Re-vote provides new mandate for treaty negotiations

Re-vote gives Williams Lake Indian Band a narrow mandate to move forward with treaty negotiations with three other communities.

Williams Lake Indian Band has been given a narrow mandate to move forward with treaty negotiations along with the three other communities within the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council.

Thursday’s re-vote at Sugar Cane resulted in 87 yes votes and 74 no votes, said WLIB Chief Ann Louie.

“We got the 50-plus-one majority,” Louie said. “Yes the vote was close, but to me that says the really hard work starts now.”

Leadership has been given the mandate to advance, but the level of the negotiations with B.C. and Canada has to intensify and the government has been put on notice, she added.

A re-vote at Sugar Cane was necessary because in February the vote was interrupted when protestors entered the voting area, smashed a ballot box and ripped up ballots.

“This time we had the RCMP and PD Security there to ensure safety for voters,” Louie said.

During the day Sugar Cane residents April and Jamie Thomas stood outside the gym where voting was taking place and had signs protesting the treaty.

“We are asking the NStQ to put the treaty aside so we can all become the Shuswap National Assembly to talk rights and title,” April told the Tribune, adding she is a spokesperson for the Secwepemculecw Grassroots Movement.

“We wouldn’t be pursuing rights and title like the TNG with the Supreme Court of Canada,” she said. “We are not interested in chunks of land that they are having us fight over. We are asserting our rights and title over all areas.”

April said she plans on taking their message to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

Later in the day, a van load of people from Southern Shuswap communities arrived at Sugar Cane to join in the protest, although Louie said everyone remained respectful.

“Right at the end there was a little bit of noise when the protestors started drumming, but our community members started up a legal game to drown out any negativity,” Louie said.

Responding to the grassroots group’s demands that all of the Shuswap become one assembly, Louie said the United Nations declaration on human rights states Indigenous peoples have the right to enjoy full rights as a collective or as individuals.

“We are individual communities and we see the Northern Shuswap communities working together as our negotiating body,” Louie said.

Thankful for the mandate from members to advance to the next stage in the treaty process, Louie promised leadership will continue to work hard to keep everyone informed on the details.