ENDERBY - Public pressure is mounting for the Splatsin band council to cancel a referendum involving an ancestral burial site.
Splatsin Stet-lexam elders met with Grand Chief Stuart Phillip and other First Nations leaders yesterday, July 13, to discuss a referendum set for this Saturday, July 16, asking band membership if they support a $300,000 settlement from the federal government for a cemetery on Old Vernon Road in Enderby.
Splatsin elders and other band members want to see the referendum cancelled, the land returned, and the grave site properly fenced and marked so it remains protected. They are also asking for an archeological study.
REQUIRED READING: Splatsin people who died of smallpox were buried at the grave site, known as Fortune Field, in the 1800s. According to elders, the site was removed from the reserve without their consent.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the Splatsin elders gained official support from Grand Chief Stuart Phillip.
“As indigenous leaders, we have a sacred duty and obligation, under the direction and guidance of our elders, to protect, defend and caretake the sacred remains of our ancestors,” Grand Chief Phillip said in a media release issued after the meeting.
Splatsin band members and the Regional Chief of B.C. Shayne Gottfriedson of the Assembly of First Nations, were scheduled to speak with Splatsin Chief Wayne Christian and sub-chief George Williams via a teleconference Wednesday afternoon.
Chief Wayne Christian has been out of town and unavailable for interviews over the past several days. When contacted by iNFOnews.ca, Splatsin councillors George Williams and Edna Felix declined to comment about the upcoming referendum and whether it will be cancelled.
The property in question is privately owned by a farmer, and the settlement process for the site has been ongoing for many years. Splatsin elders are concerned the site is not properly protected through the B.C. Heritage Act.
For more information about the Protect Splatsin Ancestors movement, click here.
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