As the morning sky began to emerge in Williams Lake Wednesday, people gathered in Boitanio Park for a traditional send off of the Indigenous Land Title Express.
The bus, carrying youth, elders and community leaders, will travel from Williams Lake to Ottawa, arriving in time to take in the Nov. 7 historic appeal of the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s Aboriginal Title Case being heard at the Supreme Court of Canada.
“It’s a nervous but exciting time,” said Tl’etinqox’t’in (Anaham) Chief Joe Alphonse before the express bus departed.
Litigation began more than 20 years ago for the Tsilhqo’tin people’s Aboriginal rights to hunt, trap and trade throughout the entire claim area, including the right to capture and use wild horses.
Some of the elders who testified then are making the journey this time. Others are along in spirit because they have passed on, Xeni Gwet’in (Nemiah Valley) Roger William said.
On Nov. 7, the sole issue before the court will be Aboriginal title and William said the outcome can be expected to profoundly shape the future of Canada’s Aboriginal people.
Addressing the travellers, Carrier Chief Martin Louie said it took 90 years for the government to realize that First Nations were harvesting fish in a sustainable way.
“I have hope we will legally live off our resources again,” Martin said.
Standing next to Alphonse, Mayor Kerry Cook said despite a difference in opinions, there are common concerns.
“As people, as parents, as neighbours, as partners, we care about our future, we care about our children and we want the best for our people,” Cook said. “I look around the crowd and I see a number of Chiefs who I respect and I see that despite the challenges and differences today gives me hope.”
The bus will travel to Calgary today for a reception with local First Nations and will arrive in Ottawa by Nov. 5 for several events leading up to the day in court.