The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) has issued a touching statement on the passing of Kwakiutl Chief and Elder Rupert Wilson Sr.
“It was not so long ago when Chief Rupert Wilson Sr. stood before representatives of the BC Government and stated, matter of fact, ‘You are killing us with words’ while ‘you rob us of our resources,’” said the UBCIC in a statement on Wednesday (Sept. 29). “Rupert Wilson Sr. always stood for Exclusive Rights, Kwakiutl sovereignty, Douglas Treaty, and the irrefutable fact that Aboriginal Title and Treaty Rights were not mutually exclusive.”
The UBCIC noted Wilson Sr. never abandoned the Douglas Treaty as a solemn and sacred agreement (that his great-grandfathers signed), and often stated that the Treaty itself was “evidence that the Kwakiutl people were the rightful owners of Kwakiutl land.”
“Rupert would often say, ‘Our Kwakiutl signatures are on the Treaty, we are still at liberty to hunt and to carry on our fisheries as formerly.’ He saw the unfettered taking up of land by settlers, the destruction of old growth forest, and the overfishing of salmon as a betrayal of Title and Treaty Rights, and a betrayal of the very people who depended on the land and waters for sustenance and livelihood. He would often ask, ‘What good is self-government if we are left with nothing to govern but poverty?’”
For many decades, as Chief and Elder, Wilson devoted himself to “the cause of self-determination, and the rights of the Kwakiutl people to choose their own political and economic destiny based on cultural identity, social unity, and spiritual beliefs,” stated the UBCIC.
“He stood with the people at protests; he stood for the people at negotiations; he stood by the people in their time of need. He was a true warrior spirit who never backed down from a fight when the actions of governments infringed upon the interests and rights of Indigenous people everywhere, but the Kwakiutl in particular. Whether in the courtrooms or the boardrooms, or out on his beloved land and waters, Rupert always held the Crown accountable to the highest standard of duty and care.”
“We send of our deepest condolences to Rupert’s family, the community of Tsaxis, and the Kwakiutl Nation,” added the UBCIC. “He was a respected friend and ally of UBCIC, and we pray his spirit finds its rightful place among his ancestors.”