As Canada continues its journey of reconciliation and renewal with Indigenous Peoples, we need to confront our history so we can build a new nation-to-nation relationship guided by the recognition of rights and the values of respect and partnership.
In the spring of 1864, the Tsilhqot’in Chiefs led their nation’s war effort in response to a colonial road crew attempting to build a road through their territory without any legal agreement with the Tsilhqot’in Nation. In the summer of 1864, one of the leaders of the colonial militia sent the Tsilhqot’in Chiefs a sacred gift of tobacco and, with it, an invitation to discuss terms of peace. Head War Chief Lhats’as?in and his men accepted the offer and went to the colonial camp to negotiate peace. Instead, they were arrested, imprisoned, and convicted.
Yesterday, as an important symbol of our commitment to reconciliation, the Prime Minister delivered a statement exonerating the chiefs of any crime or wrongdoing.
As the Prime Minister said in his speech:
- “Today our government acknowledges what the colonial government of the day was unwilling to accept: that these six chiefs were leaders and warriors of the Tsilhqot’in Nation, and that the Tsilhqot’in people they led maintained rights to land that had never been ceded.
- “We know that the exoneration and the apology we are making today on behalf of Canada cannot, by itself, repair the damage that has been done. But it is my sincere hope that these words will allow for greater healing as Canada and the Tsilhqot’in Nation continue on the shared journey towards reconciliation.”
This is another important step forward to recognize and support the implementation of the rights of the Tsilhqot’in and all Indigenous Peoples, enshrined in our Constitution.