150 Mile resident awarded B.C.’s highest order

Neil Sterritt named to Order of British Columbia

Kerstin Styche, AIATSIS photo. Neil Sterritt, a resident of 150 Mile House, has been named to B.C.’s highest honour: the Order of British Columbia

150 Mile resident Neil Sterritt will be one of 16 British Columbians appointed to prestigious Order of British Columbia this year.

Sterritt is being recognized for his work with the groundbreaking Delgumuukw case, a landmark Supreme Court decision that confirmed the existence of Aboriginal title in B.C. and that continues to impact court cases on Aboriginal rights and title, as well as his continued work with First Nations communities on self-governance.

“It’s certainly humbling,” said Sterritt, adding that while he is being recognized for his involvement in the Delgumuukw case, he was certainly not alone in bringing it forward.

“A court case like that, really involved a whole army of people. No one person can accomplish that alone. We had a number of Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en leaders. It wasn’t just me, a huge staff and an incredible number of volunteers and lawyers,” he said, adding that the hereditary leaders especially — leaders born in the late 1800s or early 1900s — took a huge risk to go to court.

“No one can do this on their own, I just happened to be recognized.”

Sterritt is Gitxsan, and in 1984 was the president of the Gitxsan-Wet’suwet’en Tribal Council when he and a group of Elders frustrated by a lack of progress on land claims, filed a statement of claim in the provincial court registry.

The subsequent trial would last 374 days and set numerous precedents for court cases facing First Nations communities.

Being recognized now for that marks some of the change both the courts and governments have taken in addressing Aboriginal rights and title, said Sterritt.

“The B.C. government never ever acknowledged that there was Aboriginal title or Aboriginal rights in B.C. until 1992 or 1993 and that was after our case,” said Sterritt.

“It was a long, not just a legal struggle but a political struggle, and there’s a huge difference today between where we are today and where we were in 1975,” he said.

“The biggest challenge was changing the minds of people and changing the minds of the federal government and then also convincing more and more people throughout B.C. and Canada that there was a right to be wronged based on a lot of things, not just legal rights.”

While there is still a long way to go according to Sterritt, the next step, in particular for the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en will be to play a major economic role within their territory, as well as encouraging youth to continue the changes that his generation helped begin.

“Elders have blessed us back in the 70s and 80s and 90s and it’s our turn to start blessing our youth and bringing them along,” he said.

While now semi-retired, since the trial Sterritt has continued to work in governance with First Nations, leading governance workshops with First Nations communities both within Canada and with Indigenous communities outside of Canada.

“I decided that what I wanted to do was work where the rubber hits the road and the rubber really hits the road in the communities and that’s where leadership and people need to understand what is involved in running an organization and making it work properly,” he said.

In addition to recognizing the people of his community who helped with the court case, Sterritt said he owes a large debt to his wife, Barbara.

“I have a wife who allowed me the space to indulge in the Aboriginal title and rights movement, which really it was a passion,” he said. “So the Order of B.C. that I happen to be getting is as much hers as it is mine.”

Sterritt will receive the honour in person at a ceremony in Victoria on Dec. 14. He will be joining 418 other British Columbians who have been named to the order.

Last month, Sterritt was also awarded a honorary Doctor of Laws at the University of Victoria.

Just Posted

Photos: Women’s Spirituality Circle celebrates healing after wildfires

Gathering draws women of all ages from many backgrounds to come together and “rise from the ashes”

Williams Lake’s anual Irish Pub Bonspiel finals tomorrow

Curling Club hosts season’s final bonspiel

Cariboo Rotary clubs receive $64,000 for wildfire recovery projects

Donations from across country result in $16,000 per club for wildfire prevention and recovery

Future emergency preparedness key cornerstone of CRD wildfire report

Treat locals as assets, not liabilities, among recommendations

Northern B.C. communities offer affordable home ownership, states report

Communities of 100 Mile House and Williams Lake less affordable in 2017 than previous year

Therapy dog newest member of Victim Services

Puppy supports victims of crime in Williams Lake

Cirque du Soleil aerialist dies after fall during Florida show

Longtime performer fell while performing in VOLTA

Canada earns second Paralympic Games silver in 20 years

Held 1-0 lead in para hockey game from 12:06 of first to dying seconds of third and lost in overtime

LETTERS: Two views of oil pipeline protests

U.S. and other petroleum-rich countries aren’t cutting production

Canadian Paralympic team picked up record 28 medals

The 55 athletes strong had set a cautious goal of 17 medals for PyeongChang

Canadian comic Mike MacDonald dies at 63

Ottawa-born comedian had performed on David Letterman

B.C. VIEWS: Speculation tax, cabin tax or asset tax?

Targeting empty homes seems confused and ineffective

Inspections, training needed to prevent repeat of Fernie ammonia leak across B.C.

Ammonia is inherently dangerous and should be not used in skating and curling rinks, says one expert

RCMP move to arrest pipeline protesters at entrance to Trans Mountain work site

28 demonstrators began blocking the entrance to Kinder Morgan’s work site at about 10 a.m. Saturday

Most Read