Fw: Official Response from Chief Jerry Asp & Curtis Rattray - Chair of Tahltan Central Council
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----- Original Message -----
From: Gordon Loverin
Sent: Tuesday, March 01, 2005 10:45 AM
Subject: Official Response from Chief Jerry Asp & Curtis Rattray - Chair of Tahltan Central Council
Chief Jerry Asp & Curtis Rattray Response to "Dena nenn Sogga neh 'ine"
1.. Before contact with Europeans we had a system in place that provided we followed our mother in determining our clan designation. This system was put in place to help prevent relationships developing between blood relatives. Our concept of following our mother is still used to determine which clan, Wolf or Crow, our children would fall under through unions outside of our bloodline. In modern times we have interacted and procreated children from many other races. However, Tahltan genealogy links us to our ancestors who lived on the land prior to contact. We have Euro-Tahltans, Tlingit-Tahltans, other First Nation-Tahltans, Asian-Tahltans, and African-Tahltans. Today we have established that as long as you have Tahltan blood you are Tahltan and therefore subject to all the rights and privileges being a Tahltan person provides. These rights extend beyond the reserve boundaries and the recognized traditional territory of the Tahltan people. In other words, if you are Tahltan and living in Vancouver you have every right of say about what goes on in your traditional territory. The concept of those living on reserve having more say than those who do not has already been fully dealt with by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Corbiere decision. And, what the Court decided was that band council decisions impact all members and non-residence on reserve is a ground for potential discrimination under s.15 of the Charter. The Court found that members left the reserve for a number of reasons including social and economic reasons; lack of housing; limited opportunities for education; and history of the Indian Act discrimination against women (Bill C-31 addressed this discrimination to some extent).
2.. I recognize and agree that aboriginal people have been marginalized and discriminated against by Europeans in their drive to colonize and develop this country we now call Canada. However, that is a larger issue which will only be resolved by the collective effort of all aboriginal people and the governments of Canada and British Columbia to reconcile Aboriginal title and rights with assumed sovereignty by the Crown. Developing a mutually beneficial relationship with government and industry is our Tahltan effort to stop the continued cycle of marginalization and we do feel strongly that any development with our territory must adhere to some basic principles that the Tahltan Central Council has developed. Decisions about development can only be made through informed decision making by all members of our nation on a case-by-case basis. Our nation has not decided to place a political moratorium on development
3.. In 1910, the Declaration of the Tahltan Tribe was very clear, we are the sovereign owners of our traditional territory, that has not changed. But the declaration also directed that successive Tahltan authorities be charged with developing a co-management relationship with the BC government. (The Following is taken from the Declaration: "We desire that a part of our country, consisting of one or more large areas (to be erected by us), be retained for us for our own use, said lands and all thereon to be acknowledged by the government as our absolute property. The rest of our tribal land we are willing to relinquish to the British Columbia government for adequate compensation.") This means working with and attempting to develop a land and resources process that benefits both the Tahltan people and the provincial government. As the elected Chief I am simply observing and following the direction that has been given to all chiefs since 1910 by Chief Nannock and 80 other Tahltan Elders.
· As aboriginal people we hold a different opinion about who really owns our land and our position is that since there has been no treaty with us we are still the legal owners. As the Chief of the Tahltan Band I have not entered into any agreements that involve any sale of any part of our land. Existing projects cannot and do not contribute to loss of land because the Supreme Court of Canada in Delgamuukw decided that lands cannot be used in a manner that is irreconcilable with the nature of the Tahltans' attachment to the lands. This is important in respect to the non-economic or cultural aspect of aboriginal title. And, the court decided that lands cannot be alienated. Aboriginal title lands can only be surrendered to the federal Crown and converted to non-title lands. Tahltans are not participating in the BC Treaty process.
· The claim that we will have 6 operating mines within our traditional territory by next year simply cannot happen as none of the proposed mining projects have completed the EA process nor has the province consulted and accommodated Tahltan title and rights with respect. The Special Assembly held by the Tahltan Central Council in January was not consultation by the province. It was an information session sponsored by one of the proponents of a project. It provided Tahltans an opportunity to not only receive the proponents plans but also an opportunity to hear from other Tahltans generally about issues including the law concerning Aboriginal title and rights; mining methods, environmental issues, and social impact issues. In any case, even if the projects were approved, commercial operation and production is at least 3 to 5 years after each approval. So we are not under the pressure to agree to less than perfect deals and we cannot agree to any deal without consulting all Tahltan members.
4.. I do not and will never have the authority to make land sales or deals in our traditional territory. That authority can only come from the whole membership of the Tahltan Nation. I do have the authority as has been noted in the Tahltan Declaration of 1910, to help my people through co-operation with government and industry to find the best basis for satisfying our ongoing social and economic needs. And as the Chief of the Tahltan Band I, along with the Chief of the Iskut Band, have decided that responsibility is the Tahltan Central Council's. We did so because the TCC governance structure is a traditional government made up of family representatives forming a council. We felt they would have the clearest voice in deciding Tahltan issues concerning Tahltan title and rights and needs as a whole. They will ensure that development projects on our land meet our environmental standards, among other principles. That process has not been completed therefore we have not given 100 percent approval to any proposed project within our territory.
5.. Those occupying the band office in Telegraph claim that as a nation we are only interested in jobs at various project sites. That is simply not true. As a nation our interests and pre-conditions over development projects state no environmental impacts that are beyond management, a direct say in the decision making process surrounding development projects, resource revenue sharing and social infrastructure development paid for by developers. As Chief I recognize that Tahltan involvement in projects go way beyond simple jobs. However, I also want to say that the claim by those in the band office that we have low paying jobs is also not true. We have families that are making a good livelihood by Canadian standards from development in our territory.
6.. Tahltan people have been hunter gatherers before contact with Europeans. We deliberately took the lives of our brothers and sisters in the animal world but we did so with respect. We continue to co-exist with the animals in our traditional territory. However, we recognize that we have moved from a hunter-gatherer society to a different one and we must ensure the continued protection of our brothers and sisters. Our principle of respect still exists today and we will not allow development projects to suspend that which has allowed us to live in this land for as long as we can remember. Therefore the Tahltan Central Council works to ensure this principle of respect remains at the heart of development discussions and should not be derailed by action like that taking place in the Band office in Telegraph.
7.. While I respect the Elders position in the guidance of the Tahltan Nation as a whole, they are only one part of the decision making system. I cannot ignore the needs and decisions of the other generations of Tahltans (including other Elders) who have collectively indicated their ongoing desire for economic opportunities that enable them to succeed in a changing world. If we don't respect the institutions that we have in place for now, we will only sink into chaos and confusion. During the ongoing development of Tahltan governing structures we must work together to affect those changes. We cannot do so under the divisive approach taken by those people in the band office. I am publicly extending my hand to sit down, talk, and hopefully reach solutions. We have ongoing social, political, economic and administrative needs that must be addressed now, rather than splitting our nation for other interests to take advantage of.
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