September 29, 2021
UBCIC Marks the Passing of Beloved Kwagu’ł Chief and Elder Rupert Wilson Sr.
(Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh)/Vancouver, B.C. – September 29, 2021) It was not so long ago when Chief Rupert Wilson Sr. stood before representatives of the BC Government and stated, matter of fact, “You are killing us with words” while “you rob us of our resources.” In remembering his profound statements, and understanding how they continue to resonate today, it is with deep sadness that the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) marks the passing of Wawaxalagilaxw, Chief and Elder Rupert Wilson Sr. of the Kwakiutl (Kwagu’ł) First Nation.
Rupert Wilson Sr. always stood for Exclusive Rights, Kwagu’ł sovereignty, Douglas Treaty, and the irrefutable fact that Aboriginal Title and Treaty Rights were not mutually exclusive. He never abandoned the Douglas Treaty as a solemn and sacred agreement (that his great-grandfathers signed), and often stated that the Treaty itself was evidence that the Kwagu’ł people were the rightful owners of Kwagu’ł land. Rupert would often say, “Our Kwagu’ł signatures are on the Treaty, we are still at liberty to hunt and to carry on our fisheries as formerly.” He saw the unfettered taking up of land by settlers, the destruction of old growth forest, and the overfishing of salmon as a betrayal of Title and Treaty Rights, and a betrayal of the very people who depended on the land and waters for sustenance and livelihood. He would often ask, “What good is self-government if we are left with nothing to govern but poverty?”
For many decades, as Chief and Elder, Rupert devoted himself to the cause of self-determination, and the rights of the Kwagu’ł people to choose their own political and economic destiny based on cultural identity, social unity, and spiritual beliefs. He stood with the people at protests; he stood for the people at negotiations; he stood by the people in their time of need. He was a true warrior spirit who never backed down from a fight when the actions of governments infringed upon the interests and rights of Indigenous people everywhere, but the Kwagu’ł in particular. Whether in the courtrooms or the boardrooms, or out on his beloved land and waters, Rupert always held the Crown accountable to the highest standard of duty and care.
We send of our deepest condolences to Rupert’s family, the community of Tsaxis, and the Kwagu’ł Nation. He was a respected friend and ally of UBCIC, and we pray his spirit finds its rightful place among his ancestors.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President, 250-490-5314
Chief Don Tom, Vice-President, 250-813-3315
Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer, c/o 778-866-0548
UBCIC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. For more information please visit www.ubcic.bc.ca'
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