One Man's Struggle Against Genocide
From Attica to Gustafsen Lake
By KIM PETERSEN*
"It's the real criminals who are in control here. The judges. The lawyers. The politicians. And in the enforcement arm, the RCMP and its agencies. These are the real criminals because they're covering up the theft of native land." -- Secwepemc Elder Wolverine
"I do believe that once people really understand what we stood up for at Gustafsen Lake they will begin to re-empower themselves with renewed commitment to defend the concept of natural law." -- Mohawk Warrior Splitting The Sky
The Autobiography of Dacajeweiah
Splitting the Sky
John Boncore Hill
From Attica Lake to Gustafsen Lake: Unmasking the Secrets of the Psycho-sexual Energy and the Struggle for Original People's Title
With She Skeeps the Door (Sandra Bruderer)
Published by John Pasquale Boncore
Chase, BC 2001
653 pages. IBSN 0-9689365-0-4
JOHN (SPLITTING THE SKY) BONCORE HILL has experienced extraordinarily much in his lifetime of struggle for justice. Therefore, it is not surprising that his autobiography, written with his wife Sandra (She Keeps The Door) Bruderer, is a hefty book.
An eerie ordeal was Splitting the Sky's incarceration in New York's notorious Attica State Prison; as a bookend he detailed the Ts'peten, aka Gustafsen Lake, standoff in British Columbia (BC) and the so-called justice meted out afterwards. The repercussions of the legal machinations from Gustafsen Lake are likeliest still reverberating today. Throughout his autobiography, Splitting the Sky exposes the racist and imperialist agenda of settler governments in Turtle Island (North America). He takes readers colloquially through his amazing episodes, making the book an easy and informative but long read.
Splitting the Sky was the only person to do prison time following the hostage-taking of prison guards that precipitated the lethal storming of Attica on 13 September 1971, on the order of NY Governor Nelson Rockefeller. Splitting the Sky related how outlawed CN-4 gas was dropped into the jail before troops burst in and "were systematically killing in a blood rage like a thirst that could not be quenched." The McKay Commission Report ignominiously described it as the "bloodiest one-day encounter between Americans, except for the massacres against Indians of the 19th Century." Rockefeller called his decision to retake the prison "a matter of principle." Splitting the Sky considered that Rockefeller had "sanctioned the death of 43 human beings" that day.
The major focus of the book, however, is on Gustafsen Lake, a small wilderness area in south-central British Columbia, near the town of 100 Mile House. In 1995, a group of Indigenous People gathered there to celebrate the Sundance ceremony, previously forbidden by Canadian authorities. Splitting the Sky was honoured as the chief of the ceremony.
Trouble arose when some ranch hands of Lyle James rode in, disturbed the sacred ceremonial site, and made derogatory remarks about "red niggers."
This incited a confrontation and so-called occupation of Gustafsen Lake land.
Upstart natives taking precedence over his cattle disgruntled Lyle James, who never adduced his claim to the land. The province of BC is for the greatest part unceded First Nations territory. The Ts'peten Defenders, as the camp occupants became known, maintained that the Lyle ranch is on unceded Canoe Creek First Nation land. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 decreed that "several Nations or Tribes of Indians ... should not be molested or disturbed in the possession of ... Territories ... not ceded or purchased by Us." Colonists were strictly forbidden "from making any Purchases or Settlements whatever" with the Indigenous Peoples because of "great Frauds and Abuses" inflicted on Original Peoples in the past. The Royal Proclamation was an attempt to convince Indigenous Peoples of "our Justice." [italics added]
During the Gustafsen Lake trial, prominent Ts'peten Defender, Wolverine (William Jones Ignace), cited the Royal Proclamation in his defence. The BC Court of Appeal held: "The Royal Proclamation has never applied to this Province, the appellants cannot rely upon the Royal Proclamation as support for their position." Contrarily, Patricia Margaret Hutchings in her
Ignoring the legal history, then New Democratic Party Attorney General of BC, Ujjal Dosanjh (now the Minister of Health in the Martin Liberal government), gave the RCMP sweeping powers to remove the Ts'peten Defenders from the land. In an overtly racist move, reminiscent of Canada's World War II persecution of Japanese-Canadians, Aboriginal police were exempted from participation in what was dubbed Operation Wallaby.
Canadian authorities rejected disinterested, independent, outside mediation to settle the dispute at Gustafsen Lake. Dosanjh railed against the possibility of outside observers: "There shall be no alien intervention into the affairs of this state." Of course, once the matter was in the open, it would have been most difficult to quash the legal arguments of the Indigenous people.
Operation Wallaby, as it was code named, launched a tightly controlled media disinformation campaign against the Ts'peten Defenders from the RCMP to high political officials. Then BC Premier Mike Harcourt arrogantly claimed deep knowledge into the sentiments of Indigenous peoples: "The people who are involved at Gustafsen Lake are not representative of the aboriginal people in the Cariboo [region of BC, which includes Gustafsen Lake]."
The RCMP manipulated the media; consequently, Ts'peten Defenders were demonized as "terrorists" and "criminals."
Much of the media acted as a mouthpiece for government. A few braver types spoke out. Journalist William Johnson sensed an "ambush" story and wrote a skeptical commentary: "Perhaps it is the old newsman in me, but I'm uneasy over the reporting. Journalists have been kept away from the scene of the action by the RCMP and the native occupants could not tell their side of the story because the Mounties have cut off their means of communication."
In what may well have been a life-saving move, Splitting the Sky was sent out from the camp to organize an information blitz on the Gustafsen Lake standoff. It helped raise an international outcry against a looming bloodbath.
"Smear campaigns are our specialty"
Prior to the mobilization of the RCMP at Gustafsen Lake, the attorney for the Ts'peten Defenders, Dr. Bruce Clark, a legal expert on issues of aboriginal right, informed the RCMP that action against the Defenders would be illegal according to international and constitutional law. On 8 August 1995, Dr. Bruce Clark, wrote to RCMP Staff Sgt. Martin Sarich: "The domestic courts from the Supreme Court of Canada on down are just refusing to address the law because it finds them personally guilty of complicity in treason, fraud and genocide. Those courts have assumed a jurisdiction that clearly and plainly they do not lawfully enjoy, and have exercised the usurped jurisdiction to implement domestic laws which are in fact not laws but crimes." In an ironic twist, Clark appealed to the RCMP "for protection against a legal establishment that in willful blindness has set its face against the rule of law."
The Ts'peten Defenders sought to challenge their dispossession in a legal forum through the brilliant attorney Clark. Legally they were given the run-around. The Ts'peten Defenders' case required submission to the Queen in Great Britain. A British embassy official stated, however, that there would be no British response because First Nations are an internal Canadian government affair. The Ts'peten Defenders received RCMP agreement to submit their request to the federal attorney general, but duplicitously the RCMP Chief Negotiator Sgt. Dennis Ryan submitted the request to Dosanjh, who declared, "We shall not bargain in the course of the serious criminal investigation that is ongoing and we shall not approach the queen or anyone else." Third party adjudication of the dispute was blocked.
Clark's constitutional case was to be blocked from going anywhere. The RCMP was party to this. A RCMP management team video showed Ryan relating orders from Supt. Len Olfert: "Kill this Clark and smear the prick and everyone with him." Olfert's dislike of Clark was palpable. Said he on another occasion: "Clark is a goddamned snake."
But Clark was also a victim of the "the judiciary and psychiatric establishment [that] willfully conspired to declare a completely sane human being psychologically disturbed, and have them [sic] committed."
Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark (no relation to Bruce Clark) was appalled and wrote scathingly to BC Judge Nicholas Friesen: "The appearance of injustice in your conduct was atrocious. ... Your own words expose both animus and imperious abuse of judicial power. ... You give the appearance of an arrogant and hateful tyrant determined to humiliate Indians and destroy the professional and personal reputation of their lawyer."
Splitting the Sky writes, "Notice how the press is utilized to reinforce the systematic disposal of extremely intelligent and genuinely concerned lawyers acting upon client instructions. ...When the law obstructs the interests of the corporate elite and politicians ... they conspire to bend the rule of law, to legitimize the theft of Indian land and resources."
In the video "Above the Law II" shown on the Aboriginal TV network, Ryan is heard asking: "Is there anyone who can help us with our smear and disinformation campaign?"
Sgt. Peter Montague, Chief Media Relations Officer for BC foolishly boasted, "Smear campaigns are our specialty." Later he claimed this was "said in jest."
These detestable comments were among those not censored. One-and-a-half hours of 50 hours of recording on the RCMP training tape was never released
At trial, Montague admitted, "Information was released to the public that was not correct." He further testified that "media will develop a story if we don't give one to them. It was important to ensure that the public perceived a continued threat from people in the camp."
Defense lawyer George Wool pressed Montague: "You were conditioning the Canadian public -- including perspective jurors -- that the people at Gustafsen lake were terrorists."
"That was the way it started off. That was the message, yes," agreed Montague.
Splitting the Sky concluded, "It was a consorted effort to manufacture a smear and disinformation campaign. This would assist in gaining the publics [sic] consent, to justify an all out kill. ... This is fascism in Canada."
In July 2004, the participants at the
A Murderous Military Strategy
The exorbitant Operation Wallaby saw the state mobilize up to 400 police, active Canadian military involvement with the elite black-ops JTF2 (the troops deployed to Afghanistan who handed prisoners directly over to the Americans) rumored on site, armored personnel carriers, airplanes, helicopters, M16 and C7 assault rifles, and the firing of 77,000 rounds of ammunition at 18 people holed up inside a camp. Miraculously no one was killed.
In a September 1995 standoff to recuperate the theft of Stoney Point First Nation territory at Ipperwash Provincial Park in Ontario, an RCMP officer killed Stoney Point Ojibway activist Dudley George.
Tapes obtained through an access to information request by the CBC's The Fifth Estate recorded
"Is there still a lot of press down there?" one officer says.
"No, there's no one down there. Just a great big fat fuck Indian," replies another.
"The camera's rolling, eh?"
"We had this plan, you know. We thought if we could get five or six cases of Labatt's 50 [beer], we could bait them."
"Then we'd have this big net at a pit."
"Works in the (U.S.) South with watermelon."
That no Defenders were killed at Gustafsen Lake was not because of RCMP restraint. An RCMP communication from 20 August 1995 stated, "The CO commented and I agree that we need to clean them out entirely." Splitting the Sky interpreted this as intent to "murder."
In one instance, on 11 September 1995, RCMP observed an unarmed native male across the lake. Inspector Roger Kembel authorized use of a sniper rifle with laser-range finder against the "target of opportunity" in an agreed-to no-shoot zone.
Egregiously, Canada, which touts itself as a world leader in fighting the scourge of landmines, was hypocritically caught deploying landmines at Gustafsen Lake. A red truck with Ts'peten Defenders inside was blown up. In the authorities' doublespeak this was referred to as an early warning device. The apparently-unarmed vehicle occupants were fired upon and their dog killed.
Eventually, the Ts'peten Defenders finally agreed to leave the camp only to be all arrested and charged with attempted murder and life-endangering mischief.
Through intimidation and selective deal-making with defendants, the government sought to isolate so-considered hardliners among the Ts'peten Defenders and deny them access to their controversial attorney Clark, a violation of an internationally recognized legal right.
Splitting the Sky opined, "The crown was willing to throw the case as long as it appeared they had the right to try the Indian defendants in their domestic courts."
Clark argued, "It is a fact that while judge-made law can be constitutive of a previously unaddressed principle of natural law, international law and constitutional law, judge-made law can not without negating the rule of law supersede previously constituted natural law, international law and constitutional law."
The hereditary rights of the Idigenous Peoples pre-date the Canadian confederation; morally therefore, Canadian government rule cannot take precedence.
Clark realized though: "Because we are a racist society, because racism is a reality, you will get the racist position."
BC Judge Bruce Josephson refused the "Colour of Right" defence (if you believe you were in the right then you cannot be found guilty) and self-defence arguments of the accused for consideration by the jury. In fact, the judge went so far as to threaten jury members that if any of them made a statement prejudicial to the court then that member could face contempt of court charges.
The Ts'peten Defenders were forced to endure what has been called the longest criminal trial in Canadian history. After over a year of astonishing testimony by police, 13 of the 18 Ts'peten Defenders received jail sentences. Three of the Defenders appealed the verdicts on the grounds that settler courts have no jurisdiction on First Nation land. Wolverine was acquitted of non-capital murder, but he was found guilty of mischief endangering life, weapons possession, discharging a firearm to resist arrest, and using a firearm in the commission of an indictable offense. His son Joseph Ignace sadly wound up a "permanent resident of an insane asylum."
Ramsey Clark urged immediate release of the defendants and an accommodation based on mutual respect.
Any review would be remiss, however, if it ignored Splitting the Sky's primary inspiration for writing his autobiography. While in prison he chanced upon the Kundalini: psycho-sexual powers that, Splitting the Sky explained, lie within all of us. The powers of the Kundalini run up the vertebral column passing through sensitive nerve centers to the neocortex.
The importance of the Kundalini is such that Splitting the Sky believes it to be crucial in the prevention of future annihilation through war.
Splitting the Sky's autobiography is a no-holds barred account. The high points and low points, the shameful episodes and prideful accounts are presented: from spitting in the face of a despised lawyer to his stated desire to receive an honourary law degree and Nobel Peace Prize. One might wonder why the desire for a Nobel Peace Prize, considering the gaggle of nefarious figures who have received the prize -- from Jimmy Carter and Henry Kissinger to Lester Pearson and ethnic cleansers like Simon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin.
The book is extremely well documented, making it an indispensable reference source for anyone curious as to what really happened at Gustafsen Lake.
*Kim Petersen is a freelance writer and political analyst resident in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
-- -- -- -- --
John Kaminski (http://www.johnkaminski.com) writes in "Sounds in Search of Sanity": "And lastly, but not leastly, my favourite of all the songs I received does not have a link. But ... you can hear it .... Splitting the Sky, United
by writing John Boncore at ... email@example.com
and he'll send it you. Don't miss it.
Shunpiking magazine has a limited number of copies available of The Autobiography of Splitting the Sky at our offices at 6211 North Street in Halifax. It is also available direct from
John Pasquale Boncore
P.O. Box 1492
Chase, British Columbia
Canada V0E 1M0
For further reading on the Internet:
TS'PETEN (GUSTAFSEN LAKE) ARCHIVES
Comments to : firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright Copyright New Media Publications. © 2005. The views expressed herein are the writers' own and do not necessarily reflect those of shunpiking magazine or New Media Publications. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. Copyright of written and photographic and art work remains with the creators.