One hundred years ago, the chiefs of the Shuswap, Thompson and Okanagan Nations presented Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier with a letter outlining their grievances. The anniversary of what is called the Laurier Memorial will be celebrated at the Pow Wow Arbor of the Tk'emlups Indian Band today.
Space doesn't permit publishing the full text of the letter presented to Laurier Aug. 25, 1910, but we present these excerpts:
Dear Sir and Father,
We take this opportunity of your visiting Kamloops to speak a few words to you. We welcome you here, and we are glad we have met you in our country.
When (whites) first came among us there were only Indians here. They found the people of each tribe supreme in their own territory, and having tribal boundaries known and recognized by all. They found us happy, healthy, strong and numerous. Each tribe was still living in its own "house" or in other words on its own "ranch." No one interfered with our rights or disputed our possession of our own "houses" and "ranches," viz., our homes and lives.
Soon they saw the country was good, and some of them made up their minds to settle it. They commenced to take up pieces of land here and there. The whites made a government in Victoria - perhaps the queen made it. Presently chiefs (government officials, etc.) commenced to visit us, and had talks with some of our chiefs. They told us to have no fear, the queen's laws would prevail in this country, and everything would be well for the Indians here. They said a very large reservation would be staked off for us (southern interior tribes) and the tribal lands outside of this reservation the government would buy from us for white settlement. They let us think this would be done soon, and meanwhile until this reserve was set apart, and our lands settled for, they assured us we would have perfect freedom of traveling and camping and the same liberties as from time immemorial to hunt, fish, graze and gather our food supplies where we desired; also that all trails, land, water, timber, etc., would be as free of access to us as formerly.
What have we received for our good faith, friendliness and patience? Gradually as the whites of this country became more and more powerful, and we less and less powerful, they little by little changed their policy towards us, and commenced to put restrictions on us. Their government or chiefs have taken every advantage of our friendliness, weakness and ignorance to impose on us in every way. They 'have stolen our lands and everything on them' and continue to use 'same' for their 'own' purposes. This is how our guests have treated us - the brothers we received hospitably in our house.
After a time when they saw that our patience might get exhausted and that we might cause trouble if we thought all the land was to be occupied by whites they set aside many small reservations for us here and there over the country. This was their proposal not ours, and we never accepted these reservations as settlement for anything, nor did we sign any papers or make any treaties about same. They thought we would be satisfied with this, but we never have been satisfied and never will be until we get our rights.
So long as what we consider justice is withheld from us, so long will dissatisfaction and unrest exist among us, and we will continue to struggle to better ourselves. We demand that our land question be settled, and ask that treaties be made between the government and each of our tribes, in the same manner as accomplished with the Indian tribes of the other provinces of Canada, and in the neighboring parts of the United States.
Now we sincerely hope you will carefully consider everything we have herewith brought before you and that you will recognize the disadvantages we labor under, and the darkness of the outlook for us if these questions are not speedily settled. Hoping you have had a pleasant sojourn in this country, and wishing you a good journey home, we remain
Yours very sincerely,
The Chiefs of the Shuswap, Okanagan and Couteau or Thompson tribes