Let the facts determine aboriginal questions

Edmonton - Tuesday, March 12, 2002 - by: Ron Thornton


Should fact or fiction determine the fate of our aboriginal issues? Take the decision of Federal Court Justice Douglas Campbell, for example, who accepted as gospel the oral history accounts of four aboriginal witnesses that claimed the signing of Treaty 8 exempted those it covered from taxation forever. This presupposes that oral historic accounts are true.




Take the case of my own family tree. According to our oral history, my great, great, great grandmother Marie Josette Piche became the wife of a man who's brother was chief of Alberta's Ermineskin band. Such is my family's century-old oral historical account. Yet, historic records of the time would seem to indicate that Piche was my grandmother's maiden name. Instead of a wife, the records indicate that she was more likely a kinswoman of both Ermineskin and his brother Bobcat, possibly a cousin. In fact, records show the father of her daughters to be Jean Baptiste Charlebois. Such is the historical record.




What are the true facts regarding Treaty 8? Was its intent to keep aboriginal people as perpetual wards of the state or a first step toward eventual full citizenship? Should the document be interpreted in terms of reference reflecting 1899 or 2002? With a history of migration and displacement of one tribe by another, on what basis do we even consider who was the rightful and legal holder of all the lands claimed to have been owned by these bands? The answers to such questions will bring us closer to true justice, which we hope places a greater emphasis on a review of the relevant documented facts rather than just here-say evidence and questionable entitlements.




Ron Thornton
  Court ruling exempts some aboriginals from taxes Last Updated Thu, 07 Mar 2002 22:29:50 CBC
  Alberta First Nations tax ruling shocks taxpayer federation March 8, 2002, CBC
  CBC What is Treaty 8? by Philip Saunders, March 8, 2002
  The Department of Indian and Northern Affairs text of Treaty 8
  National Archives site on Treaty 8
  Some of the oral details of Treaty 8
  Excellent graphic showing the area of Canada covered by Treaty 8