Henry K'odi Nelson of the Dzawada'enuxw First Nation waves eagle feathers in his band-bestowed position of kayudala (conductor) of fellow singers during a protest in Campbell River Saturday

Band members clash over split

Proposed split by band members draws protests from those opposed to move.

Paul Rudan

Campbell River Mirror

Wounds linger from a 19th-century massacre that displaced the tribes of Gilford Island.

More than 150 years later, the wrongs of the past have resurfaced resulting in a standoff over title, land, resources and cash.

On Saturday morning, things came to a head on the Campbell River Indian Band Reserve when more than 100 First Nations people from Northern Vancouver Island staged a peaceful protest in front of the Thunderbird Hall.

“It pains me to be here … the family who we’re speaking to are closely related and I love them,” said Chief Wedlidi Speck. “This is really challenging … but I need to stand here and I need to stand for truth.”

Chiefs and representatives from bands stretching from Campbell River to the northern tip of the island, stood together to protest the division of two tribes, initiated by the Sewid family.

It all goes back to a horrific incident, in or about 1856, when Bella Coola warriors paddled south to Kingcome Inlet and massacred residents living on Gilford Island.

As a result, the survivors were displaced to other communities, with the majority, about 50 people, choosing to live with relatives and friends at Mamalilikulla on nearby Village Island.

After that, the historic record becomes complicated, but both sides in the present-day dispute say they have history on their side.

“This division is being sought in order to rectify a historic wrong perpetrated by the federal government when they illegally amalgamated the Mamalilikulla and the Wiumasgum Qwe’Qwa’Sot’Em people,” wrote Chief Harold Sewid on June 24, 2013, in an open letter to band members.

In short, Chief Sewid has initiated a process with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada to separate the two bands. It’s a goal, he said, that was started 50 years ago by his grandfather and then his father.

If approved, the new Wiumasgum-Qwe’Qwa’Sot’Em nation would be seeking reserve lands and $1 million from a claim settlement that’s been sitting in trust.

Chief Sewid is hoping to hold a referendum to decide the issue, but the next step is undecided after more than 100 people showed up to protest the split.

“You can get into a war of words very easily,” Chief Sewid told the Mirror on Tuesday. “These are all my family and relatives. It would just upset a lot of things.”

His next step is to consult with legal counsel. However, the proposed split has angered others who assert that Chief Sewid and his family do not have, according to researcher Mike Willie, “legitimate right to the name, history and land…”

“The Sewid family is claiming the history, lands and authority of a nation that already exists – this is identity theft,” Willie wrote in a backgrounder handed out at Saturday’s protest.

Willie said the bands opposed to the split have been shut out of the federal process and have been apparently told, by Chief Sewid, that it’s none of their business.

The protestors, however, take the opposite view and point out the merger will unfairly take away land – including a sacred cave – and resources.

“The reason we’re so angry is they claim we’re squatters on Gilford Island and that’s not true,” Willie said in a phone interview Monday night. “We need a process to refute their research and they need to stop it!”

 

Just Posted

Holberg and Port Hardy loggers on strike get space at North Island Mall

Genoe wanted to say a big thank you to Dirom for allowing them to use the space.

Local author talks about his book ‘The Blue Haired Girl’

Adam Hayes sat down with North Island Gazette Editor Tyson Whitney for an interview about the book.

Voices for the Salish Sea: catchy rhythms and a little confusion

The show was brought to us by the amalgamation of two bands: Tiller’s Folly and The Wilds.

‘Cram the Cruiser’ fundraiser returns to Port McNeill

Cram The Cruiser has traditionally been the single largest fundraiser for the local food bank.

Campbell River mom’s iPhone containing priceless photos stolen from Victoria hospital parkade

The phone contained photos, heartbeat recordings of her late son

‘Kind of lacking:’ Injured Bronco wonders why Canada won’t fund spinal surgery

“I think if Canada can step in and advance this program”

Chilliwack family’s therapy dog injured in hit and run

Miniature pit bull Fifty’s owner is a single mother facing close to $10,000 in vet bills

Cougar destroyed in Penticton area after mauling dog, killing cat

This is the first reported incident with a cougar this year in the Penticton area

Feds not enforcing standards on Hungarian duck imports, B.C. farmer says

‘You have no way of knowing what’s in the bag’

No reports yet of Canadians affected by New Zealand volcano eruption, feds say

Missing and injured included tourists from the U.S., China, Australia, Britain and Malaysia

Vancouver Island blues musician’s mother’s home burglarized and ransacked

David Gogo’s 71-year-old mother has jewelry and artwork stolen in break-in

Dance cancelled after Alberta teacher’s climate lesson prompts online threats

School district near Red Deer cancelled annual family dance due to Facebook comments

In surprise move, defence won’t call witnesses for accused in Abbotsford school killing

‘Change of instructions’ results in defence closing case without calling evidence

Most Read