May 2003

While the Declaration of the Lillooet Tribe, (May 10, 1911), published last month, is a primary document outlining formal notification and protest to government officials about the land title issue, in fact, the Sttimc have been actively involved in written petitions and protests to representatives of the British and Canadian Crown since the early 1860s.

As early as August 1864, the Sttimc realized the importance of documenting their grievances by joining with the indigenous peoples from the districts of New Westminster, Fort Yale and Fort Douglas in a written petition addressed to the Governor, the representative of Queen Victoria.

In 1873, a petition to the Superintendent of Indians Affairs, I.W. Powell, as a representative of the Canadian government was sent by the Lillooet, Lower Fraser and Bute Inlet Indians. Again, in July of 1874, another petition signed by 110 indigenous leaders was sent to I.W. Powell.

In May 1911, a petition was sent to Frank Oliver, the Minister of the Interior which was the department responsible for Indian Affairs in Ottawa. This petition was sent by the Shuswap, the Thompson (Couteau), Okanagan, Lillooet, Lower Fraser (Stalo), Chilcotin, Carrier and Tahltan tribes of the Interior of BC. It discussed in depth the struggle with the provincial government about the denial of indigenous title and dispossession of land that continued to occur. This petition states, in part, We wish to tell you, this question is very real to us. It is a live issue. The soreness in our hearts over this matter has been accumulating these many years, and will not die until either we are all dead, or we obtain what we consider a just settlement.

In March of 1912, a petition was sent to R. Borden, the Prime Minister of the dominion of Canada from Chiefs of the Tahltan, Okanagan, Thompson, Shuswap, Carrier, Lillooet, Kootenay and Stalo pressing the government to allow the BC land question into the high courts of Canada and England in order to achieve justice.

Another petition the following year, May 1913, was sent to Prime Minister Borden from the Chiefs of the Stalo, Chilcotin, Kootenay, Thompson, Okanagan, Similkameen and Lillooet stating tribal ownership of all the unsurrendered lands and natural resources and to request that the question of title be settled. The Chiefs continued to insist on a settlement of the title issue before discussions about reserves and reserve sizes were held.

Cathy Narcisse First Published in Bridge River Lillooet News May 2003
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