It’s been a long time coming says Chief Joe Alphonse on the Government of Canada’s intent to offer posthumous exonerations to six Tsilhqot’in Chiefs.
The Government of Canada and Tsilhqhot’in Nation announced Friday that they took an important step on October 26 towards achieving commitments set out in a Letter of Understanding.
“I don’t believe the government before would have entertained doing such a thing so it’s honorable that in today’s day and age when we talk about reconciliation,” says Alphonse. “It’s a good start to that.”
Minister of Crown Indigenous Relations and Aboriginal Affairs, Carolyn Bennett said in a statement “As we build a new future, reconciliation requires addressing Canada’s history and developing with Indigenous people a more thorough accounting of our past.”
The Tsilhqot’in chiefs in the spring of 1864 led the Tsilhqot’in war effort in response to a colonial road crew attempting to build a road through their territory without the agreement of the Tsilhqot’in Nation.
Head War Chief Klatsassin, Chief Biyil, Chief Tilaghed, Chief Taqued, Chief Chayses and Chief Ahan of the Tsilhqot’in Nation were called to what they thought were peace talks to end the War but instead were tried, convicted and hanged for murder.
“It’s quite emotional for a lot of our members,” says Alphonse noting that October 26 of this year marked the 153 anniversary of the hangings of the five Chiefs in Quesnel and a sixth who was hanged the following year in New Westminster.
“First thing we learned as Chilcotin Tsilhqot’in people is the betrayal that happened during the Chilcotin War and the execution of the wrongly executed.”
Alphonse says now that the intent has been made they will get ready will travel to Ottawa in the near future and have the national exoneration and policy made on the floor of Parliament, and also expect Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to come to Chilcotin title lands.
He says once that is complete then they are ready to start doing business with Canada.
“The posthumous exoneration of six leaders of the Tsilhqot’in Nation will stand as an important symbol of the Government of Canada’s commitment to reconciliation,” said Bennett.
“It is our sincere hope that the planned exoneration will allow healing to begin as Canada and the Tsilhqot’in Nation embark on a new journey towards reconciliation together.”
The Chiefs were exonerated by then B.C. Premier Christy Clark in October 2014.