If you know me at all I am very proud to be an Indigenous woman, specifically a Tsilhqot’in, Syilx, Kutunaxa and Dakehl woman. I am a reflection of the land and a product of my people, my ancestors, what they have endured has allowed me to be presenced here today. I’m going to share with you a part of my Tsilhqot’in story.
The Tsilhqot’in territory is gorgeous, awesome and generous. It is an extreme climate, I remember some winters being -40 and then the summers being 40+. When you drive in from town you can see that at some point a volcano erupted and spewed itself all over the land, volcanic rocks are everywhere. Tsilhqot’in are referred to as the River People, I like to think that goes for all rivers including the lava that must’ve flowed.
I spent a lot of my summers there especially throughout my childhood, my Grandpa would give us soup cans on a string to shake if we ran into a bear or a cougar. Did lots of berry picking and I remember hearing a story about my Grandma staring down a bull moose. We explored and explored. My Grandpa taught me how to do controlled grass burnings - which is as dope as it sounds. I’d help out with haying, cattle ranching. The Tsilhqot’in is where I first learned about what it meant to be Indigenous.
The land informs us how we live. We have to tie ropes around our waists to fish because the river is alive and ferocious. We have some of the last populations of wild horses, seeing them is like a dream. We also have some of the only sand dunes on the west coast and they are extraordinary.
And we have endured contact and the vile that it has brought.
1855 Settlers created biological weapons using blankets infected with smallpox killing approximately 5,000 Tsilhqot’ins.
On October 26 1864, our Chief Lhats'asʔin and five other Chiefs were murdered after we made a declaration of war against the settlers because they were starving our people and sexually assaulting our women.
The Chiefs were brought in under false pretences, shackled, tried, found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. In 2014, the British Columbia’s government Premiere exonerated the Chiefs of any crimes and alluded to the intentional use of biological weapons.
As semi-nomadic people we hunted and fished over a large territory and the settlers have made us fight for this right. In 2014, the court case of the Tsilhqot’in vs the Province of BC, the Supreme Court unanimously gave my people the right to claim our land. We have to be consulted if you plan on coming into our territory and doing anything that might impact it. This ruling was precedent setting.
This past summer of 2017, we were called “the wildfire warriors” by the National Observer.
“We were the first First Nations community in Canada to say no to an evacuation order.” Chief Alphonse
In an article my cuzzin Trevor Mack worked on which you can find here, explains why we refused the evacuation order and how we protected our own community with over 400 trained firefighters. When we decided to protect our people and the land, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police threatened to take our children away via the Ministry of Children and Family development and our Chief had to remind them that their evacuation order doesn’t apply to reserve land if the Chief and Council don’t sign a resolution. The RCMP then apologized to the Tsilhqot’in for their behaviour and threats.
The Tsilhqot’in have rigorously protected our territory, our land, our people. We have got a reputation of being tough people and boy - we earned it.
One of my favourite, actually my favourite thing to do is to saddle up a horse and ride the mountains in the Tsilhqot’in. My Grandpa and my Uncle Vic would take me out for full days sometimes, coming home only because it was getting dark.
Being Tsilhqot’in is about the land, protecting it because it is us. I fight for my land and my people everyday, it is what being Tsilhqot’in means to me.
For the love of my people,
For more stories like this and about my work as a playwright and director and how it intersects with who I am, come to this event twm at The Cultch at 6pm in the Historic.