July 07, 2016 - 6:30 PM
ENDERBY - The remains of their ancestors are not for sale.
That’s what some elders and members of the Splatsin First Nation in Enderby are saying to their chief and council about a referendum to decide if a three-quarter acre parcel of farmland will be sold for $300,000.
The land, the elders say, may look like a simple corn field but is in fact a historically and culturally significant burial ground.
Jody Leon is the daughter of Splatsin elder Rosalind Williams. She says interred at the site are the bodies of dozens of First Nation people who died from a disease that killed hundreds of thousands in the 19th century.
“First they die from smallpox, now the farmers are running over top of them,” Leon says. “This is about respect for deceased people. It is not about division.”
The provincial government has offered the band $300,000 for the land, which sits somewhere on a private lot in Enderby. The community now has until July 16 to vote in the referendum and if the majority are in favour, the money will be released.
Leon says there is nothing wrong with taking the issue to referendum or even considering the proposal, but she and those who stage a protest today, July 7, are worried there is not enough awareness of the issue.
“There hasn’t been enough time to inform all our people,” she says. “We are reminding the band council that they should be consulting with us.”
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