Led by Hereditary Squamish Chief Kiapilano, fifty people occupied Holy Rosary Catholic Church in downtown Vancouver this morning in the midst of a high mass, and issued an Eviction Notice to the Roman Catholic Church. (See Public Declaration, below)
Triggered by the refusal of the Catholic Church leaders to reply to a Letter of Demand asking that they identify the buried location of children who died in their Indian Residential Schools, the occupation surprised the church-goers, who sat silently as the procession of residential school survivors, elders, and their supporters walked quietly to the front of the church sanctuary and stood facing them with a banner that read “All the Children Need a Proper Burial.”
Despite physical intimidation by one of the officiating priests, the group stood its ground, and distributed copies of the Eviction Order to the congregants. Acting under the authority of Chief Kiapilano, Kevin Annett Eagle Strong Voice handed an original copy of the Eviction Order to presiding priest Glen Dion. The group then began drumming, and, led by the elders and Chief Kiapilano, slowly proceeded out of the sanctuary as the congregegants stood up.
Outside the church, the group gathered again, where Chief Kiapilano and others spoke.
“I’m Chief Kiapilano. I’m one of the survivors of the Catholic schools. They used every method to shut me up, but I’m still here. We’ve got to stand up and put these people out.”
The crowd roared.
“They now have 72 hours to get off Squamish territory” said Kevin Annett to the crowd. “I hope you’ll all come back next Sunday to help enforce this eviction order. That’s Easter Sunday, when they celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Well, we’ll be here to witness the resurrection of the Squamish Nation.”
William Combes, a survivor of the Catholic residential schools in Mission and Kamloops, B.C., spoke to the crowd.
“In the residential school I witnessed murders, burials, you name it. But the truth’s going to prevail over their lies”
Chief Red Jacket of the Seneca Nation said,
“it’s long overdue, that this land be given back to Chief Kiapilano, its rightful owner. If I was caught with stolen goods, I’d be taken to jail. Why isn’t this happening here?”.
“I would like to reaffirm Chief Kiapilano’s hereditary title” said an aboriginal man who came from Vancouver Island to be pasrt of the occupation. “It’s the first time I’ve seen someone serve an eviction notice on a church. I’m really proud to be here. I will pass this on to my children and grandchildren”. The crowd roared once more.
Led by the elders, the group then proceeded to Christ Church Anglican Cathedral and St. Andrew’s Wesley United Church, where the same Eviction Order was posted on their front doors.
Despite the noticeable absence of aboriginal media, the event was covered by local and national television and radio stations.
A similar occupation occurred at two churches in downtown Toronto the same morning, and was reported in the Toronto Star and Sun newspapers. At one of the occupied churches, St. James Anglican, the protestors were physically accosted by parishioners and their banner was torn.
Chief Kiapilano’s group is disseminating the Eviction Order to the nearly 300 Catholic, Anglican and United churches on his territory, throughout Vancouver. They plan to return next Sunday to open up Holy Rosary church and others to the hungry and homeless, and to release more evidence of mass murders in Indian Residential Schools.
“I’m only doing what should have been done long ago” declared Chief Kiapilano.
For more information:
Public Declaration and Press Statement
On the Land of the Squamish Nation –
March 16, 2008
I am Kevin Annett Eagle Strong Voice, and I have been authorized by Hereditary Squamish Chief Kiapilano to make the following Declaration.
As of today, March 16, 2008, the Roman Catholic, Anglican and United Churches of Canada operating in the territory of the Squamish Nation have been ordered permanently off that territory by Chief Kiapilano, under the authority of his traditional tribal law.
Chief Kiapilano has evicted these churches from his territory because of their illegal trespass and occupation of his land, their failure to pay his Nation rent or acknowledgement for more than a century, their responsibility for the deaths of thousands of children in their Indian Residential Schools, and their refusal to return the bodies of these children and surrender those responsible for their deaths.
This Eviction Notice gives these churches 72 hours to remove their belongings from the nearly three hundred buildings owned and operated by them in Squamish territory, which encompasses all of Vancouver and the north shore and outlying territories. After this three day period, Chief Kiapilano and his allies will peacefully occupy and take over these buildings, and open them as sanctuaries for homeless and hungry people.
Therefore, as of 10:00 am, March 19, 2008, PST, the buildings of the three corporations known as the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, and the United Church of Canada, will belong to the Squamish Nation, and these church corporations will no longer be recognized by us.
This Eviction Notice also empowers me, Kevin Annett Eagle Strong Voice, and my associates, to take this measure of occupation and to conduct on Squamish Nation territory an independent inquiry into crimes in Indian Residential Schools, including by locating and returning the buried remains of children who died in residential schools run by these church corporations.
As part of this inquiry, the church buildings that will be occupied by Squamish Nation members will be opened to the public as a venue for the convening of this independent inquiry, to which we will invite international observers and the media in order to share our findings.
Finally, it is the aim of this campaign to bring to justice those persons responsible for the crime against humanity known as the Indian Residential School system, and therefore we will be establishing Indigenous Courts of Justice on Squamish Nation territory where those accused of such crimes will be brought for trial and sentencing.
We take these actions as a clear Declaration of our sovereignty as a Nation, for the cause of final justice, and for the healing of all nations burdened by the legacy of genocide. We therefore call upon all people of conscience to join us in this struggle, under the guidance of a loving and just Creator, to whom we commit our lives and our mutual honour.
Kevin Annett Eagle Strong Voice
Copies of this Declaration have been issued to the world media, governments, and indigenous nations, and have been posted, alongside Chief Kiapilano’s Declaration, at many Catholic, Anglican and United churches across Turtle Island.