We would liken this district to an animal, and our village, which is situated in it, to its heart. Lorne Creek, which is almost at one end of it, may be likened to one of the animal’s feet.

We feel that the whitemen, by occupying this creek, are, as it were, cutting off a foot. We know that an animal may live without one foot, or even without both feet; but we also know that every such loss renders him more helpless, and we have no wish to remain inactive until we are almost or quite helpless

We have carefully abstained from molesting the whiteman during the past summer. We felt that, though we were being wronged and robbed, as we had not given you the time nor opportunity to help us, it would not be right for us to take the matter into our own hands. Now we bring the matter before you, and respectfully call upon you to prevent the inroads of any whiteman upon the land within the fore-named district.

In making this claim, we would appeal to your sense of justice and right. We would remind you that it is the duty of the Government to uphold the just claims of all peaceable and law-abiding persons such as we have proved ourselves to be. We hold these lands by the best of all titles. We have received them as the gift of the Creator to our Grandmothers and Grandfathers, and we believe that we cannot be deprived of them by anything short of direct injustice.

In conclusion, we would ask you, would it be right for our Chiefs to give licenses to members of the tribe to go to the district of Victoria to measure out, occupy, and build upon lands in that district now held by whitemen as grazing or pasture land? Would the whitemen now in possession permit it, even if we told them that, as we were going to make a more profitable use of the land, they had no right to interfere? Would the Government permit it? Would they not at once interfere and drive us out? If it would not be right for us so to act, how can it be right for the whiteman to act so to us?

—Gitwangak Chiefs, 1884

As copied from the book, Colonialism on Trial: Indigenous land rights and the Gitksan and Wet’suwet’en sovereignty case, New Society Publishers, 1992

Image: Delgamuukw as he was in 1987, Albert Tait