Spirited Reflection: Serious Thought
Genesis 1, Verses 10, 12
10: “And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of waters called his seas and God saw that it was good.”
12: “And the earth brought forth grass and seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind, and God saw that it was good.”
God is Good!
Our lands/Territories are sacred in the Gitxsan Nation like yours.
The Gitxsan include 14,000 Gitxsan people on 33,000 square kilometers of territory in Northern British Columbia. Each Gitxsan person belongs to a Wilp (Clan) house, and each Wilp owns a tract of land called Lax yip). The Wilp is the Governance entity lead by a head chief, Sim o’gyet. The membership to each Wilp varies from 50 to 650 members. Collectively, the laxyip totals 33,000 square kilometers.
When the Gitxsan entered into negotiations with the Federal Government and the Provincial Government in 1994, we presented the following tenets or precedents to both Governments and these still this hold to this day:
- Protect the Land
- Protect the Gitxsan Person
- Protect the Language
- Protect the Gitxsan Culture and Laws
- (Non-Gitxsan) Protect the people who want to live with the Gitxsan within the 33,000 square kilometers.
Self-determination over our lands spiritually and physically is what embodies the sense of sacredness when we are on the land.
From 2009 to 2013, our Sim-o-ghets of Gitsegukla started meeting with regional and sometimes provincial officials from B.C. Governments, lands, forest, agriculture departments. A representative from the Provincial Aboriginal Affairs Ministry would sit in from time to time.
We were working together towards a sustainable land use Plan for the Kitsegukla River Valley. There are nine Wilps (Clan Houses) that connect to the Kitsegukla River. Five of the lax yip/Territories belong to Fireweed Sim-o-ghets and four to Frog Sim-o-ghets. The Sim-o-ghets (Hereditary Chiefs) are responsible (Caretakers) of the respective lands of their Houses.
We all worked together to identify the areas of protection for hunting (moose, bears, deer, and mountain goats, and other small game and foul) in the valley.
Drainage areas were identified for protection, berry patches and gathering areas, natural growth along creeks, as well as the creeks and the Kitsegukla River were priority for protection so fresh water would not be jeopardized by logging or mining activities.
A down side to our planning sessions is that the Provincial Government would change their participants for each meeting and we would have to re-educate the new bureaucrats.
At the end of the fourth year the documents were almost ready to sign. The Province asked us to review the document and dot the i‘s and cross the t’s. We did this, and handed back over to them to do the same. To date they have not returned the document. They keep making excuses.
“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”
The Gitxsan Nation is back in treaty negotiations in a very limited setting.
The Province insists that our 33,000 square kilometers is Crown Land. They say they are being generous in offering Gitxsan 4% which is 1,350 square kilometres.
”Thou shalt not steal”
The land upon which we live is sacred, used for sustenance; enabling us to practice our culture and traditions, sustaining our Spirituality leading to Self-Determination.
From ‘Embers’ by Late Author Richard Wagamese p. 88
“I know Mountains because I have stood on precipices and breathed. I know prairie because I have lain on my back and been absorbed by the sky. I know the ocean because I have immersed myself in it and felt the pull of its current. If I want to know life, I too experience its wonder and breathe in it with every breath. If I want to know possibility, I need to see its immensity and allow it to absorb me. If I want to know faith, I need to surrender to it and feel it pulling me in its unseen direction.”
Ray Jones serves on the KAIROS Steering Committee and since 2004 on the Indigenous Rights Circle , and is a Indigenous Presence from Gitsegukla, British Columbia on Gitxsan territory, and is a representative of the United Church in Canada.