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Klatsassan killed in 1864
Klatsassan, one of the members of the Tsilhqot’in Nation executed for trying to protect their land against gold mining in 1864

Yesterday, June 26, 2014, there was a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada in favor of the Tsilhqot’in Nation, granting them “Aboriginal title” to their land. This ruling seems to have been 30 years in the making, and had to do with stopping the cutting down of trees (logging) on their land.

In defining “Aboriginal title” the ruling refers back to an earlier judgement, which might be summarized as that they can do with the land as they please, except that it “cannot be alienated in a way that deprives future generations of the control and benefit of the land…. it is collective title held not only for the present generation but for all succeeding generations. This means it cannot be alienated except to the Crown or encumbered in ways that would prevent future generations of the group from using and enjoying it…

This last would appear appear to include not destroying the land or poisoning the water. But, why does the Crown or anyone else have the right to destroy the land and water of current and future generations? Why does the Crown and everyone else except the First Nations have the right to destroy the land and water? Why is the land, air and water all over the world being encumbered with pollution? Why are people allowed to destroy the land and water with fracking? Why is there even debate about how much air pollution is ok? More critically, why are companies allowed to destroy the land, air, and water with uranium mining, nuclear power and nuclear waste, which leaves dangerous radionuclides in the environment for millions of years?

What happened to the adage that one person’s rights end where another’s toes begin? And, shouldn’t one person’s rights also end where others’ noses begin? And, where the stomachs and health of others are involved?

Another interesting aspect is that this “win” is based on the fact that most, or all, First Nations in British Columbia never signed treaties giving away their land. The American Indians of the Black Hills of South Dakota never gave their land away either. Their land is still supposed to be theirs under the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie, as the Great Sioux Reservation. And, yet, they have had to fight repeatedly to protect their land, first against gold miners, then against uranium mining, and once again, today, against uranium mining. https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/proposed-black-hills-uranium-mining-and-treaty-violations/

Charmaine White Face, of the Black Hills Oglala Sioux Nation, points out that
all over the world where In Situ Leach mining has been allowed to happen, the aquifers are permanently destroyed.” She tells us that “In Konigstein, Germany, an underground uranium mine was changed to an In Situ Leach mine and finally stopped in 1990. There is still 1.9 million cubic meters of contaminated water within the mining zone and 850 million liters in the recovery plant. The mines are within the aquifer that supplies the water for the city of Dresden. In Straz pod Ralskem, Czech Republic, the contaminated ground water escaped outside the mining zone both horizontally and vertically extending over an area of about 15 square miles.” She informs us that after the aquifer was destroyed by uranium mining in Goliad Texas that the Texas legislature “just lowered the water standards so the uranium company could say they didn’t do anything wrong.http://www.defendblackhills.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=13%3Awe-need-to-learn-more-about-uranium-mining&catid=16%3Auranium&Itemid=27

Obama greets boy at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, Cannon Ball, ND, 13 June 2014, Off. Wh. House photo by Pete Souza
Obama greeting boy at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, 13 June 2014

President Obama has pretended that he cares for the Sioux-American Indians, but he is a Judas, because he has let this project of In Situ Leach (ISL) uranium mining continue moving forward in area of the Black Hills. The people of the Black Hills have been fighting against uranium mining, since before he became President, but he has done nothing to help them, on the contrary. In an arid climate, they have had to continue to fight to try to protect their water against Powertech and its proposed ISL uranium mine, for his entire administration. Obama’s been treating the Sioux like the guy who kisses you, while picking your pocket, and then stabbing you in the back.
Charles Marion Russell - The Custer Fight (1903)
Battle of Little Bighorn, 25-26 June 1876 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Little_Bighorn

The Black Hills are considered sacred and the American Indians have first opposed gold mining there, then uranium mining. It’s their land! It is shocking that the US government said they could do nothing to keep the miners out during the first gold rush starting in 1874, when they were constantly letting in a new supply of European immigrants to settle and colonize the west! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Hills_Gold_Rush The earlier, 1838, Cherokee Trail of Tears was also due to the 1838 North Georgia Gold Rush. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgia_Gold_Rush

Similarly, today the US government wants to let a Canadian Penny Stock (six cents per share) mining company, Powertech, which seems strapped for cash, ruin the water aquifer in the area of the Black Hills with ISL mining. The people of the Black Hills, Native and Non-Native have been fighting this encroachment for almost a decade. They continue to fight against it, every step of the way. The US government is also wasting tax payers’, and monies of the local people who must fight Powertech, with public hearings attempting to impose this unwanted uranium mining, which will ultimately destroy the land. By what right?

It seems to have something to do with the 1872 Mining Act, which is and was a criminal act. Apparently most of the subsurface of the land in the western US belongs to the US government and can be claimed by anyone for mining. However, since the area proposed for mining is in the Great Sioux Reservation, it should be excluded from the 1872 Mining Act. Additionally, environmental considerations, as well as cultural ones, should stop this uranium mining project, but have not thus far. There is something patently strange about this whole situation, both in 1872 and today.

In 1864, Klatsassan and some other members of the Tsilhqot’in (Chilcotin) Nation were executed by the Canadian government for having tried to protect their lands from gold miners. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chilcotin_War Little wonder that Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, told the CBC: “It only took 150 years, but we look forward to a much brighter future.http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/tsilhqot-in-first-nation-granted-b-c-title-claim-in-supreme-court-ruling-1.2688332

Will this ruling lead to a brighter future for American Indians and Native Australians too, as an international precedent under Common Law?

Highlights from the ruling, regarding Aboriginal title and the rights of future generations:
[15] The Court in Delgamuukw summarized the content of Aboriginal title by two propositions, one positive and one negative. Positively, “[A]boriginal title encompasses the right to exclusive use and occupation of the land held pursuant to that title for a variety of purposes, which need not be aspects of those [A]boriginalpractices, customs and traditions which are integral to distinctive [A]boriginal cultures” (para. 117). Negatively, the “protected uses must not be irreconcilable with the nature of the group’s attachment to that land” (ibid.) — that is, it is group title and cannot be alienated in a way that deprives future generations of the control and benefit of the land….
[73] Aboriginal title confers ownership rights similar to those associated with fee simple, including: the right to decide how the land will be used; the right of enjoyment and occupancy of the land; the right to possess the land; the right to the economic benefits of the land; and the right to pro-actively use and manage the land.
[74] Aboriginal title, however, comes with an important restriction — it is collective title held not only for the present generation but for all succeeding generations. This means it cannot be alienated except to the Crown or encumbered in ways that would prevent future generations of the group from using and enjoying it….
10] In 1973, the Supreme Court of Canada ushered in the modern era of Aboriginal land law by ruling that Aboriginal land rights survived European settlement and remain valid to the present unless extinguished by treaty or otherwise: Calder v. Attorney General of British Columbia, [1973] S.C.R. 313.
” (Emphasis our own) “SUPREME COURT OF CANADA CITATION: Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, 2014 SCC 44 DATE: 20140626 DOCKET: 34986 BETWEEN: Roger William, on his own behalf, on behalf of all other members of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nations Government and on behalf of all other members of the Tsilhqot’in Nation Appellant and Her Majesty The Queen in Right of the Province of British Columbia, Regional Manager of the Cariboo Forest Region and Attorney General of Canada Respondentshttp://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/14246/index.do#_Toc391480021 http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/14246/1/document.do

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SUPREME COURT OF CANADA CITATION: Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, 2014 SCC 44 DATE: 20140626 DOCKET: 34986 BETWEEN: Roger William, on his own behalf, on behalf of all other members of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nations Government and on behalf of all other members of the Tsilhqot’in Nation Appellant and Her Majesty The Queen in Right of the Province of British Columbia, Regional Manager of the Cariboo Forest Region and Attorney General of Canada Respondents” (Emphasis our own) Entire ruling (over 80 pages) found here: http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/14246/index.do#_Toc391480021 http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/14246/1/document.do