Editor’s Note: This is part seventy-one of a series of testimonies given by our aboriginal neighbors. We are posting these in an attempt to allow everyone to better understand just how badly Canada has neglected the first nations of Canada. These are the words submitted to the JRP Hearings, to Enbridge and to the Government of Canada.
ORAL PRESENTATION BY MR. VICTOR SAM & BY MS. LILLIAN SAM
MR. SAM: Thank you.
Hello, my name is Victor Sam. I am a member of Nak’azdli Band. Each Band member belongs to a Keyoh. Our Keyoh’s name is Daiya-Mattess. The Nak’azdli people have never been under treaty.
We’re here to tell the National Energy Board that we’re totally rejecting this proposed pipeline going through our territory.
Traditionally, Keyoh holders make their own decisions regarding their own Keyohs. Daiya-Mattess Keyoh has hired John Dewhirst — he’s an anthropologist — to study Nak’azdli’s government system.
I’d like to introduce Lillian Sam at this time for a genealogy history of Daiya-Mattess.
ORAL PRESENTATION BY MS. LILLIAN SAM:
MS. SAM: I am a researcher, that was my work in the past, and I did a lot of research on my family tree, seven generations. And I worked for the Nak’azdli Band in the past and I also worked for UNN — UNN used to be in Prince George — and Carrier Sekani Family Services and Carrier Tribal Council in the past.
And I worked on the family tree because I wanted to know who my people were. I wanted to know where I came from.
I was sent to residential school and when I came back home my grandfather, Chief Louis Billy Prince, was alive. He was pretty old when I came home. And I started going down the river with him. My dad used to go down the river, our Keyoh is down on the Stewart River. And from just being with them, I wanted to know who my ancestors were because I never learned this in school.
And when I started working for the Nak’azdli Band, I did more research and I’m known for the family tree because people come to me and ask me who their relatives are. Some that have been away from the community were coming back to the Reserve and wanting to know who their ancestors were.
But this is an important part; I’m speaking on behalf of Kenny Sam. Kenny is related to me through my late husband. His brother was Johnny Sam, the late Johnny Sam. And this is where Kenny and this family picture is from. And this goes quite far back.
And I can speak on Chief Kwa (ph); that was my great-great-grandfather. I don’t know if you can — I can point it there. And for Justa Sam — okay, Johnny Sam is number five here, and that’s Victor and Kenny’s dad, okay. And then the line goes up to Justa and Catherine, the late Justa Sam. On the other side is Josephine and Isidore Louie — number four, Isidore Louie. And that’s how the line is passed down.
When they talk about Keyoh, it’s mainly more our traditional areas they’re talking about. And it keeps going climbing up and where Isidore is, Dick A’Huille is — number six is right here and number three is Louie Mattess and Yulali Patrick (ph). And it keeps going up to Daiya up on number two. You could see Louie Mattess was born in 1875.
And for — sometimes the records — on the Catholic records, there’s no actual date for a person that was born because we were never recognized and our birthdays were not recorded in the past. Even with the Chinese people, it was just later on. And sometimes the names can get mixed up because of our language.
This is how the line was passed down. And most of our Keyoh Holders just when I did research, I saw how it was interconnected and we’re all one big — kind of like a big family. And our lifestyle was more like when my grandfather was alive, always on the land, always connected with the land, which is so important for us.
We live differently. We eat different things. This is who we are. We’re not afraid to say that. We have our culture. We have our way of living. We have our way of connections to the animals, to the birds, to whatever is living. And when they talk about the plants and Mother Earth, the medicines come from it. And the Elders today still make medicine for us.
When they take the plants from Mother Earth they leave an offering, they leave something behind so that it will grow back again. This is respect for the land. This is how I grew up. My mother did the same thing.
There’s so much to say.
How can I speak on behalf of my people? I can only emphasize that it’s so important for us to be heard, to be recognized for who we are and to allow us to live as we live and not have to answer to someone that wants to give you money in exchange for the land.
JLS ……For What It’s Worth