Chief Anne Louie, who was away last week during the occupation, said Monday’s meeting attracted 90 community members and was facilitated by Dr. Ray Sanders of Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake.
“At the beginning of the meeting I read out my statement to correct several facts that were incorrect that were posted to the media and Facebook and everywhere else,” Louie said, noting she planned to release that statement later Tuesday.
Louie said she took exception to the Tribune’s story regarding Sheldon Wycotte and said he was not evicted from the home at Sugar Cane.
The only thing that was tabled by the protestors at the meeting was a draft of a meeting procedural bylaw, she added.
Protestors agreed to end a three-day occupation of the Williams Lake Indian Band administration building Thursday after the band council and Elders committed to holding a community meeting Monday, May 30, at the Sugar Cane gym.
The protestors had been there since Tuesday at 8 a.m. when they forcibly entered the building and told the staff to leave.
By Wednesday several people from outside the community had arrived to support the protest.
Suddenly at about 1:15 p.m. Thursday, Elders and band council members converged and began forcing their way into the building.
At first there was lots of shouting and fighting, but eventually things calmed down and the non-community members were asked to leave so the elders and council members could negotiate with the protestors.
Around 3 p.m. protestor Ernie Archie came out of the back door of the building. He walked down to the grass below and knelt down in front of an eagle pole of feathers.
He began singing very sorrowfully and then wailing.
A few moments later Band Councillor Willie Sellars emerged, walked down to where Archie was and the two men embraced.
Sellars then went and got his truck and backed it up toward the building for the protestors to load up their belongings so he could give them a ride.
Protestors Arnie Jack and Darcy Kobelt said they were hopeful the band would follow through with Monday evening’s meeting.
They had protested, they said, because they want the band and council to implement a policies and procedures bylaw for the band’s decision-making.
“We want a carbon copy of Williams Lake mayor and council’s,” Jack said. “We want the same procedures bylaw your city runs by.”
Kobelt said he is self-sufficient, but a number of people asked him to step in, unhappy about the way decisions are made by the band council about things like housing and how it is allocated.
Currently he lives in Lac La Hache because he’s caused a few disruptions, he said.
“The housing regulations stipulate I cannot be housed here. I put my name to a house I didn’t even live in because there were members here that were sleeping under porches and couch-surfing, but I ended up in arrears for that,” Kobelt said.
In addition to signing the agreement they would leave the administration building on condition the band council host Monday’s community meeting, Jack and Kobelt signed a second agreement saying they would allow all band members to speak freely without personal attacks at all future band and community meetings.
“They are afraid of us because we are pretty loud outspoken people,” Jack said. “We have guaranteed that we will always remain in a respectful way. That’s what they needed from us.”
After all of the protestors had vacated the building, Coun. Rick Gilbert invited media into the administration building.
He said he decided Wednesday he needed to take action because he was worried it was going to take weeks or several thousands of dollars to get an injunction to remove the occupiers.
The protest was interrupting the band’s businesses that rely on the administration building’s Internet and school for many children was halted.
As well, a deadline for a $50 million highway project was in jeopardy, said Acting Chief Heather McKenzie.
“I decided if it’s going to get done we need the Elders,” Gilbert said. “I thought they wouldn’t harm the elders, but they did. They were wrestling them all over the place. I’m an elder and I had three guys on me.”
Elder Virginia Gilbert said four people were wrestling with her.
McKenzie said Monday’s meeting will be for Williams Lake Indian Band members only, but she anticipates there will be band members inside the gym and non-band members from other communities waiting outside the gym.
“We are taking a sigh [of relief] right now, but I feel optimistic it will be a good meeting,” McKenzie said. “There are some serious discussions ahead of us, but the community will be involved, and chief and council will be actively working with the community like we always do.”
Elder Roberta Gilbert said there is no excuse for members not to attend community meetings.
“I’m pretty well crippled up and I go to meetings,” she said. “These young men who were protesting have no excuse if old crippled women can get there.”
From what the elders and band council members could see as they looked around the inside of the building, they said the protestors were “very” respectful of the building during the occupation, and nothing was damaged or stolen.
Monday’s meeting will begin at 5 p.m.