The sins of our fathers

The King James Version of The Bible, which I happen to think outdoes all others, tells us (Exodus 34:6) that while God can find mercy “for thousands” He also reserves the right of “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children unto the third and fourth generation.”
I leave the debate on God and the difference between mercy for thousands and punishment for children, who can hardly be blamed for their parents’ misdemeanours, to wiser, and clearer, heads than mine. I mention the quote only because it seems to be holding good in 2014 courtesy The Supreme Court of Canada’s June 26 Tsilqot’in aboriginal land title claim.
Readers unfamiliar with history in Western Canada can Google “The Chilcotin War” for background on the Tsilhqot’in. They may be surprised to find members of that nation still hold an annual memorial gathering on October 26 to remember their leader Klatsassin, hanged on that date so long ago.
It is interesting that one of the issues of the day in 1866 was created by white immigrants claiming right of ownership of what they called the Chilcotin Plateau and therefore the right to cross it on a trade route from the Interior to the coast without permission – or even consultation with – the people who had lived there for centuries.
For more than a hundred years the Tsilhqot’in argued their aboriginal rights were being ignored. For more than a hundred years successive provincial governments denied their challenges and held fast to their belief that with what had become a huge majority of “white” citizens they had could rightfully claim ownership “for the Crown”.
It was not an “in Canada” only assumption. In Australia and New Zealand white immigrants followed similar patterns. Both countries will be watching how the June Canadian High Court decision plays out. Both have aboriginal land claim problems to resolve.
In British Columbia fears are already being expressed that international investments will look for other places to find natural resource riches to develop and export for profit. There is cause for concern – especially if the government remembers what the Tsilhqot’in fought and died for in 1866: The right to control who traversed their land and decide what they, the titled owners by right of ancient possession, considered beneficial or hazardous when natural resources were transported by whatever means across the Chilcotin Plateau.
We can only hope the Tsilhqot’ins will approach the looming problems with more understanding and generosity than our “fathers” for whose sins we must now be prepared to pay.

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