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

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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This Dec. 2, 2020, file photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. (Johnson & Johnson via AP)
Interior Health notes 80 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend

108 people in the region have died from the virus

The Fraser River is seen west of Williams Lake from Doc English Bluff Ecological Reserve. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Tsilhqot’in National Government appeals Gibraltar Mines’ permit to discharge into Fraser River

Permit amendments fail to adequately protect the environment and human health, says TNG

The Horsefly Community Hall will be the site of a mobile vaccine clinic March 19, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Six COVID-19 vaccine clinics to open in Cariboo Chilcotin

100 Mile, Alexis Creek, Big Lake, Horsefly, Williams Lake and Tatla Lake

A Williams Lake area family living on Knife Creek Road lost everything to a house fire on Wednesday, March 3. (Photo submitted)
House fire destroys rural family home south of Williams Lake

The Macdonalds built their home on Knife Creek Road about 30 years ago

A special committee has been appointed to look at reforming B.C.’s police act and is inviting the public to make submissions until April 30, 2021. (Black Press media file)
Public input sought for B.C.’s police act review

Submissions will be accepted until April 30

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Montreal Canadiens right wing Paul Byron (41) fights for control of the puck with Vancouver Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes (43) during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Monday, March 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Captain Clutch: Horvat nets shootout winner as Canucks edge Habs 2-1

Vancouver, Montreal tangle again on Wednesday

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
New COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna care home includes fully vaccinated seniors: Henry

Two staff and 10 residents tested positive at Cottonwoods Care Centre

Excerpts from a conversation between Bria Fisher and the fake truLOCAL job. Fisher had signed a job agreement and was prepared to start work for what she thought was truLOCAL before she learned it was a scam. (Contributed)
B.C. woman warning others after losing $3,000 in job scam

Bria Fisher was hired by what she thought was a Canadian company, only to be out thousands

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

(Black Press Media files)
Hosts charged, attendees facing COVID fines after Vancouver police bust party at condo

Police had previously received 10 complaints about that condo

Most Read