I am presently in the north of BC, Canada in Gitxsan Territory helping out an old friend Gordon Sebastian, the Executive Director of the Gitxsan Treaty Society. As a retired television director I have been asked to consult on how best to communicate the Gitxsan treaty discussions with the federal government… a new reality. The Gitxsan, having never given up their rights to anyone, including the Canadian Federal Government; are now reasserting these rights over 33000 square kilometers of British Columbia. This includes their tenure to fishing rights in the Skeena River watershed. It is an important time for the Gitxsan people and Canada, and I am proud to help.

We at will help them produce videos and train local tribe members to operate and maintain an internet Live Stream network so the Gitxsan Treaty Society and the Tribal council can provide clear transparent communications as this process proceeds. I have some experience in this regard and being retired, have the time to help out.

The Gitxsan have a long history going back thousands of years in self-governance and activism in general. I met Gordon in 1991 when a contingent of First Nations warriors travelled to Porto Rico to occupy and seize the replica Columbus ships on their way to celebrate the 500th anniversary in 22 cities across America. For those who missed the celebrations, you can thank the Gitxsan… they were cancelled.

After Art Loring, maybe best known for the Canadian Rail blockade in 2014 , along with three others occupied the Santa Maria, claiming the ships for the indigenous people of America, and ultimately negotiating with the Spanish Government for their safe return. Unbelievable I know, but this really happened. Not only did the Gitxsan receive an apology from the Spanish Government, but avoided jail to boot. Canadian writer and founder of Greenpeace Robert Hunter wrote of the incident in his book: RED BLOOD.

This action stopped the entire planned year-long celebration, and helped change America’s opinion of the once revered explorer. Today, Columbus is considered not only not the first European to “discover” the new world, but he was a butcher… not a hero as I was taught in school. The changing of public opinion is often attempted but seldom succeeds. This time the courage of Art Loring and others changed the world. Why and how you might ask? By having the courage to stand up against all odds to do the right thing.

As one looks at recent Gitxsan history the scenario of courage to stand up rings true with their history. From the 1985 CNR blockade, the Delgamuukw court decision in 1997, to the more recent treaty discussions, the idea of courage comes to the fore. We can all learn from the Gitxsan.( )

When I first met the group in 1991 the Canadian Indian Act was still removing children from their villages to incarcerate them in Government schools where their language and culture was stolen from them. When I first was told of this practice I could not believe what I was hearing. I had always thought of myself as a highly educated individual, and thought practices such as these were ancient history. In Canada it was happening as late as the 90s…. I was appalled to say the least.

Today the Hereditary chiefs have control of their traditional territories and govern themselves with laws and traditions that have served them well for over a thousand years. Their culture of conservation and their governing practices of self-reliance and fairness is something we from the lower 48 should emulate…

That being said, we can all learn something from not only the Gitxsan wilps and ayookw, but specifically from their examples of their courage. They have stood up for their people and traditions against all odds. Many other first nations bands lost or were co-opted by the white man, and white man ways. It was not easy I am sure, but their courage will win out in the end. It is a lesson for us all and I am proud to be a small part of what should become a future for us all. ( )

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