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Standoff at Gustafsen Lake

by Interview with Mindy Dick

Mindy and William in 1996
Mindy and William in 1996

Mindy Dick is Secwepemc and is the granddaughter of famed land defender Wolverine. She was 15 years old during the 1995 Gustafsen Standoff.

To start off, can you tell us a bit about how you got involved in the Gustafsen Standoff?

In 1995 I was fifteen turning sixteen. There was a call-out for the warriors to come to the camp because there were ranchers that were becoming threatening and getting violent with our people. The elders and a young girl were living there, so I went out to help protect our land and our people. When the cops got involved, they were making it out to be a bigger deal than it was.

When it was at its worst and most violent, what was it like?

When we'd have meetings, it would help us stay strong. What made us madder was when the RCMP took our food away. It made us stronger to protect our land.

We make sacrifices in our life to stand up for the land. That's what we have to do sometimes, as native people, for the future generations.

After you left the camp, you found out you were pregnant?

I'd been sleeping a lot. My mom took me to the doctor. I already knew I was pregnant, but I didn’t want to tell my mom because I was too scared. I didn’t know how she'd react, because of my age.

How did you leave camp? How did the RCMP treat you?

Sometime after September 11th, I left the camp. Ron Dion had gone missing from the camp. It was on the news. We were worried and wanted to know what was going on. Apparently, he was already in custody. He had disappeared during the shoot-out on September 11th. He had whistles he used, and we kept hearing whistles during the night and throughout the day. They were messing with our heads. We were worried he had been shot out in the mountains and we had no idea where he was. I left because there was no food and we were trying to find out what happened to him.

I left with another young woman [in a car]. There were a whole bunch of police officers in the trees and on the road. They told us to roll down the windows and put our hands out. They pulled me out first, put me on the ground, and searched me three times. They took out my braids because they thought I had a bomb in it. Then we got transferred to two or three different vehicles at two or three roadblocks. At the first one, they had military equipment. You could see the APC's (Armored Personnel Carrier) were there. At first they put us in zip-cuffs, then at the second roadblock they put metal cuffs on us.

When we left Ts'Peten (Gustafsen Lake), there was a van load of native people following us to make sure we got to the police station safely. At first, they tried to take us to Quesnel, but they were supposed to take us to 100 Mile House. After they got a few miles out of 100 Mile House, it was radioed that they were taking us to the wrong department. They did a U-turn on the highway and we got hit by a car right where I was sitting. The vehicle spun a couple of times. I ended up on the other side of the seat, on top of the other Ts'Peten defender! They pulled me out of the car by my shirt and put us in a different vehicle. There was no medical attention and no report. Then they brought us to the cop shop in a van. They took pictures and brought us into our own cells. When they checked me, they made me pull down my pants and they looked under my bra. It was weird.

They wouldn't let Bruce Clark be my lawyer. He got disbarred during the summer and they wouldn't let him represent us. When they questioned me, they tried to find out who was all in Ts'Peten. I wouldn't answer; I said I wanted to talk to my lawyer. They tried to appoint me one. I said “no.” They appointed one anyways.  I had Bruce's number, but they wouldn't let me call him or anything.

They tried to get me to say bad things about my family. They asked if I got raped there, and I was like “No, why would my family rape me?” They kept trying to push it, but I wouldn't talk. I grew up as a warrior. I wouldn't say anything about my people, and especially not to them. I was released in seven-eight hours. It was weird because after I left I didn't have to go to court. They didn't give me a court date. I think they were trying to hide my age, and also that I was in an accident.


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