An often ignored, yet centuries-old, chapter of our history continues today
By Greg Waldock, Staff Writer
Though our province seems peaceful and quiet, we’ve been gripped by some of the biggest geopolitical problems in Canada since the 1970s, and arguably many centuries before that—and many Canadians seem to forget how hugely important it truly is.
Most people in Vancouver are familiar with the recent push to refer to the city as “unceded territories,” land taken without treaty from indigenous groups. This extends far beyond Vancouver. Across British Columbia, treaties with First Nations groups have been found to be either unenforced, severely lacking, or entirely non-existent, prompting resistance movements and legal battles that can last for decades. It’s these exact battles that make native resistance such an important topic in modern Canadian politics.
Over the summer, I was lucky enough to be invited to work with the Lil’wat First Nations to do archaeological work. While there, I spent time with resistance leader Johnny Jones, a historical man with an incredible past. In the ’90s, he helped prevent loggers from entering traditional Lil’wat territory by standing alone in front of a bulldozer after all the other protesters had been arrested. He later became a core member of the community, and active in securing archaeological digs and research grants, strengthening Lil’wat land claims in the area. This is why studying, learning about, and respecting native resistance is so important. Exceptional people are being driven to protect their heritage, resulting in new interpretations of British Columbia law, new ways for the legal system to operate in regards to land claims and private property.
But it doesn’t just matter for legal reasons. The Lil’wat, and the hundreds of groups like them, make up a part of the complex, amazing tapestry that is modern Canada. How our government treats them is part of what shapes others’ perceptions of our country, and our own perceptions of ourselves. First Nations make up an important part of the unique and diverse Canadian identity. Not just in their artwork or culture, but in the fact that these are real Canadians, struggling to preserve and grow their communities. That’s a pretty heroic chapter of our recent history, and it benefits us all to support it. Or, at the very least, to be aware of it.