Thursday, March 12, 2009

Aboriginal Issues

Mr. Speaker,

On Friday I had the honour to join my colleague, the Member from New Westminster and several chiefs of First Nations bands in a moving ceremony in New Westminster.

As the House knows from a previous address I gave in this chamber, the Chilcotin War of 1864 had a long term effect on the First Nations people of the Interior Plateau. Six chiefs of the Chilcotin nation went to war against Alfred Waddington and his men who were intent on building a road from Bute Inlet through the Tsilhqot’in territories to the Cariboo Goldfields. The chiefs were trying to protect their families and territory after 60% of their people had been decimated by a smallpox outbreak.

As a result of the Chilcotin War of 1864, six Tsilhqot’in Chiefs were executed – five of them in Quesnel and the sixth in New Westminster. While the remains of the five chiefs executed in Quesnel have been found, the sixth chief’s remains were never located.

Friday’s ceremony in New Westminster is a first step in closing a circle that has remained open for 143 years. This moving ceremony in honour of Ahan, the fallen missing warrior, recognized the Chief’s efforts to protect his people and their way of life.

Attending Friday’s ceremony were the current six chiefs of the Tsilhqot’in people, five former chiefs, several elders and youth from the Tsilhqot’in bands, Linda Price, chief of the Carrier people and representative of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Wayne Wright, Mayor of New Westminster, the chair and vice-chair of the New Westminster Board of Education as well as other representatives of the New Westminster School District . The gathering was welcomed by Sheral Wright, daughter of Chief Rhonda Larrabee of the New Westminster Indian Band (Qay Qay’t).

Mr. Speaker, I know the House joins with me in celebrating this first step toward resolving a long standing injustice and closing a circle for the First Nations people of the Interior Plateau.