|By Eva Lyman|
I first "met" Jones Ignace, also known as Wolverine, as he sat in the prisoner's dock at the Gustafsen Lake standoff trial in 1996. I was there as a freelance journalist looking for a story.
The whole trial, and in particular Wolverine's blunt comments, and courageous defense of himself (after firing the late Harry Rankin as his lawyer), were infinitely more riveting than any TV courtroom drama. Above all, the whole story was evolving in real time with unexpected developments every day.
Later, when Wolverine was in prison, I arranged an interview with him there. He told me I was the first visitor he'd had, apart from his family -- and they could not get down too often. I made arrangements for further visits, hoping to cheer him up. We have spoken occasionally since his release. His commitment to justice for the Indigenous people, and his Secwepemc people in particular, is unflagging, even though he recently celebrated his 70th birthday.
There seem to be two passions in Wolverine's life: organic farming, and the fight for justice for the First Nations, not necessarily in that order. On other topics, particularly personal ones, he is quite reticent.
During a recent telephone conversation, I was surprised to hear Wolverine say he'd just returned from a trip to Montreal. He had spoken to some international anti-war group, he said. I asked if an update interview might be in order. Come on over, was his reply. And so I did.
The following is a transcript of our conversation.
Q: How did you get into activism in the first place?
Wolverine: My rights were being trampled in this country, so that was the reason I got into defending our rights. Our rights are entrenched in law, I feel it's the law we can rely on in this country. But in many cases in B.C. we tried to bring out the law, and the judges stonewalled the law. Because 42 times we put the legal argument forward, five times before the Supreme Court of Canada, twice to the Hague, three times to the Queen -- each time with no results.
Q: You traveled to England three times?
W: No, no. I sent Bruce [Dr. Bruce Clark] over. But Bruce was our lawyer here, and I believe he was the only lawyer capable of bringing the law out.
Q: So how far back does this go?
W: Back in the 70's.
Q: Oh really? Already!
W: Yes, and so far we haven't had the land issue dealt with. And that's why we got into that Gustafsen Lake issue, because of the [refusal] of the Canadian government to deal with their own laws. But as you know, they pretty nearly shot the messenger. And it was us who drew the line in the sand, and Bruce Clark who tried to defend us. They totally destroyed that person [Clark] because he was bringing out the law and the way the law reads. And this is what happens to people who bring out the rule of law in this country. There were three other lawyers who tried to do the same, and got the same treatment from the law society. Back in '92, I went to Vancouver and met Jack Cramm in his office. [Jack Cramm was one of the three aforementioned lawyers]. Cramm wanted us to recruit a support group for him. But I told him I was already working with Bruce Clark. Bruce was the only one willing to go to England. If we 1re going to make changes to law in this country, we have to go back to where the jurisdiction lies with the Imperial Crown of Great Britain, and not here in Canada. What Jack was trying to do was to deal with the courts here in B.C. We didn't feel we would see any changes here in this country. So we decided to go to England and do that.
Q: But that did not succeed either.
W: No, we didn't succeed, because the whole system is corrupt from top to bottom, from the law society to the system that represents the Native people. They won't bring out the real rule of law. These are the five things we have to face: we have to face the political, judicial, enforcement, and the media, and the fifth being the lawyers themselves. These are the people: the media to manufacture consent, then in turn it falls on the enforcement arm, who can press charges because you've manufactured consent through the media and then they go to the Judge who makes out the court order. These are the ways the corrupt system works. Back in '95 we had an attorney-general by the name of Dosanjh, chief law enforcement officer, who was [alleged by some to be] party to the falsifying of documents. I believe all the judges in B.C. already knew our legal argument, and what would happen if they looked at the law.
Q: So what did A/G Dosanjh [allegedly] falsify?
W: He was [allegedly] party to falsifying documents from the command centre creating incidents that never happened. This was forwarded to Herb Grey, the Deputy PM. This is a very serious allegation I 1m putting forward. I also brought this out in Montreal lately, and I brought this out in Eugene, Oregon, and then again in Seattle; I brought this out at the University there.
Q: On what basis do you make these allegations?
W. Well, I have all the documents. I also have the video "Above the Law 2" for which I never thanked the RCMP for videotaping themselves at the command centre [during the Gustafsen Standoff]. These are my charges. I am basing this on their own video.
Q: You mean the so-called "training" video where the police state, "Let's make the Natives look bad, and ourselves look good"?
W: Yes. So these are my charges and then falsifying documents, creating incidents that never happened except on paper. And yet it was brought out in the media as if it were the truth
Q: You mean the story [demolished in the courtroom] about the officers in the suburban being shot at?
W: So these are some of the things that had to be brought out.
Q: You mentioned some places you had recently traveled to?
W: We went to the university at Eugene with some young people to give a talk about what's happening at Sun Peaks, and to gain grassroots support down there. One of the things I brought out was what happened to us in '95. When Chretien talks about human rights and Canada being number one in the world as far as human rights go - why we've only been waiting for 130 years for the human rights to kick in for us. So if Canada is number one in the world, what's the rest of the world like? Then Chretien talks about banning the use of land mines around the world, trying to be number one in the world banning them, yet uses them here on Indian people in Canada for standing on the rule of the law. These are some of the things -- if this country is to heal, then they have to look at the rule of law itself and do something about it.
Q: The media create this fear that people are going to lose their homes if they try to honestly resolve the land issue. How do you answer that? I think that has to be addressed. Because people are scared.
W: Here in Shuswap country, we have the Douglas Claim that goes back to 1861-62, where we set aside some of the land for our own use, the rest being for co-existence. This is all we asked for, what our forefather, Chief Neskonlith, set out. Yet how many years is that since 1862? And we're still fighting the same issue. And here they say that one of the court cases I attended and I lost was because I never had time to research this area. It was in 1846 when the Crown assumed sovereignty. But if they assumed sovereignty in 1846, why was it that in 1874, after B.C. joined Confederation, that they took their case to the Privy Council in Ottawa and the ruling came down against B.C. on that point? On a point of law, and that's the Duty of Disallowance, January 20, 1875. So if the Crown itself assumed jurisdiction in 1846, then why was it they took this to Canada, to the Privy Council of Canada, to decide. The point is that Canada never enforced that Duty of Disallowance. So this is how they legalize their theft, by creating an illegal Indian Act. The Indian Act itself is illegal. Maybe in the future I'll challenge this part.
Q: What is the purpose of the present revision of the Indian Act?
W: The reason why they try to rewrite our new Governance Act is to make changes to the Indian Act -- like to give us self-government. But it's only [to be valid] in where the Reserve boundaries exist today. They're not talking about what lands should be held in trust by the Crown. In other words, they're trying to slide out from the fiduciary obligations to the Native people. So there's 207 legal cases against Canada today.
Q: What are they about?
W: About the genocidal policies of the Indian Act itself.
Q: So this is right across Canada?
W: Yes, 207 cases right now. But I would like to see 600-some cases -- all the different bands right across Canada, putting charges against Canada. Because there's a lot of wrong-doing by Indian Affairs and by Canada itself since that Indian Act was enacted in 1876. And 1876 was the basis for the illegal acts creating the Indian Act itself which made us wards of the government. This is what some of your people need to understand: what Canada is doing which made us wards of the Government. We have a number from the day we're born to the day we die. We never asked for this. These reserves we were put on, are, what do they call them - concentration camps. They're nothing less. And people have to understand this. They're nowhere else in the world -- maybe in South Africa or some other indigenous countries. But here in Canada? And Canada is claiming to be number one in the world as far as human rights go. Yet they heaped all this abuse on us. There's many laws been broken by Canada.
Q: Are you familiar with the 1910 Kamloops memo of the eleven chiefs to Laurier? They offered the immigrants half their land. That was generous. Why do we [immigrants] need everything?
W: The memo is just a piece of paper, but what our people brought out in it is good. But what that document does to us, it harms us in a way because in it we recognize Canada for what it is. When you recognize the prime minister then you recognize all the laws, while we're still sovereign people, should be sovereign people according to law. But yet we're recognizing them by using that document. If the chiefs go back and do a little more research, then they'll find that the whole Indian Act is illegal. Then even their titles of chief are illegal because Canada undermined the real chiefs in 1880 and replaced them with elected people.
Q: This was in 1880? That means a few years after the Indian Act?
W: That's right. So then in 1884 they passed laws that we can't hire lawyers.
Q: In 1884?
W. Yes, 1884. And that's been a law till 1951. So these are some of the issues, when you do the real research and you'll find all this. Again in 1927 they passed the potlatch laws, and as I say, by 1951 they probably thought we'd have forgotten about the land issue. And so since we don't write in ink on paper they feel that we forget. But we're still going on with the land issue. So these are some of the things that led up to the 1995 standoff. Because we've been stonewalled by the courts.
Q: At that time why did you choose Gustafsen Lake for the standoff?
W: Because we were doing the Sundance there and the rancher didn't want us there. As a matter of fact, that rancher did not have a survey on that property at all. But what the B.C. Government and the RCMP did in order to legalize something after the fact: They were halfway through my trial when they got a survey and brought that out right in court. So when we have this kind of corruption, by the enforcement arm itself, and the judges who are supposed to look after the law, when they can break that in our trial . . .
Q: Actually as I remember it from the courtroom, that survey was not even tied to the area. They just surveyed the dimensions, not the actual location. Not like a legal survey. So it still didn't tell you if you were on 'public' land or not.
W. Well it's not public land. It's still Indian land as far as the law, the Royal Proclamation goes. And that's the highest law of the land. And when you use section 109 of the Constitution Act, the 'subject to Indian interest'.
Q: That's how they began to use the scare tactics in the papers: 'They're after your land, after your home.' That's what first caught my eye about this case back in 1995. And I wondered 'What's going on here?' and decided to go to the trial. But it wasn't anything like what the mainstream media said.
W: They used the media like the Vancouver Sun, the Vancouver Province, BCTV, CKNW, and all these papers bringing out the lies for the Government. This is the way they manufacture consent. And so that sells a lot of papers for them. And we never got a kickback out of it. (Chuckles) These are some of the things I spoke about, I just got back from Montreal.
Q: So who did you go with there
W: I flew out with some young people who bought my ticket to go out. It was an anti-war meeting against all the wars around the world, and that Bush and the governments of the United States and Canada are putting out. But we had grassroots people from all around the world attended that meeting. And what I brought out was that in 1995 the Canadian Government, through the RCMP, declared war on the Native people at Gustafsen Lake. That's the part that they don't understand and they do research and find that the JTF2 was also present at Gustafsen lake.
Q: The what?
W: JTF2. That's Joint Task Force 2 -- the elite commando force that Canada sends in against terrorists.
Q: Like to Afghanistan?
W: Yes. They're over there now. Like I said, it's easy for the leaders of a country to declare war on helpless people, when they don't fire a shot themselves. And yet they call themselves very honourable people, when they sit back and use young people as cannon fodder. And so that is not right. And yet they still call themselves honourable. And if they're honourable people, they should be able to look at the law the way the law reads. It's the only way we1re going to have justice around the world. Land is all we ask for because land is how we live. We live by hunting, by gathering food. But yet in the year 2002, we're still after the same thing. And we're having more young people at the front lines now, so Canada will be dealing with that whatever they might call terrorists, but we're not terrorists, we're only standing for what is rightfully ours. So who are the real terrorists here are Chretien, Bush, and these people here who declare war and then have the CIA and the spin doctors doctoring the news which they pump out daily.
Q: So what are your future plans, your aims, and so on?
W: Well, I'm still trying to deal with the land issue in any way I can. I may be giving more talks. I may go to the U.N. in Geneva sometime in the near future to bring out this issue through the Working Group [on Aboriginal issues]. So I'd just give my speech to the Working Group to bring in. Something's got to be done, because we cannot continue to live. We hardly receive any money and what we get goes for the fight. And yet here we have leaders who are getting fat from the Government sources.
Q: There's a huge amount of tax money that goes to Indian Affairs.
W: But when
people think about that, they think Indian people receive this. But
what they don't look at is that bureaucracy and that set-up that get
it. These are highly paid people, and that's not Indian people themselves.
We receive very little at the bottom end. And the rest is White bureaucrats
in Indian Affairs itself. They receive most of the money, and the buildings
that they lease. So when they lease buildings for offices, a lot of the
money goes there. There's very little that comes to the Reserves. Then
when you get to the Reserves, you got the Fifth Column -- our so- called
chiefs. I shouldn't call them chiefs. They're Tribal Administrators.
That should be their title, because the real chiefs are the hereditary
Q: Do you still know the hereditary people?
W: Well, there's so many people come from that lineage, it's going to be hard to pick and choose the right one. There's so many who would really want that title because of the prestige, or whatever you want to call it. But it's the people who really are the insulation from any outside forces. [Under the traditional system] The Federal Government would no longer talk to the Chief, they'd have to talk to the people. And then this is the direction I would like to see: the Elders get back into power in our communities to oversee what is really happening to the tribal administrators, these so-called chiefs. So in that way they would not make agreements that would be harmful to our people.
Q: So you'd pull in the traditional system beside the Federal system?
W: Yes. We've always had it. But it was undermined in 1880 when they pushed out our people and replaced them with elected people. But till then we had a chief. Once appointed, he was appointed for life.
Q: How did that system work? I think it's something that would be worthwhile to review, since the system we have now seems to often deteriorate into some sort of feudal dictatorship. So if we were looking at the Native system to replace ours, how would this work?
W: Well, I believe it would work out a lot better than what we have today.
Q: How was it structured then?
W: The people had a voice in what happens in the community.
Q: How did it work, what was the structure?
W: Well you had the chiefs and two people that were beside him -- more or less his ears, I guess -- to listen to all the voices of the people.
EL: So the people came informally to the chief?
W: No, no. Everything was structured around the meetings. Everybody had a voice in what's good for the people, and to speak against anything that was bad.
Q: Do you have any thoughts on how this could be made to work in modern times like today? If we wanted to change the government of Canada, for instance?
W: Well, I don't know.
Q: Give it some thought. Maybe we can talk about that another time. It interests me, because I feel there must be other systems that might work better than the present one we have now.
W: Yes, well the system we have now is based on greed and power.
Q: Exactly. But how do we change this?
W: Well we have to go back to where everybody's sharing, and what we had. When I look back at this valley in the '30s when I was just a kid. In the late `301s there was nobody who was wanting for anything. And that was the hungry `30s when the people were riding the freights trying to find something to eat. And our people had everything here because of the land. And the land is where you can grow your own food, and do everything. Any surplus was shared out.
A telephone call interrupts this line of discussion. Before returning to the interview, Wolverine recalls an incident that reminds him of the trickery of the police and government. He reminisces that his wife received a graduation present from a fellow graduating nurse some years back, and the gift, a brooch in the form of a rose, had listening devices built into the petals. The nurse was married to a police officer.
W: But the Movement people that stand strong on the land see what these people are capable of doing and how crooked they are. They tried us for conspiracy back in `95, but who are the real conspirators? The conspirators are the Canadian government, right down from the prime minister to the premiers, because of refusing to look at the law the way the law reads -- and you know who the rightful owners are. So they keep this hidden, and they used that and the lawyers who don't bring out the real arguments.
Q: So how could this impasse be resolved? Given that these leaders aren't too honest, both the Indigenous and Settler people suffer. I don't think the rank and file Canadian people are necessarily against you.
W: I believe a third party adjudication has to be done. Maybe an international tribunal where judges have subpoena powers to bring in the people mixed up in the conspiracy. So when you have these war crimes against the Native people this should be looked at.
Q: Which country would be impartial enough nowadays to sit on such a tribunal?
W: Well, I don't know. There must be somebody in the world who would be able to sit there on an international tribunal with subpoena powers. Look at what they've done to this man, Milosevich. So when they can set up an international tribunal by putting a Canadian judge in place, maybe just in case there's war crimes here in Canada to cover up, they're already thinking ahead so there will be no charges against anybody in Canada.
Q: Who are the really impartial countries? Who would you have? India? Sweden? Norway? Who?
W: Well, I don't know. I guess they'd be hard to find. But we need somebody that would be able to enforce their findings.
Q: Do you feel that really the most necessary force is a change of heart on the part of the people at large?
W: Well it has to be that. That's the only way it's going to work.
Q: So how do we do that?
W: Since you guys are still going to be voting for four or five years, you have to vote out the guy who's in Parliament today. And look what's happening here in Victoria. Look what's happening to all the working people. It's time to get them out, and get some people in with at least a little bit of heart for the people.
Q: Let's talk about your organic farming for a while.
W: Well I got pretty well most of my seed in the ground. I planted quite a bit of squash, beets, peas, carrots, corn. Two or three types of squash, so I'll have good seed for the future.
Q: Did your people do any farming before contact?
W: Mostly we did gathering. I learned this [farming] at the residential school. We only had three hours of school work a day. The rest was farm work. Once I picked that up, I guess that's what they wanted us to be -- farmers. A farmer may not have much money but at least he's got good food. And the food is what's going to pull the people through. Because if you don't have the good seed, you'll be controlled by the elite of the world where you'll be just a slave to the World Order.
Q: Could they still get you, by destroying your crops?
W: Well this is it, I think they're out to do this. So that way they'd be able to control all the people. They want to control them through their bellies. So it's sad to say, but these people don't have any heart at all. But at this farm we've been at it for about 20 years, I guess, giving seeds to all parts of the world.
Q: How long will seeds last?
W: In Hopi country they found some seeds in vats and when they planted that out they were still good.
Q: How old were they?
W: Might be a couple of hundred years. So if you have that type of seed, it remains true, and grows. The seeds you buy in the stores today will only grow one year, and you have to have all sorts of chemical fertilizers to put on them to grow, but if you try to use them as seed the following year, nothing comes out. That's how they control the people.
Q: You mean the terminator technology?
W: Yes. I try to keep my seeds true, make sure they don't cross. I keep them in different fields, so that way I have good seeds. That's good for the market, good for people.
Q: Land is the answer?
W: Yes. Without land you don't have food.
Q: So what's the future? Any plans you want to share in closing?
W: Well, I'll keep going out there, and tell what happened to us in '95. I know the RCMP and the politicians aren't going to like this, but they're going to have to live with it. Because they're the ones that are in the wrong. They were covering up the land issue. So we have to make them aware that we're going out there every day. As a matter of fact, I had a Brother back east -- another Native Warrior -- that's now brought out parts of that in a new video on the AIM internet site. So there's material on there that people can view. So they brought out that 1995, and Oka, and the various fire fights that happened here in Canada. They brought out all the wrong doing of the RCMP. I believe they also brought out the death of Dudley George in Ontario. So these are the things that have been happening. And we're still working on bringing the story out. So there you have it.
Eva Lyman: Thanks for sharing that. It's been good talking to you again.
|The trial of participants in the Gustafsen Lake standoff was covered comprehensively in the Feb/March 1997 issue of Discourse & Disclosure, with followup in subsequent issues. As our west coast correspondent, Eva Lyman attended the trial and provided Canadians with honest and impartial coverage of the events through these pages. In July of that year, Wolverine was sentenced to four years and six months in prison for his actions in the 1995 Gustafsen Lake standoff. This update on the current activities, concerns and goals of Wolverine is much appreciated.|