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Ts'Peten

by Billie Pierre (Scw'exmx)


Wolverine is a Secwepemc elder who was a key figure in the defense of Ts’Peten (a struggle commonly known as the Gustafsen Lake Standoff) during a month-long siege by the RCMP in 1995. His actions and teachings spread knowledge, both during and after the siege, regarding the inherent jurisdiction and responsibility of Indigenous people over their lands. He taught that many of our lands have never been purchased by or surrendered to “Canada,” “Britain,” or any other entity. His influence has led more people, including a new generation of young Native adults, to recognize that we must defend whatever clean land, water, and air we have on our territories. He asserted that nobody has a right to these lands but the Native nations who were here before contact, and that Indigenous peoples’ well-being and survival depend on access to our traditional ways of life.  

Ts'Peten 1995

In the summer of 1995, the Secwepemc people were forced to defend their traditional Sundance grounds at Ts’Peten after local ranchers attempted to evict them using violent threats and harassment. Following a breakdown in communications, the RCMP launched the largest paramilitary assault in “Canadian” history against the eighteen Ts'Peten defenders. The defenders were besieged for other a month by more than four hundred and fifty RCMP and paramilitary officers. Armed with equipment provided by the “Canadian” military, including land mines and APCs (armoured personnel carrier) mounted with .50 caliber machine guns, the RCMP boasted on national media about bringing eighteen body bags for the eighteen defenders, some of whom were elders and minors.

One of the defenders was a pregnant fifteen-year-old.

Despite having full knowledge of this, on September 11, 1995 at the height of the violence, the RCMP fired 77,000 rounds of ammunition at the defenders.

Wolverine's Call for a National Inquiry into Ts'Peten and Allied Tribes Gathering

Over 20 years later, on January 4th, 2016, Wolverine sent a public letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Federal Justice Minister and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould, calling for a national public inquiry into the Ts'Peten/Gustafsen Standoff.

He gave the deadline of January 27, 2016 for a response, but received nothing by that date except an acknowledgement of receipt. On that same day, the Secwepemc people honoured Wolverine’s invitation to all warriors and land defenders to assert full sovereignty on our territories by calling a gathering of the Allied Tribes in ceremony and under the exclusive jurisdiction of Tribal Law.

Tribal Law is honoured as the original and only law on our territories. The Allied Tribes acknowledged that Provincial and Federal governments of “Canada,” which claim rule through violence, deception, and coercion, hold no authority or jurisdiction over our territories. The Allied Tribes made a commitment to defend our territories and reject the colonial, genocidal, military occupation called “Canada.”

The Allied Tribes confirmed the tribal adoption of James Pitawanakwat, a Ts’Peten/Gustafsen Lake Defender who was sentenced to three years in prison and who remains the only “Canadian” Indigenous person to have been granted political asylum in the so-called “United States of America.” While in ceremony, the Allied Tribes agreed to walk and stand together to uphold our responsibilities, duties, and loyalties to ourselves and our relatives; and to defend our lands, waters and future generations.


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