Gustafsen Lake Miracle

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Gustafsen Lake Miracle



It really is some sort of a miracle that no one was killed here with so much military might being on display. Maybe it's a good thing that our military can't shoot straight.


Dr Anthony James Hall's whole article is worth reading. It certainly is different from the stories in the press we were treated to at the time. It certainly makes you wonder how little is actually true in the mainstream press.


A powerful case can be made, I believe, that the mobilization of such
massive police and military force in the Gustafsen Lake affair
represents the logical successor to the so-called "Riel rebellions" in
terms of the zeal of government officials to commit so much logistical
and political capital towards quelling a Native resistance movement in
Western Canada. Moreover, I believe the subsequent treatment of the
Cree leaders, Big Bear and Poundmaker, as political prisoners bears a
remarkable resemblance to the aftermath of the Gustafsen standoff. (John
L. Tobias, "Canada's Subjugation of the Plains Cree, 1879-1885," The
Canadian Historical Review, Vol. 64, no. 4, 1983, pp.519-548)

When I look back over the course of Bruce Clark's career, I see a man
that elites in Canada have learned to revile, much as Louis Riel grew to
be hated especially in Protestant, Anglo Ontario. This outcome seems so
at variance with how Dr. Clark so smoothly began his successful early
law practice. He was able to afford a large and comfortable home as
well as a bush plane to serve his northern Ontario clientele.

Being one of the pioneers of the modern era of Aboriginal-rights
litigation in Canada, Clark was in a position to have made a fortune in
his chosen profession. Instead of using his expertise and talent for
personal advantage, he chose to wade into the deep waters of the UN's
Genocide Convention of 1948 (which the US stubbornly refused to ratify
until the end of the Cold War) and to clarify the jurisdictional
shortcomings of the court system. This system, Dr. Clark has
convincingly argued, is ill-suited in both the United States and Canada
to addressing credibly the assertions of First Nations sovereignty or of
interpreting or defining the existence and the character of Aboriginal
title, especially in constitutional and international law. That
political and legal contention, having to do with the jurisdictional
capacities of the domestic courts, was absolutely central to the stand
of the protesters at Gustafsen Lake, who withstood such a huge onslaught
of state violence and psychological warfare to demonstrate the depth of
their convictions.

When I imagine how a Bruce Clark might best be employed, I picture him
perhaps at the Hague working for an International Tribunal. I imagine
him working through the problems of who did or did not commit ethnic
cleansing in the Balkans and who is or is not responsible for having
commited crimes against humanity. Before such a use could be made of
Bruce Clark, however, he would insist that the logic of equal treatment
before the law would necessitate some fundamental grappling with these
same issues in the context of the history of our hemisphere since 1492.

In my estimation what happened at Gustafsen Lake illustrates
compellingly that the Indian wars in North America never ended. The
difficulties in the way of getting at the full truth of what actually
transpired at Gustafsen Lake demonstrates further the need for edified
international agencies to undertake the investigation of certain kinds
of alleged human-rights violations, even in North America. Without the
benefit of the perspectives of outside, third-party observers and
arbitrators, there are few checks against the tendency of domestic
officialdom to dress up political turmoil in the clothes of criminals
and law enforcers. The case of James Pitawanakwat, I believe, admirably
captures some of the main outlines of many of these problems and issues,
ones Dr. Clark has endeavoured against powerful odds to illuminate and

There is yet another key player named Clark who identified himself so
closely with the Gustafsen protesters that he made himself for all
intents and purposes on of them. That Clark is Ramsay Clark, former
Attorney General of the United States during the regime of Lyndon
Johnson. Ramsay Clark is pictured in Above The Law, Part 2 declaring
that it was a "despicable act" act for Judge Nicolas Friesen of British
Columbia to have sent Bruce Clark, the Gustafsen protesters' lawyer of
choice for a mental examination.

It is my impression, although I would have trouble documenting it, that
Ramsay Clark intervened directly with Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh,
imploring him not to let looses another WACO-style horror. Ramsay Clark
has, I understand, been deeply involved in sorting out the legal mess of
Waco, and I imagine his invocation of the Waco comparison at the height
of the Gustafsen standoff might have raised a few heads in the British
Columbia government. Ramsay Clark may well be the person most
responsible for the fact that no one was killed in the Gustafsen affair.

I shall quote at some length Ramsay Clark's letter concerning the
treatment of Bruce Clark, a saga that is very suggestive of just how
politically overcharged the court proceedings were during the immediate
aftermath of the standoff. In a letter from his New York offices dated
26 September, 1995-- a letter copied to the Chief Justice of British
Columbia Allan McEachern, Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh, and the Law
Society of British Columbia, Ramsay Clark wrote to Judge Nicholas
Friesen as follows,
The arrested Indians were being humiliated by the police to whom they
surrendered, deprived of their clothing and brought into the court in
paper garments. Your partisan support for the police created new
tensions and the perception of injustice.

By denying the Indians representation, you subjected them to lengthy
interrogation under extremely coercive conditions by the police. Any
lawyer worthy of the calling would plead zealously for the right of
individuals at such a critical stage of criminal proceedings to be
represented by counsel of choice. When Bruce Clark did so, you brushed
aside the legal issues he sought to raise and he was physically subdued
by officers of your courtroom.... Now Clark is threatened with assault
charges, though the real charge would seem to be "resisting assault."
This was a common law enforcement practice during the civil rights
struggles in the 1950s and 1960s in the U.S.

Bruce Clark was returned to your court after arrested Indians had
directly informed you they wanted him as their lawyer. On your own
initiative you ordered Mr. Clark to undergo a psychiatric examination to
determine if he is mentally fit to be charged and stand trial for
contempt of court, thus punishing him severely without any
adjudication. The meaning of this could hardly be lost on the Indians,
or counsel who might agree to represent them. It is so inherently
improbable that you could have doubted Mr. Clark's mental competence
that you have created the appearance of an outrageous abuse of judicial
power to deprive persons accused of crime of their counsel and to
deliberately humiliate that counsel and his clients....

You were unwilling to address, analyze and explain the law, resorting
to pejorative exclamation instead of reason and judicious comment. Not
content with confining Bruce Clark for a mental competence examination,
you taunted him in a public courtroom where you had him brought in in
ankle and wrist chains after being deliberately deprived of sleep over
the weekend.. Do you expect Indian peoples to believe they can receive
justice in your court? And where will Indians obtain independent,
courageous and effective counsel to represent them in your court?

It seems to me such engaged involvement by a former Attorney General of
the United States adds substantially to the case that there was nothing
frivilous, ephemeral or marginal about the political and ideological
substance of the Gustafsen protest. I believe that decades ago Ramsay
Clark parted company with many of his colleagues in government over the
issue of the role of the US military in the Vietnam Confict. I believe
what happened in Vietnam was never dignified by the USA with an official
Declaration of War, much like the commitment of the Canadian military to
quell an Indian uprising at Gustafsen Lake was never dignified through
an invocation of those legislative and constitutional provisions meant
to attend such a significant act.


Sometimes Canada has a strange way of choosing its heroes.
Olympics' Top Cop Helped Blow up Truck at Gustafsen Stand-off

RCMP's Bud Mercer was in the thick of several famous clashes with dissenters. This story, with video of the exploding truck, is first in a series.


interesting enough, i think that the main military head honcho we sent to haiti was also the guy who led the assault on oka.


It's always the same story - the police side with the rich and powerful. I suppose they know what side their bread is buttered on.



"I suggest that the use of state sanctioned force at Gustafsen Lake constituted an assertion of hegemonic power to quell a threat to state legitimacy. Because solid legal principles animated the Ts'peten Defenders' stand, it was in the interest of all levels of government to silence the protesters' arguments so as to maintain the political, social and economic status quo.

The Ts'Peten Defenders argument that a majority of British Columbia remains unceded territory posed a tremendous threat to both the state and the corporate sector in a province that depends upon trillions of dollars of resource extraction for its economic prosperity.

The gravity of the challenge presented by the protesters at the Ts'peten sacred grounds was not lost on politicians or the RCMP. In a 24, August 1995 interview on CHNL radio Kamloops, RCMP [BC Media Liason Officer] Peter Montague stated:

'Basically, the very foundations that Canadian society are built on are threatened here, and the RCMP is well aware of that'

At Gustafsen Lake, the RCMP defended a suspect legal regime. if the legal truth is that jurisdiction remains with Native people, trillions of dollars of corporate resources as well as the very jurisdiction of the state may be jeopardized. To prevent the loss of corporate investment, the use of force, in the name of law was employed to stifle, suppress and 'set the example' that a challenge to the sanctity of the state will not be tolerated.

At Gustafsen Lake, the class interests of those in positions of economic and political power in both Native and non-Native communities in British Columbia were protected when the serious threat to state legitimacy that the Ts'Peten Defenders posed was quashed.

By convincing the public that the RCMP were acting to defend the rule of law and that the Defenders were reckless law-breakers, the compelling legal arguments assembled by the Ts'Peten Defenders were muted..."


Some people think nothing good comes out of Alberta, but I have been quite impressed with the research that has come out of the University of Leithbridge on the Gustafsen Lake issue as was articulated in the opening post. It is an impressive read.   


There was a federal NDP leadership campaign at the time. At one meeting I attended of all candidates, Svend Robinson was particularly aggressive in attacking the traditionalists at Gustafsen and 'bigging up' Harcourt, Dosanjh and the RCMP. Other candidates less so. Audrey Maclaughlin said she supported a public inquiry 'without hesitation' after the standoff ended.


Red Tory Tea Girl wrote:

remind wrote:

wow, who knew the RCMP had tanks..... :rolleyes:


and again I will note that this thread over here indicates quite clearly that provincial NDP parties, are not that  of the federal NDP, especially when lead by Ujaal.




Well, the restrictuon, unique to the NDP, that one cannot be a member of any provincial party but the NDP and be allowed to be a member of the federal NDP, and vice versae, tends to indicate the contrary.


I'm not sure what this tends to indicate except that the members of the BC NDP are members of the federal NDP, but not necessary the reverse. Gustafsen Lake has absolutely nothing to do with the federal NDP.  Yes, the provincial NDP were involved, and of course let's not forget the federal Liberals, who are responsible for First Nations according to Canada's constitution. Good ol' Liberal Jean Chretien was Prime Minister at the time. 


I liked Audrey Maclaughlin. She was different.


Twenty Years of Resistance and Struggle: The Commemoration of Gustafsen Lake

On September 11, 1995,  combined forces of the NDP Government of the Province of British Columbia, the RCMP, Canadian Forces and the Dominion of Canada mounted a terrorist attack upon a besiged and resisting Ts'Peten Sundance Camp near Gustafsen Lake.  In the ensuing hours their camp vehicle was blown up a police IED followed by a fussilade of approximately 77,000 rounds of ammunition fired from several Bison APCs and RCMP ERT Teams.  Only one non-native supporter was wounded. Ts'peten defenders attribute their miraculous survival to the powerful protections of their sundance grounds.

Twenty years later, we salute their resistance and the full and continuing sovereignty of the Secepemc People over the entirety of their unceded ancestral territories.

Sovereignty remains the issue. Canada remains the problem. Freedom!

Ts'Peten, 1995

"We cannot call ourselves a nation if we don't defend what is rightfully ours."  - Wolverine, 1995

Scenes From Gustafsen lake


Despite all demands, national and international, the government has never agreed to hold an inquiry into all aspects of this matter


Ts'peten Gathering/ 20 Year Commemoration of the Gustafsen Lake Standoff


in some ways we've come so far and in others not o much.....


Gustafsen Lake Standoff in Five Minutes (and vid)


To Canada: A Letter From Wolverine

Wolverine, Indigenous Secwepemc & Gustafsen Defender sending this letter to Trudeau & Cdn Govt today...

"As Wolverine said yesterday, 'We cannot be afraid anymore. The time for this inquiry into Gustafsen Lake has come, and to let the people know what happened to us and continues to happen to us.

Today I am writing to you to request that you initiate a federal public inquiry into the events surrounding the month-long standoff at Ts'Peten (Gustafsen Lake, 1995), an event which cast a deep shadow on the relationship between the government and Indigenous Nations, which to this day has not been adequately investigated..."

Please support:

PM Justin Trudeau: [email protected]

AG Canada, Jody Wilson-Raybould: [email protected]


Another example of what happens when the NDP elects a liberal as leader.


'Contempt of Court' and 'Conduct Unbecoming'  - by Bruce Clark

"I was a practicing lawyer for 28 years before being imprisoned in 1997 for 3 months for 'criminal contempt of court'. In 1999 I was disbarred on the ground this particular conviction of a 'crime' was so heinous, as to amount to 'conduct unbecoming', justifying that most extreme of available punishments...

My Gustafsen Lake clients on whose behalf I sought to file and have the judge read the application on September 15, 1995, never did get to present to the court system the legal argument that the application supported.

Their argument was that the legal system of lawyers and judges were protecting the illegal- because criminally unconstitutional - land grant of grazing rights to an American ranching in the Gustafsen Lake region.

The Indians' constitutional defence was crushed when I was excluded from their defence and in fact was never addressed by the convicting and sentencing courts or the Supreme Court of Canada.

Some of them, without lawyers, insisted upon their constitutional defence but their insistence was ignored and not mentioned by any of the judges and courts dealing with the charges of 'trespass' and 'mischief' against them.

The Indian leader [Wolverine] of their constitutional endeavour received a four year jail sentence. The constitutional defence of Indian possession under the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the Constitution Act, 1867, was effectively killed and buried by the legal establishment, whose duty is to uphold the constitution against federal and provincial encroachment.

This is dramatic proof of the crimes that the ignored application truthfully and justifiably alleged against the legal establishment. The constitutional question has never been addressed and now never will be. Yet there is no question of greater public importance."



From the Archives....

In Honour of the Gustafsen Lake Defenders - In Support of Indigenous Sovereignty (2004)

"We are gathered here today to remind everyone about the role of the NDP government in the largest paramilitary operation in Canada..."


What an eye-opener series of posts, links and articles.  I knew First Nations people had been badly treated at Gustafsen Lake but had no idea how badly. 

Ujjal Dosingh got played by the RCMP and that should be to his everlasting shame. He should apologize.


Gustafsen Lake Warrior Granted Political Asylum in US Wants to Return Home

"A Wikwemikong man who was given political asylum in the US following the 1995 Gustafsen Lake armed standoff in British Columbia wants to return to Canada.

James 'OJ' Pitawanakwat, 44, has lived in the US since August 1998 when he crossed the border while on day parole in Canada. The US Federal Court for the District of Oregon denied Canada's extradition request for Pitawanakwat in November 2000 on grounds his actions in BC were 'of a political character' and qualified for an exemption under the extradition treaty between Canada and the US.

'I would like to go back home to live and come and go throughout Canada and come and go throughout the US, without this harassment,' said Pitawanakwat, who is originally from Wikwemikong on Manitoulin Island in Ontario..."


Minister of Justice Responds to Call For Inquiry Into Gustafsen Lake Standoff

"Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson Raybould says she will look into a call for an inquiry into the Gustafsen Lake standoff, but the issue is not a top priority.

She said she'd received a letter about the Gustafsen standoff but noted that the ministry has other mandates that must take precedence, including the missing and murdered women inquiry, one of the Liberal party's campaign pledges..."

Minister Raybould seeks to protect not only the Chretien Liberal government of the day, every bit as responsible for the outrages at Gustafsen as the BC NDP government and especially AG Ujjal Dosanjh, but also to protect the comprador class of oppression administrators that profit increasingly well, like Ms Raybould,  from the present system of Canadian neo-colonialism, as grassroots people, like the ones who stood at Gustafsen, lose their lands and sovereignty to grotesqueries like BC's 'trick or treaty' Commission and 'extinguishment by consent.'

The pressure must now move to Trudeau:

For A Gustafsen Inquiry Now!

[email protected]


Petition: For a National Inquiry Into Ts'Peten/Gustafsen Lake Standoff * Please sign and pass on*

"...For twenty years, the Ts'Peten Defenders have been calling for a national public inquiry. As Wolverine wrote in his open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and A-G Jody Wilson,

'The time has come to honour your commitment to Indigenous peoples, and to a reconciliation between our nations. An inquiry into the Ts'Peten stanoff would demonstrate that the Canadian government is committed to a new era of respectful, Nation to Nation relationships.'




Renewed Calls For A National Inquiry Into Standoff At Gustafsen Lake (and audio)

"There's a renewed call for a national inquiry into the Gustafen Lake standoff. Wolverine along with a new group called the Ts'peten Defence Committee are demanding a National Inquiry. The CBC's Samantha Garvey has been looking into the story."


Gustafsen Lake

"Ts'peten (Gustafsen Lake) Defence Committee calling for a national inquiry into the 1995 Ts'peten Standoff."

Sign the Petition!

Spread the Word!

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture


..i was at a meeting a couple weeks ago in wpg where i listened to women tell stories of their struggles to oppose energy east. at one point a hat was passed around taking up a collection for someone that was leaving the next day for bc. this person was going to help wolverine who has fallen ill. wolverine has been growing food these past couple years where he lives and sending it to those blockading pipelines.


Glad to hear the word's getting out about this amazing activist epaulo13! Unfortunately both BC and Ottawa are still stonewalling the inquiry call for obvious reasons - they have much to hide.

Please sign petition and forward to your circles if you haven't already...


Gustafsen Lake Standoff Leader Wolverine Condemns Federal Response to Request For Inquiry (and vid)

"The Secwepemc elder who led the 1995 Gustafsen Lake uprising has condemned the federal government's reluctance to order an inquiry into what happened.

'There is no justice on stolen land,' Wolverine, aka Jones William Ignace, wrote in an open letter released today. 'There is no justice in the very same courts and institutions that have, without the jurisdiction to do so, created the Indian Act, that have legislated genocide, that have attempted, but have not and will not succeed in destroying us.'

'Already, the actions, or lack thereof of the new Prime Minister and the Federal Minister of Justice and Attorney General are in direct contravention of the moral and legal obligations their stations require of them. I remind you these obligations are constitutional.

Canada is crumbling under the weight of its own broken promises, constitutional violations and genocidal crimes. Our Tribes are rising, formally unifying in a stance of full sovereignty and jurisdiction on our Territories.'

Wolverine stated that evidence of this can be seen in indigenous peoples' struggles 'to stop the destruction of our Homelands, whether that destruction is pipelines, fracking, logging, LNG terminals, fish-farms, transport corridor expansion, mines, tar-sands, or other extractive industry,'

'With regard to the upcoming federal inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, Wolverine declared that the 'ongoing murder and abduction of our Women must not be used to deflect the seriousness of the questions we are asking, as it is the very same issues we are attempting to address..."


'Disinformation and Smear': The Use of State Propaganda and Military Force to Suppress Aboriginal Title at the 1995 Gustafsen Lake Standoff


Secwepemc elder Wolverine passed away yesterday quietly at his home on sovereign, unceded Shuswap territory. Rest in Power! Condolences to family, nation, friends and fellow fighters.



what a loss.

what a legacy.

my thoughts to his family and friends.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..i am saddened by the loss of wolverine. like leonard peltier, wolverine has been around my entire adult life. i will miss him.


epaulo13 wrote:

..i am saddened by the loss of wolverine. like leonard peltier, wolverine has been around my entire adult life. i will miss him.

I started an appropriate thread to commemorate him since this thread's title does not even contain his name.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..glad you did krop. just saw it. txs



Secwepemc Elder 'Wolverine' Ignace, 84, Died Tuesday, Surrounded By Family on Home Territory

"Secwepemc Elder William Jones 'Wolverine' Ignace, who gained international recognition after the 1995 Gustafsen Lake, standoff, died early Tuesday evening, surrounded by family in his Adams Lake Indian Band home on Secwepemc territory..."


Secwepemc Elder William Jones 'Wolverine' Ignace (and vid)

"The Council of Canadians mourns the passing of Secwepemc Elder William Jones 'Wolverine' Ignace. The 84-year old was a key figure in the Ts'Peten/Gustafsen Lake Standoff..."


*Perhaps the NDP, now in Convention, should remember the still outstanding demand for a public inquiry into all aspects of the Gustafsen Lake matter, and the very prominent role played in it by the NDP Government of the Province of British Columbia, and especially by then AGBC Ujjal Dosanjh. These actions were and remain serious criminal violations of law and seriously so. Hence the continuing coverup. See following post.


Bruce Clark: Native American Rights Lawyer

"The Ontario Civil Liberties Association (OCLA) interviewed Dr Bruce Clark, the lawyer and jurisprudential scholar who describes what ails the Canadian justice system when it comes to dealing with Aboriginal sovereignty issues. Bruce Clark represented Gustafsen Lake Faith Keepers (Sundancers) at the Gustafsen Lake standoff in 1995...

Please sign inquiry post #20




Interview: Through the Eyes of Wolverine


"In Gustafsen Lake last year, no university students were there, no college students, no leaders. There was no one there who had a job or a future. Gustafsen was native people who had given up on the system or had seen the system give up on them. They were a group of people frustrated to the point where they had no loyalty to anyone, no loyalties even to their own people."

Chief Ovide Mercredi address to students of Red River College, Winnipeg, Windspeaker Magazine, April, 1996


"Call from Senator Len Marchand - refers to [Gustafsen] group. 'No better or worse than Branch Davidians at Waco.'  Supports show of force."  - RCMP Superintendent Len Olfert, Commanding Officer, disclosed notes, Gustafsen trial


"If you were any kind of Indian you'd get your ass over to our side of this wire."

Wolverine to Mercredi at Gustafsen Lake, 1995



Ts'Peten 1995  - poster and intro by Gord Hill

22 years later, despite all the res school inquiries, crocodile tears and calls to tear down John A statues, the law upholding Shuswap sovereignty has yet to be addressed. Usurpation-as-genocide continues...


Above The Law 1, 2 (doco 2000)

A critical look at the Gustafsen Lake Indigenous Sovereignty Stand


Audio: Legal Teachings from Wolverine, William Jones Ignace (RIP)

Secwepemc elder Wolverine on his national sovereignty and Canada's suppression of it. Given the resistance focus on this territory and the Kinder-Morgan pipeline, it remains as relevant as ever. 

Wolverine's lawyer Bruce Clark has also written on the subject of Canada's anti-law as genocide. The elder maintained that Clark was 'the only Canadian lawyer ready, able and willing to advance our arguments.'


Re: Ovide Mercredi Receives Honourary Doctorate From University of Manitoba - APTN


(1997) Ovide Mercredi: 'National Indian Hero or National Indian Disgrace?

"...Mercredi continued his efforts to impugn the Ts'peten Defenders after the standoff. Speaking to students in Red River College, Winnipeg, he said: 'In Gustafsen Lake last year, no university students were there, no college students, no leaders. There was no one there who had a job or a future. They were a group of people frustrated to the point where they had no loyalty to anyone, no loyalties even to their own people.'  - Windspeaker, April 1996

"I haven't seen any victories for the Indian people during my term as national chief,' he said in an interview Monday. He said the poverty of the Indian people since the Liberals have been in office has increased. Mercredi said he is stepping aside from his $85,000-a-year job to make way for new leadership. He said he has not made any plans for the future, 'but I doubt the Liberals will be offering me a job...'I'd like to be an ambassador somewhere. Somewhere like Australia or New Zealand where they speak English."


Mercredi To Receive Honorary LLD From Law Society of Ontario

"Awardee has played a large role in advancing the causes of Indigenous people in Canada..."

(See above - #36) This is the same Law Society that disbarred the Secwepemc Sundancers' lawyer for daring to point out in settled and binding constitutional  and international law the usurpation-as-genocide of Canada including the replacement of true sovereign Indigenous leadership with paid compradors, crown agents, proxies, hustlers and sellouts.