"Mandela's Sash"

Mike Cleven ironmtn at BIGFOOT.COM
Thu Mar 4 03:08:17 UTC 1999

At 10:11 PM 3/3/99 +0000, bob rock wrote:
>Dear Mike:
>Tansi!  I'm glad you found the article/review interesting.  Yes, the
>security people around Mandela just about flipped their wigs at that
>one.  Senator Boucher was only supposed to hand the sash to Mandela and
>step back but he knew what the national/international implications could
>be if he wrapped that Metis sash around the waist of this great
>statesman.  The Senator asked Mandela for his permission to proceed and
>Mandela gladly acquiesced.  Yes, this book is about far more than just
>this Metis sash event--although that in itself is important.  It looks
>back on the Senator's more than 40 years of Metis activism.  It looks at
>little know Metis oral history from along the St. Louis-Batoche-Fish
>Creek-Duck Lake corridor.  It looks at generations of lies and upheaval
>and boken promises that the Metis and Indian people have suffered-and
>still suffer at the hands of the Federal Government.

I've got a book somewhere called "An Unauthorized History of the RCMP".
Maybe that was a subtitle; but I've got it somewhere in my half-unboxed
library and will relay details when I find it.  It was by two U.Sask
professors who did some good digging; actually it's all there at face value
if you ignore the image machine that's been built up over the years.
Needless to say, the origins of the RCMP are in the repression of Metis
political expression and in the decades that followed, down through
Winnipeg and Regina and so forth.  The Metis chapters are very interesting;
I'll make sure I dig it out for you.  'Nuff said.  Also deals with the
deportation of non-British immigrants in the inter-war period (mostly
former Austrian subjects - Poles and Ukrainians) and the mobilization
against the Doukhobors and other religious minorities and anti-labour tactics.

Broken promises are everywhere - I live in BC, where deception and faslity
are art forms, as well as a species of public entertainment.  I used to
have a saying that as far as discrimination in the British Empire went,
everyone was discriminated against equally, and this legacy remains in
Canada.  And moreso in B.C. than in any other Canadian province from what
I've seen.  I hope that doesn't sound like a boast... But it's true, I
think.  From the treatment of all non-Britons, and lower-class Britons and
Irish, in the early colony and onboard the fur trade ships, down through
the American influx of the Gold Rush era and the restive days of railway
labour agitation from 1885 to 1914 and the dockyard general strike (and
martial law) of the '30s, culminating in the mass arrest of the On to
Ottawa train-jackers (at the town I went to high school in - Mission City).
 Needless to say, the legal fabrication concocted to preempt the native
nations out here is the prime example; that the government of British
Columbia (colonies and province) got away with in defiance of imperial law
and (later) the Canadian federal government's wishes stands as an example
of how insulated BC's political reality is from the rest of the country
(and world attitudes towards first peoples).  Then there's the treatment of
the many other peoples of BC's complex past, including smaller minorities
such as the Kanakas (Hawaiians), Doukhobors, Finns, and so on.  I always
hear that Canada's history has been one of moderation and conciliation and
compromise; the record seems much grimmer.

I digress.  The reason I launched into this was to explain where I'm from,
which in its own way is kindred to the history of Batoche.  My father's
career as a hydroelectric engineer took our family into one of the more
spectactular and storied area of the province, although it's relatively
unknown nowadays - the Bridge River-Lillooet Country.  The story of the
hydro project's effects on the native peoples and the local ecology is
another matter, as is the history of the goldfield towns and the
ranchlands, and all the tales and characters that go with such a place
(many of whom were still alive when I was a kid, some even when I went back
as an adult).  It's the homeland of the Stl'atl'imx (St'at'imc) speaking
peoples, now divided into the Stl'atl'imx Nation (Lillooet Tribal Council)
and the In-SHUCK-ch Nation (a union of several smaller rural bands formerly
belonging to the Stl'atl'imx Nation).  The union of regional peoples was
brought about at the time of the Gold Rush, when the citizenry of
non-native "Cayoosh" requested use of the name "Lillooet", based on the
name of the people at the main community of the "Lower Lillooet" - Mt.
Currie - whose historic name is the Lil'wat (written in the old English way
of spelling as Liluet-ol).  The chiefs of what became the town of Lillooet
(there are three immediately local bands on town), formerly known as the
Stl'atl'imx (Slatlemux) asked the Lil'wat for permission to adopt their
name; and so it was done.  "We are all Lillooet now" - a reference to the
old system of many local sovereignties, some once very powerful and now
shrunken to tiny villages today (among them communities of the
In-SHUCK-ch).  The name Stl'atl'imx Nation was revived as part of the
native renewal movement of the last decades (the t' in St'at'imc are the
'tl' sound; the 'x' is less of an aspirant than a stop; barely audible),
and the St'at'imcets language has been revived rather well in the local
school system (including high enrollment by non-native kids).  The place
I'm from - Shalalth (Tsalalh - "the lake") - was once the main seat of the
chiefs of the Lakes Lillooet (Lx'lx'mx), who were at least as large and
powerful as the still-large native "urban" communities in Lillooet and Mt.
Currie.  They were wiped out in a genocidal attack by the Nicolas just
before Contact (the war had been over a dispute of honour that began at a
council convenend by the chief of the Nicola, who had heard talk of white
men and tried to form a common front to prepare for their coming; the chief
of the Lakes Lillooet called him a liar; the communities on the Lakes were
descended on at night by the Nicola, and killed (some say) by ten to one.
Then came the diseases, and then the miners, and then the settlers and the
bureacrats.  The Lillooet are known for their 1916 Declaration of the
Lillooet People concerning railway expropriations and reductions of
reserves, and in more recent times their abstention from the treaty
process.  The chiefs of the Lillooet remain high-profile in native
intercommunal politics, even as they were in colonial times.

There's more, of course, but I meant to be speaking about what happened
there in modern times. You may have heard of the "shooting war" (as it was
referred to in the mainstream media) between fisheries officers and local
chiefs on and off during the 1970s, or of the roadblocks often put up in
the area by the Mt. Currie and Pavilion and Bonaparte Bands (the latter are
part of the Secwepemc), and more recently by all bands at one point or
another.  Ts'peten - Gustafsen Lake is not far away (just beyond Lillooet
territory to the northeast).  The Lillooet remain a virtual majority in
their old territories - at least 60% in the main centres of Pemberton-Mt.
Currie and the area of the town of Lillooet, and over 70% in rural areas
(the upper Bridge River Valley is now entirely non-native, although just
even more sparse in population).

During the Oka Crisis, the Seton Lake Band of Shalalth and Seton Portage (a
close-by twin community) blocked the BC rail line, thereby cutting off the
economy of the many industrial towns farther up the line, all of them
dependent on the railway in one way or another.  There was one set of
arrests, then a reoccupation of the blockade by elders and children.  Bill
Van der Zalm flew in by chopper, shook hands, smiled, said something like
"we'll have to take measures to resolve their situation" (not exactly a
promise, but certainly double-tongued) and flew back out.  Within a day or
two, a large force of RCMP troopers in riot gear descended on the valley
and arrested the elders and children.  The rest of the community gathered
at the community hall and baseball field on the hill above the blockade (a
place that was my virtual backyard when I was a child).

Now this is where it gets interesting.  Rather than choppering out the
detainees, or even using the rail line or the lake (easy to use and
faster), the "decision was made" to use eight squad cars to drive to
Lillooet, "escorted" by the squad of riot troopers.  Sure - sixty miles of
steep, torturous mountain pass (5000') and windy desert canyon, they were
gonna march that!  In actuality it was a provocation - they marched up the
hill to the ballpark and community hall (on the only way to the way out of
the valley, to be sure), beating their batons on their shields and having a
troop of attack dogs at the front.  Official accounts claim that their way
was blocked, and that the crowd moved toward them.  A privately-shot video,
on the other hand, clearly shows that they advanced on the crowd, which was
fronted by children and women, with the clubs beating and the dogs biting.
The regular media had been told by the Mounties to not follow them en route
- rather into the very heart of the reserve - and the BC newspapers
originally suppressed the story, then lied about the number of officers
involved (the Sun said 30, the Province 43; it was the Seattle Times who
reported the correct figure of 63).  The participants, including council
members, were forced to sign documents agreeing to remain forever silent
about the events or face prosecution (all have complied, but don't quote
me), and there's never been an inquiry of any kind into the abuse of force
that day.  Overshadowed by Kanehsetake and Kahnawake, of course, but of no
less significance.

It's divided the community in the valley quite harshly (natives and
non-natives used to get on quite well in their shared isolation; most still
do, I suppose, but the atmosphere has changed).  And it was also a strange
tragedy to happen in such an extroardinarily beatiful and sheltered place.
Like Oka and its successors, it's been quietly shoved into the shadows of
the media's take on current history.  There are more sides to it, of
course, and there's been more blockades lately - publicized by the media as
Delgamuukw-related but actually about the new clearcuts slated to violate
the mountainside opposite Shalalth (for the sake of a mill that hasn't had
a real timber supply since it was opened); the whole Lillooet Nation has
been involved in those, which have shut down Hwy 99 from Whistler on occasion.

Anyway, I just wanted to give you an idea of where I'm from, and how I feel
about things and where my sympathies lie.  "Not just another white guy
interested in natives", I hope.

>Mike Cleven wrote:
>> The story about Mandela receiving a Metis sash was genuinely interesting,
>> and went completely unreported in the mainstream media (as can only be
>> expected).  That you appear to have been banned from the banquet because of
>> your impetuous disregard for government-authorized protocol speaks volumes
>> about Canada - just as much about the elite disregard for the non-elite as
>> about white/aboriginal politics/tensions.
>> I wanted to mention that the Metis sash of the sort you mention is known in
>> the Jargon as "lasanjel".  Is this also a Michif word?
>Well Mike, I looked up "lasengel" in THE MICHIF DICTIONARY: TURTLE
>MOUNTAIN CHIPPEWA CREE  by Patline Laverdure and Ida Rose Allard (edited
>by John C. Crawford).  Winnipeg: Pemmican Publications, 1983.
>There was no listing for "lasengel."  And under "sash"--it reads
>I have not heard the term "lasengel" before now.

That's really interesting.  The conventional wisdom concerning the Jargon
is that this was a French word, and that it was the cloth belt worn by the
voyageurs, who certainly were Metis French and gave many other words to the
Jargon.  I'll refer this to the group to see if anyone can identify another
source.  Maybe it's really archaic French, or another native language.

>Certainly it is of
>> Metis origin, and must be part of the Metis dialect of French.  The attire
>> of the fur company employees - the lasanjel, tuque (or turban), and
>> loose-fitting shirt and hide leggings - was mentioned in a recent article
>> in some American magazine
>Do you recall the name of that magazine?  And the edition that this
>article was in.  I'd sure like to read it.

I'm pretty sure it was one of the main periodicals - Time, Newsweek, US
News - and that it was a review either of a book or an exhibition.  On the
legacy of the fur trade, whatever it was; I read it on a plane or in a
waiting room or somewhere like that, do I don't have a copy.  Maybe I can
remember what it was, or I made notes on it somewhere.....again, I'll check.

>as having spread throughout Native America as a
>> fashion among many tribes, from the Choctaw and Apache through to the
>> various Californian and Plateau peoples.....
Also the Lillooet peoples, and the Nlakapamux and Secwepemc.....

Mike Cleven
ironmtn at bigfoot.com

The thunderbolt steers all things.
                           - Herakleitos

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