Under the B.C. Treaty Process, the Yale Indian Band has negotiated a treaty for both lands and resources in the Fraser Canyon. The negotiations for the treaty largely took place behind closed doors, leaving other Stó:lō First Nations who enjoy both aboriginal title and fishing rights in the Fraser Canyon to speculate about how a treaty with the Yale Indian Band will affect their rights.
The time for guesswork is now over and the picture that has emerged from the treaty talks with the Yale Indian Band is both disturbing and deplorable.
The Yale Treaty is now at Stage Five of the B.C. Treaty Process, Negotiation to Finalize a Treaty. There means there is only one more stage remaining for the Yale Treaty, Stage Six, Implementation of the Treaty.
Under the Yale Treaty, Indian & Northern Affairs Canada, MP Chuck Strahl’s ministry, plans to turn over 12 reserves near the township of Yale directly to the Yale Indian Band. Additionally, Indian & Northern Affairs has agreed to dole out millennia’s old Stó:lō fishing in the Fraser Canyon to Chief Robert Hope’s band. And the Kuthlath Indian Reserve #3, which is currently registered to Shxw’ow’hámel First Nation under the Indian Act of Canada, will also be confiscated and shunted to the Yale Indian Band.
The hard feelings stirred up by the Yale Treaty over the pending removal of the Kuthlath reserve from Shxw’ow’hamel has prompted the community to invite Stó:lō Tribal Council leaders and government bureaucrats to a meet on September 11, 2008 to discuss the federal government’s one sided decision to hijack the Kuthlath reserve to make a treaty with the Yale Indian Band.
Presumably, a pledge from Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl, has promoted the Yale band council to fence in the Kuthlath reserve and post no trespass sings.
And to add insult to injury, the Yale band council removed a cherished Stó:lō memorial plaque at the Iyem cemetery and disinterred Stó:lō human remains without the permission of the Shx’ow’hamel at Kuthlath.
For those who may doubt the legitimacy of Stó:lō rights in the Fraser Canyon, consider the following: In 1905, the BC superintendent of Indian Affairs met with a large group of Stó:lo leaders in the Fraser Canyon and mapped family-owned fishing sites. Most of the fishing site owners lived in downriver communities, a fact largely attributable to a late-nineteenth-century migration from the Fraser Canyon to Fraser Valley.
Chief Robert Hope claims that the Fraser Canyon belongs only to his band. He also denies any linguistic, cultural and family ties with the Stó:lō . However, the genealogical record shows that he is a direct descendent of a Stó:lō family. Our elders even remember the day in the 1960’s that Chief Hope’s family was voted in as members of the Yale Indian Band, having transferred their band membership from the Seabird Island First Nation. Chief Hope’s mother was a Shaw, born and registered to Cheam First Nation. Both the Seabird Island First Nation and the Cheam First Nation are Stó:lō .
The fishing grounds and sites in the Fraser Canyon are the legacy of the Stó:lo. The ancient villages, transformer sites and family- owned fishing stations all have Halq’eméylem names. These names and places confirm the longstanding relationship between the Stó:lo and the Fraser Canyon. A short list of Stó:lō places in the Fraser Canyon includes the Three Sister Rocks, three-transformation sites known as Qelqeloqtel, Q’oyits, the Elk Rock transformation site and Stsaletstel, the “chair” “seat” transformation site. All of these places are linked to the Xe:xá:ls, “the transformers”, who traveled through Stó:lō homelands shaping the land and resources into the forms that we are familiar with today.
The Fraser Canyon is rich with Stó:lō history including traditional family names and family-owned fishing sites. Both the Fraser Canyon reserves and the family fishing spots in the region do not belong to the Yale Indian Band. These special locations are the birthright of the entire Stó:lō Nation. These realities appear not to have been factored into either the negotiations or the ethical standards of government treaty negotiators or the bureaucrats in Minister Chuck Strahl’s department.
The, Stó:lō Tribal Council supports the installation of a new memorial plaque at the Iyem cemetery . And the Stó:lō Tribal Council expects that the Stó:lō human remains disinterred at Kuthlath, likely with the blessing of the Minister of Indian Affairs, will be returned and laid to rest in their rightful places. A date will be set in the near future for a gathering to remove the signs and fences at Kuthlath. And on that same day, a day a ceremony will be held to replace the memorial cherished plaque. And from now on the Stó:lō Tribal Council pledges to help protect both Stó:lō fishing sites in the Fraser Canyon and the remains of our beloved ancestors from more ghoulish vandalism.