous different platforms, regularly contributing to The Walrus and CANADALAND. Jago is a member of the Kwantlen First Nation. He shares a lot of his writing and thoughts through the platform of his blog, often making political critiques.

Source:Jago, R. (2018, June 14). Walrus Magazine 15th Anniversary Speech: The Future of First Nations. Retrieved from



“ the generations progress the scope of our resurgence will only expand – and as it expands, it will move from faith, more and more into politics, and ultimately the thing we Natives all see as the end points – land and sovereignty. This is the only thing you can universally generalize about Natives, we all want the land back...

A Vision of Canada in 2068:

This is a Canada where the map has changed – drastically. We have moved beyond treaties, there is no Department of Indian Affairs, but there ARE 10 or so provinces, 3 territories, and 2 dozen Indigenous Republics.Each Republic in total control of their territory, entirely self-governing with all the powers of a province – and more – and an integral part of a new Canadian Union of peoples. With no blockades or blocked pipelines, but where we all develop and build together.”

Source: Jago, R. (2017, March 29). The fatal flaw in the nation-to-nation agenda. Retrieved from

“In principle, a renewed nation-to-nation partnership is a good thing; Canada is finally trying to live up to its obligations. However, many First Nations people see the nation-to-nation relationship as one between the band and the federal government, or even between certain elements of Indigenous civil society and the federal government. Few if any Indigenous people see that relationship vested in the Assembly of First Nations. However, this budget sets the stage for an AFN-led nation-to-nation partnership:”

“The budget makes a promise to work with the AFN but makes no mention of a nation-to-nation relationship with bands.”

“While this budget — in spite of its glaring omissions and deferred funding — is promising, the nation-to-nation path Trudeau is locking in with this budget seems tailor-made to disrupt and obstruct any future progress.” 

Maracle, Lee

Stó:lō author, poet, eductor, and activist. She has had a large impact through her writing, publishing many books throughout her career. She focuses on the action that is needed for reconciliation to be meaningful.

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Source: Twitter:

Maracle, L. [MaracleLee]. (2019, Jan 9). [Tweet]. Retrieved from

“First, recognize that we have rights as nations, respect both the treaties and UNDRIP, then we can talk about peace and friendship, or reconciliation or any other conversation Canda wishes to have - Get Off My Foot first.”

Contemporary Non-Stó:lō Indigenous Voices through Social Media

Belcourt, Christi

Organizer with the Onaman Collective, working towards resurgence of language and land based practices. She describes herself as “a community based artist, environmentalist and advocate for the lands, waters and Indigenous peoples”. In her discussion of reconciliation she almost always brings it back to the land, saying that reconciliation is not possible without the return of land. She places importance on protecting the land and water and her artwork focuses on these themes. She also talks about language learning and the injustices in Canada’s child services.

Source: Belcourt, C. (2016, Nov) The Revolution has Begun/Published by Onaman Collective [Video file]. Retrieved from

“Land is the most important thing that is overlooked when we talk about things like reconciliation or nation to nation. The return of stolen lands and the respect for indigenous nations to set up their own sovereign and autonomous government structures using indigenous law is not on the table. I do not believe that Canadian law is superior to our own. The imposition of Canadian law onto our nation’s is a continued affront to our existence as self-determining peoples. I want Canadians to begin to grapple with this. As uncomfortable as it may be. To reconcile themselves to the hard truth, so that they can begin to let go of the crown lands that they have claimed as their own.” (7:44-8:41)

Source: Belcourt, C. [christibelcourt]. (2019, Feb 18) [Tweet]. Retrieved from

“And people may think this is not possible but why would we ever give up on the dream of independence and the restoration of our own laws in our own lands? Laws that our ancestors governed themselves by for literally 10’s of thousands of years.”

Source: Belcourt, C. [christibelcourt]. (2018, April 24). [Tweet]. Retrieved from

“But in the current state of things how can their be? Programs, services and money will never fix this.Only the restoration of what was stolen from us will- our independence from Canada and the right to govern ourselves and our lands as the Nations we are. Not under Canada.”  

Source: Belcourt, C. [christibelcourt]. (2017, Sept 21). [Tweet]. Retrieved from

“I'm often asked what can Canadians do towards reconciliation? Land. Return land. Return vast territories.”

Source: Belcourt, C. [christibelcourt]. (2016, May 30). [Tweet]. Retrieved from

“Restoration, correction, restitution, repatriation 1st. Then we will see how, when,  if reconciliation is possible. #reconciliation”


Source: Bellegarde, P. (2015, Dec 16). [Facebook status update]. Retrieved from

“Today was a productive discussion with the Prime Minister and seven Cabinet Ministers on how we can begin work towards real reconciliation. It was clear at today’s meeting that working nation-to-nation means that First Nations, the Metis Nation and Inuit peoples each need their own approach with government. We are distinct peoples with our own unique rights, approaches and priorities. We will stand with our Indigenous brothers and sisters in calling for action and engagement but the ongoing relationship must be bilateral, not multilateral. This is how we will close the gap in the quality of life between First Nations people and Canadians. This is how we will realize the promise of reconciliation and a nation-to-nation relationship.”

Bellegarde, Perry

National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations since 2014, he has had many years of leadership experience in various positions. He is from the Little Black Bear First Nation. The vision that he has articulated as the Nation Chief of the AFN is “establishing processes for self-determination; recognition of inherent Aboriginal and Treaty rights; the revitalization and retention of indigenous languages; and establishing a new relationship with the Crown” (AFN, n.d.).

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Chamberlin, Robert

Chief Robert Chamberlin is a member of the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation. He serves as the elected Chief Councillor of Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation and as the Vice President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. He is currently seeking the federal 2019 NDP Candidacy in the federal riding, Nanaimo-Ladysmith. In working towards reconciliation, he has been active in advocating for Indigenous rights and title, and often talks about the implementation of UNDRIP.

Source: Chamberlin, R. [ChiefBobbyc]. (2017, July 8). [Tweet] Retrieved from

“Spoke w/ many Canadians @ #PaddleForThePeace #societal #Reconciliation w/ #FirstNations based on common concerns & understanding = respect”

Source: Chamberlin, R. [ChiefBobbyc]. (2016, Feb 15). [Tweet] Retrieved from

“Reconciliation is not the perpetuation of one group (Govt) continuing with presumed authority dictating "how it will be " to a people(s)”

Diabo, Russell

Policy analyst, advocate for First Nations Rights, Editor & Publisher of the First Nations Strategic Bulletin, campaigned for the 2018 AFN national chief election. His platform is “Truth Before Reconciliation”, he focuses on self-determination and First Nations rights. He is a member of the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake.

Source: Diabo, R. [russdiabo] (2019, Jan 11). [Tweet] Retrieved from

“I prefer if each community develops a plan to get out of the Indian Act on our terms not Canada's and force "recognition" of our legitimate leaders not elected through the Indian act or a municipal self-government system approved by the federal Cabinet! UNDRIP Article 18-Read it!”

Source: Diabo, R [russdiabo]. (2019, Jan 9). [Tweet] Retrieved from

“#ItIsTime for our First Nation Peoples to truly decolonize & implement Art. 18 of UNDRIP to choose our own reps through our own processes & institutions! We need the mandates and structures our our political advocacy orgs to change from Chiefs' orgs to Peoples' orgs! #DissolveAFN”

Metallic, Naiomi

Chancellor’s Chair in Aboriginal Law and Policy and assistant professor at Schulich School of Law where she teaches law, Metallic also held a clerkship with the Supreme Court of Canada. She is from the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation, on the Gaspé Coast in Quebec. Her approach to reconciliation is from the perspective of law.


Source: Metallic, N. (2017, Sept 20) Why administrative changes won’t kill the Indian Act. Retrieved from

“Talking about dissolving the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC)] “This change has the potential to move us in the right direction: toward greater self-determination and self-government by Indigenous groups in Canada (which necessarily entails ditching the Indian Act). But taking the easy administrative steps, without doing the harder work to achieve the long-lasting changes that will be required, such as transforming Canadian laws, will not result in true reconciliation.” (para 2)


“These actions are administrative in nature. They are changes instituted by the executive branch of government to the current workings of the executive government. They do not fundamentally alter Canadian law. A future government can easily ignore or replace these things with little effort or oversight. There is a long history in Canada of reform on Indigenous Issues purely taking this form of administrative action. For example, the provision of essential services in First Nations communities; the resolution of land claims and Treaty disputes; additions to reserves lands; and the negotiation of self-government agreements all exist only by virtue of administrative policy, they are not created or protected by legislation. The distinction is important, in my view, because administrative actions provide Indigenous peoples far fewer protections from the vagaries of politics.” (para 6)


“It bears pointing out that RCAP’s recommendation to abolish INAC was not a stand-alone proposal, but rather an ancillary component of a comprehensive strategy to implement Indigenous self-government. As a first measure RCAP called for a new Royal proclamation that committed Canada to forging a renewed treaty relationship in the long-term and to adopting several new laws (which the TRC also echoed in its Calls to Action 43 to 46). On the heels of the proclamation would come a suite of new legislation, as well as the convening of federal, provincial, territorial and Aboriginal leaders’ meetings, to develop a Canada-wide framework agreement that contained principles to guide the new nation-to-nation relationship. RCAP also put significant emphasis on the need for capacity building and support for Aboriginal groups to become fully self-governing, and called for the creation of national Aboriginal government transition centre to begin assisting Aboriginal nations immediately. According to the plan, Canada and Aboriginal nations would also devise a mutually acceptable long-term system of fiscal transfers.” (para 9)

Contemporary Stó:lō Voices

Source: Maracle, L. My Conversations with Canadians. Toronto: BookThug, 2017.

“History has been taught from Europe’s point of view, and Canadian history begins with colonization by Britain, which led to Confederation. It seems Indigenous people were passive bystanders, nearly invisible in the historical alteration of the landscape and the development of the power relations here.” (p. 32)

Source: Maracle, L. My Conversations with Canadians. Toronto: BookThug, 2017.

“Our cultural systems and the knowledge that holds them up must be recognized by the newcomers as the nation’s intellectual property that belongs to Indigenous children. Just as visitors from other communities within our nations had to respect our villages, we need the outsiders to respect our ways, our laws, and our sense of ownership. This begins with recognition. Recognition of the way we use and own song, dance, ceremony, and story, and how we keep these things in their original form and keep them in the family, cite their use and their origin, and how we share them with others.” (p. 113)

Contemporary Non-Stó:lō Voices from Scholarship

Source: United Nations. (2008). United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Retrieved from

               Adopted by the General Assembly in 2007, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples stipulate the inherent rights that Indigenous peoples have throughout the world. While not legally binding like a treaty, the Government of Canada has recognized and officially supports the declaration. Many of the articles within this declaration directly relate to reconciliation.


“Article 3: Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” Page 4
Article 4: Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for enhancing their autonomous functions.” Page 4 - 5
“Article 5: Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions, while retaining their right to participate fully, if they so choose, in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State.” Page 5
“Article 11:
2. States shall provide redress through effective mechanisms, which may include restitution, developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples, with respect to their cultural, intellectual, religious and spiritual property taken without their free, prior and informed consent or in violation of their laws, traditions and customs.” Page 6
“Article 18: Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision- making institutions.” Page 8
“Article 20:
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and develop their political, economic and social systems or institutions, to be secure in the enjoyment of their own means of subsistence and development, and to engage freely in all their traditional and other economic activities.” Page 8
“Article 23: Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to development. In particular, indigenous peoples have the right to be actively involved in developing and determining health, housing and other economic and social programmes affecting them and, as far as possible, to administer such programmes through their own institutions.” Page 9
“Article 27: States shall establish and implement, in conjunction with indigenous peoples concerned, a fair, independent, impartial, open and transparent process, giving due recognition to indigenous peoples’ laws, traditions, customs and land tenure systems, to recognize and adjudicate the rights of indigenous peoples pertaining to their lands, territories and resources, including those which were traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used. Indigenous peoples shall have the right to participate in this process.” Page 10

Source: British Columbia. (2018) Draft Principles that Guide the Province of British Columbia’s Relationship with Indigenous Peoples. Victoria, BC: Government of British Columbia. Retrieved from

“The principles will assure the Province conducts itself in a way that reflects a clear shift in an often troubled relationship with Indigenous peoples to a modern government-to-government relationship that is strong, sophisticated and valued. These principles create the space needed to exercise our respective jurisdictions for the benefit of all British Columbians. We will recognize success when we know Indigenous peoples believe themselves to be self-determining, self-governing, self-sufficient and can practise their Indigenous cultural traditions and customs as an important and respected part of B.C. society.” Page 1
Principle 1: “The Province of British Columbia recognizes that all relations with Indigenous peoples need to be based on the recognition and implementation of their right to self- determination, including the inherent right of self-government.” Page 2
“This opening principle affirms the priority of recognition in renewed government-to- government relationships. As set out by the courts, an Indigenous nation or rights-holding group is a group of Indigenous people sharing critical features such as language, customs, traditions, and historical experience at key moments in time like first contact, assertion of Crown sovereignty, or effective control.” Page 2

[ Problematic: what about before pre-contact?]
“This responsibility includes changes in the operating practices and processes of the provincial government. For Indigenous peoples, this responsibility includes how they define and govern themselves as nations and governments and the parameters of their relationships with other orders of government.” Page 2
Principle 4: “The Province of British Columbia recognizes that Indigenous self-government is part of Canada’s evolving system of cooperative federalism and distinct orders of government.” Page 3
“Government-to-government relationships, including treaty relationships, therefore include: developing mechanisms and designing processes which recognize that Indigenous peoples are foundational to Canada’s constitutional framework; 
involving Indigenous peoples in the effective decision making and governance of our shared home; putting in place effective mechanisms to support the transition away from colonial systems of administration and governance; and ensuring, based on recognition of rights, the space for the operation of Indigenous jurisdictions and laws.” Page 3
Principle 8: “the Province of British Columbia recognizes that reconciliation and self-government require a renewed fiscal relationship, developed in collaboration with the federal government and Indigenous nations that promotes a mutually supportive climate for economic partnership and resource development.” Page 6
“The renewed fiscal relationship will also enable Indigenous peoples to have fair and ongoing access to their lands, territories, and resources to support their traditional economies and
to share in the wealth generated from those lands and resources as part of the broader provincial economy.”
“A fairer scale relationship with Indigenous nations can be achieved by the Province, in concert with the federal government, through a number of mechanisms such as new tax arrangements and the negotiation of revenue-sharing agreements.” Page 6


Source: Anker, Kristen. “Reconciliation in Translation: Indigenous Legal Traditions and Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice. Vol. 33, No. 2 (2016), 15 - 43. Retrieved from

               Dr. Kristen Anker is a professor of law at McGill University with a focus in Aboriginal Law and Indigenous legal traditions. Anker’s article is based on the disconnect between the final report of Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Indigenous legal tradition recognition. For Anker, this cannot be reconciled without engagement and a cross-cultural translation where space is established for Indigenous perspectives within legal traditions and institutions. Much of our political and social structures, as well as ideals and narratives, must therefore be decolonized to produce better relationships. She also highlights that the establishment of residential schools was used to eradicate Indigenous autonomy and self-determination, along with culture.


“Given that the historical policies of assimilation aimed at the destruction of Indigenous languages and culture were based on a brute lack of respect for Indigenous law and sovereignty, it is fitting to consider that state-sponsored reconciliation must include a genuine engagement with Indigenous legal traditions.” Page 16
“The space of engagement is thus potentially an uncomfortable one, with "our" grounds always unsettled and called into question. In this view, it is not enough for the TRC, for example, to strive simply for "relational," rather than "cheap," reconciliation, without also opening up the idea of reconciliation itself to engagement with Indigenous languages and traditions.” Page 17
“Thus, recognizing Canada's multi-juridical legal culture in the context of the TRC involves not simply imagining the contribution of Indigenous law to processes already set and framed by a particular understanding of reconciliation but also requires having intercultural conversations from the ground up.” Page 18
“However, for the government, the civilizing project was seen as nothing less than the replacement of Indigenous ontology with a European one.” Page 19

“The TRC made Indigenous traditions of peacemaking a feature of its practice, and it emphasizes in its report the need for reconciliation to include respect for Indigenous legal traditions. This section shows how that is intimately connected with understanding the harm of residential schools and other colonial policies, not just as damage to language, culture, and community but also as a fundamental assault on Indigenous sovereignty.” Page 23

“Consequently, it is also then necessary to reframe constitutional rights in a way that redresses the damage to both Indigenous cultures and legal traditions. Finally, understanding any framing of the issues, whether as culture or self- determination, as produced by the histories of colonization turns our attention to deeper parts of legal thinking that have supported colonization, such as a particular way of thinking about sovereignty.” Page 23

“The family status examples illustrate in a nutshell the problems with state recognition of Indigenous laws as practices. First, is the effect of recognizing customary arrangements to be that of statutory forms or that of Indigenous custom? In the case of adoption, most litigation arises because the plaintiffs seek the benefits or rights that accrue to official adoptive parents and, thus, seek to have their customary arrangement treated as equivalent to other adoptions.” page 26

Source: Guadry, Adam. “Fantasies of Sovereignty: Deconstructing British and Canadian Claims to Ownership of the Historic North-West.” Native American and Indigenous Studies.Vol. 3, No. 1 (2016) 46 - 74. Retrieved from:

            Dr. Adam Guadry is a Métis scholar in the Native Studies Department at the University of Alberta. In this article Guadry analyzes the claim that the Hudson’s Bay Company had legitimate ownership over the territory known as the North-West, which was sold to Canada in 1870 without consultation of the large and diverse Indigenous communities who live there.
This for Guadry, means that “at the heart of Canadian claims to ownership of Indigenous lands in the North-West lies an impractical mythology… that us[ed] language of discovery and sovereignty to obscure Indigenous governance already in practice.” He uses five events to illustrate his findings of the false claim: (1) the British Crown’s initial discovery claim at Hudson Bay; (2) the Hudson’s Bay Company Charter of 1670; (3) the Selkirk Grant of 1811 and Treaty of 1817; (4) Canada’s North-West discovery via New France; and (5) the HBC transfer agreement in 1869. This articles highlights the legacy of the Hudson Bay Company, the British Government and finally, the Canadian State and their failure to recognize Indigenous law and sovereignty, which has yet to be redressed in the era of reconciliation.

“Negotiated in London under British law, the transfer paved the way for Canada to populate the region with its settlers and to act as the territory’s primary political authority. In exchange for transferring these rights, the Company was paid £300,000 and received a one-twentieth of the land of the “fertile belt” in this newly Canadian territory… This claim reaffirmed the imperial logic of the day that Indigenous assertions of territoriality were secondary to European claims of sovereignty.” Page 46
The idea that Canada exercises exclusive jurisdiction over the “Canadian West” is premised largely on a fantasy that Europeans found a continent full of primitive peoples who receded from the advance of a politically sophisticated civilization, rather than complex Indigenous polities with intricate political institutions capable of controlling political events in their territories.” Page 47
“Thus, for Canada to be able to sweep aside pre-existing Indigenous political authority, it must rely on a fantasy of sovereignty, predicated on an inherent inferiority of Indigenous political formations that could easily be unhinged from their territories and replaced by foreign systems of power. Yet, long after the arrival of French and British empires to the continent, Indigenous peoples retained control of the region.”page 47 – 48
Discovery is a European legal convention that allowed European empires to imagine possession of “new” territories already inhabited by other people, establishing property and sovereignty over lands previously unknown to European empires… Their land was considered terra nullius, “legally ‘vacant’ and ‘unused,’ and open to appropriation by Europeans.” Page 48
“From an Indigenous standpoint, however, Canada’s claim was just as fantastical as the Company’s, since it was entirely divorced from the reality of Indigenous political authority as it existed in the North-West. A few fur trade posts, regardless of who operated them, could not create a broad claim to the territory superior to those who lived there—or more important the right to re-populate it with settlers. Nor could these claims compete with Indigenous political independence, which had very different standards of territorial legitimacy.” Page 60
“Despite its shortcomings, the Canadian fantasy of discovery in the North-West remained a powerful narrative for Canada’s increasing settler-colonial drive. It allowed all manner of rationalization for annexation, and even provided rationale for the belief that the territory was already part of Canada and thus under the scope of Canadian government.” Page 61 – 62
“Even though the transfer agreement satisfied British and Canadian legal necessities, the transfer’s legislative package did little to transform actual political authority in the lands it claimed to annex, or the opinions of the people who lived there. They were, in reality, unilateral acts by a foreign power, which at the time had little substantive effect on still-independent Indigenous peoples.” Page 66
“In general, Indigenous people did not recognize the legitimacy of the Charter, the transfer agreement, or other unilateral pronouncements of governance by outsiders. They looked instead to their negotiated agreements— the treaties and the Manitoba agreement between the Provisional Government and Ottawa—that established a Canadian presence in the region.” Page 66
“However, from a perspective based on justice, settler and military control of a region does little to establish the legitimacy of a government. It is in this sense that the series of events described above does not adequately explain how Britain, the Company, or Canada gained possession and political control over the North-West. Presuming that discovery underwrote British sovereignty and land title, the Crown and Canada consistently acted as if they were already the sole lords and proprietors of a region controlled by Indigenous polities, and indeed this mentality was what justified Canadian settlement and even military occupation on Indigenous lands. ” Page 68

Source: Simpson, Audra. “Reconciliation and its Discontents: Settler Governance in an Age of Sorrow.” Public Lecture. University of Saskatchewan, March 22nd, 2016. Retrieved from

               Dr. Audra Simpson is a Mohawk scholar and a professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. In this public lecture Dr. Simpson discusses contention surrounding the discourse of reconciliation within Canada and the United States. Simpson highlights the idea of the spectacular, which is visual imprint embedded within the media that allows for the optics of reconciliation and hope to flourish. This however is problematic for Simpson, as these visual representations of reconciliation are not consistent with reality. For Dr. Simpson, reconciliation is a contractual agreement that serves the interest of the Canadian government and settlers, as they continue to have control over the law and land. Therefore, reconciliation is a form of justice that places a (mainly monetary) value on pain and dispossession, which is no better than colonization.

“And here I want to say this a past that we all presumably depart from that does not form a departure for Indigenous peoples because our present collapses the past. It calls up the past as we contort still to make way for everyone else’s present and future. The story I am telling then is of multiple sovereignties and not only races and this I think is something that is not assimilatable or signable to nation-states, whose ongoing political lives are predicated on the elimination not only of Indigenous bodies but, the ongoing elimination of our political orders, our governmental systems, and our title to land... Yet, Indigenous sovereignty wrestles with the ongoing techniques of elimination, as this sovereignty and this is of course itself a signifier that sometimes fails to signal what it should... this sovereignty remains intact in our consciousness, our lives, and our legal mandates, our legal traditions, our aspirations. So my question then, is how governance occurs in such a tight spot? In a geopolitical context where sovereignties necessarily must collide, in spaces of active disavowal, disavowal of Indigenous peoples, disavowal of Indigenous elimination and disavowal of a prior, a history other than what is being told. Yet simultaneously in a context where we are now being told repeatedly [emphasis added], in every instance right on every level - popular culture, legal culture... we are be asked or told to reconcile with this difficult past which both here and not here and in doing so to perpetually start anew." (11:04 – 14:04)

Source: MacDonald, Moira. “Six Indigenous scholars share their views of Canada at 150.” University Affairs. June 7th, 2017. Retrieved from:

Abstract: This article discusses the 150th year celebration of the founding of the Canadian state. It suggests that Canadians use this celebration as an opportunity to reflection on the nation’s past, both accomplishments and failures. Within this article six prominent Indigenous scholars offer their opinion on what a “reconciled Canada” would entail.

Naiomi Metallic

Naiomi Metallic is an assistant professor and holder of the Chancellor’s Chair in Aboriginal Law and Policy at Dalhousie University. She is Mi’kmaq, from the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation in Quebec.

“In a reconciled Canada there would be a renewal of our treaty relationship, a recognition of Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination, and a renewed nation-to-nation relationship...Indigenous people and communities would be treated as respected partners, there would be the phasing out of the Indian Act and an emphasis on capacity-building within Indigenous communities with resources dedicated to helping achieve self-government. For example, universities could provide space, research and other services to help communities envision where they would want to go and how to get there. In this case, self-determination would mean that Indigenous people do not separate from the Canadian polity, it would be the opposite. There would be a partnership between the Indigenous nations and Canada, where the places of power would be shared."

Contemporary Voices from Recent Interviews

Carrielynn Victor (Cheam First Nation) 

“I’ve always thought that we as a people should have an economic base to work with and that we shouldn’t be clawing at the system for dollars that system insist that we are accountable for to every penny and giving back things that we don’t spend that in turn reflect how much money we get next year even though next year could be a different type of year... and the difference that it would make not have to do get out of the cage that is the system.” [3:20 – 4:15]
“Our ceremonies need to be uninformed by outside perspectives because the outside influences have already watered down, is the term in the community, watered down the strength. The logic and the reason of western science has diluted the beliefs and we see that in kids as they get older in the school system.” [27:45-28:18]
“The governments, the institutions absolutely need to begin to recognize that there are laws in the communities that exist and those laws whether they be in the form of communal understanding or a document, have been a part of and have sustained generations successfully, and they are valuable, and they are worthy of being included, and the work of beginning to adopt the policies and laws of Indigenous peoples is due. That work is due and part of it understanding that the values are beyond monetary wealth, part of it is understanding that cultural differences and behaviours don’t mean that people are more or less valuable and part of it is understanding that the system that we’re living in that’s informed by papers going back to England... the doctrine of discovery and terra nullius. Those papers are not successfully bringing us forward. Let’s look at what’s not working and let’s try to figure it out.”[50:35 – 52:10]

Brenda Morgan (Matsqui First Nation)

“Last week we met with them and one of the first things Matsqui pointed out very clearly was there was a reference to the provincial laws, the federal laws and the municipal laws but there was no reference through the National Energy Board for the First Nation laws and Matsqui First Nation, as all of you know, [we] have our own law, it’s called an Environmental Assessment Law. Well, why isn’t Kinder Morgan, TMX or any other proponent out there obligated to follow a First Nation law?... There’s a lot of promises that aren’t coming through and that’s a big one. You know, why do you tell us you’re extracting twenty-five percent of the Indian Act by becoming operational under the First Nations Lands Management Act. You know, we’re extracting twenty-five percent, quarter of that act and we’re bringing that jurisdiction home and then you don’t even recognize our law? You know it’s like how many more slaps to the face should we take? It’s just not fair.” 

Non-Stó:lō Voices

Matt McGinity (Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre)

“The protection of cultural values and interests truly do boil down to life and death in Indigenous communities. We’re talking about suicide rates that are far above the settler communities and these things are all interconnected. You need to have a sense of self and knowledge of your place in the world and the landscape and that’s what culture gives us.... that sense of belonging and place to be happy...”

Mike Goold (Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre)  

“...  And how that relates to reconciliation, it’s this slow recognition of other levels of government, slowly coming to grips and realization that there’s this entire other form of existing governance that’s always been here that’s been ignore and they tried to dismantle all those ways of that First Nations governed themselves before first contact. They’re realising that some of our tribes survived that and there’s still a governance system that’s intact that they’re fighting to preserve... to be recognized an respected...”

Mike Goold (Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre)  

“So reconciliation is always going to be tied to consultation but one thing that has always bothered me about the work that we do here is that we are paid to do our work through a government agreement. The funding in flowed to us through a government agreement and we are therefore, supporting their jurisdiction when it comes to making decisions. That needs to change and I’m hoping in my lifetime that that’s not going to be the way that consultation happens anymore and First Nation will be in a position to make their own decisions and whether their still a province of B.C. to send a referral to, maybe we’ll flip the scrip on them, we’ll be doing the intake [and] making the final decisions, we’ll send a referral to them and ask them what they think about it... we need to get away from this process... it still supports their jurisdiction and the pendulum needs to swing back so there’s some more balance in a way that government structures are recognized and respected not just our Canadian and provincial systems of governance.”


Mike Goold (Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre)  

“There needs to be acknowledgement and respect for First Nations’ governance structure... you know they’ve been throwing money at the problem forever and it hasn’t really solved a lot and it’s because the governments won’t honestly look at what they’ve took away from our communities at that government level... there’s a lot things they’ve apologized for and they’re trying to undo the injustices and terrible things that happened but governance isn’t one of them...  the last twenty years there’s been an understanding, if you engage in treaties the best you’ll ever achieve is the level of a municipal government... you’re be just like another town, village or city and that was not our relationship with our traditional territories. It was much broader than these postage stamp reserves that were given to us, it was the entire territory that took up from one ocean to the other... It’s there style, it’s there system, it’s not even a Canadian system, it’s a British system – it’s very bizarre.”

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Mike Goold (Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre)  

“... there is this entity the AFN (Assembly of First Nations) that I think might be the perfect replacement for the Senate. If you’re talking about abolishing the Senate or reforming the Senate, why wouldn’t you look to the highest level of First Nation governance and slide them into that role of governance and oversight and development of laws and legislation across the land? It would talk a lot of political will... I’m sure there’s a lot of Canadians that may or may not understand what they could gain from a move like that but it would spark some excellent debate and create a lot of awareness and if it was successful you could really achieve a lot... The Senate as it is right now it’s almost window dressing for the monarchy, it’s really paying homage to the system that they over from Britain. Why wouldn’t we as Canadians want a Canadian system of governance that represents al of us?”

Murray Ned (Sema:th First Nation)


“I think you have to get to a place where nations are managing their own resources within their own communities. It would be nice to have nationhood back at play but I don’t how’d you do that with what we have today in terms of all the infringements that have occurred.”

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

“All of a sudden this private property is what overrides our access to the river. All of a sudden the places we used to have trails... we can’t go by there anymore because it’s private property. As far as the government is concerned, private property is the strongest form of ownership and theirs, but ours should be the strongest form of ownership over private property and all you need to do is look at private property where they’ve interfered with our access not even to the fishing but to other things.”

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