[Editor’s Note: The following interview with Frank Martin and Helen Michell aka Telquaa took place back in June of 2001 and ran in Vol. 3 No. 10 of The Radical, Canada’s Activist Monthly Newspaper. Frank and Helen are still very much active in their ongoing struggles with the State, the Judicial system and the police and it is in their interest and that of public awareness that I am running this interview once again.]
Frank & Helen Speak Out
Eddie John, B.C. Land Treaties, Residential School Abuse, Genocide and Native Justice
By Arthur Topham
(Original Editor’s Note: Frank Martin and Helen Michell first appeared in The Radical in conjunction with the Ed John scandal which, to date, still remains unresolved. They were two of many native people who had given sworn testimony during the UN-sponsored Tribunal into Residential School abuse which was held in June of 1998 in Vancouver, B.C. I was able to connect up with them while in Vancouver for the’Hearing That Wasn’t’ a phony court set-up designed to slap an injunction on The Radical and six others in order to prevent us from speaking about the issue of Ed John and Ujjal Dosanjh and the Pedophile/Drug Ring cover-up that they are alleged to have been a part of. Frank and Helen were two of the Defendants named in that lawsuit. The interview took place at their home in east Vancouver on Friday, May 11, 2001.)
Frank Martin, Telquaa (Helen) Michell and their family have been in the forefront of the struggle by indigenous peoples of BC to have the issue of treaty rights addressed in a just and equitable manner. Unassociated with any of the government ‘approved’ channels created by the Department of Indian Affairs, the Federal government of Canada and the B.C. Provincial government which have been set up in order to ‘handle’ the land title issues has meant that Telquaa and her husband Frank Martin great great grandson of famed totem carver Mungo Martin have had to operate outside the frameworks that were arbitrarily put in place to insure the eventual loss of traditional unceded native territories.
Like renegades within their own homelands Telquaa, Frank, their family members have fought and died in order to achieve recognition of their inherent rights as the legal owners of this area of land now called B.C. Along with that struggle has been the call for justice to address the outrage, discrimination and police brutality that has dogged their trail for well over a decade now.
For the purpose of this talk we pick up on the ongoing collusion by the trinity of government, church and residential school ‘clones’ who have conspired to steal the land base from Telquaa’s traditional territory known as Maxan Lake located near Burns Lake in central BC. It’s only one of many areas within the unceded territories of this province where the DIA, the Feds and Provincial government, in association with Tribal Band Councils peopled by ‘Red Apples’ i.e. groomed residential school victims willing to sell out to government officials for power, prestige and money, have forced her family off their traditional land base in order to reap the rewards of timber and other resource extraction and at the same time destroy their chances at reclaiming what is rightfully their traditional birthright.
Telquaa and Frank’s struggle against such formidable odds represents, both in a graphic and a microcosmic sense, the overall struggle of native peoples everywhere around the world who are facing the same merciless onslaught by the dominant white culture to steal and exploit their traditional lands while at the same time destroying their ancient culture.
Throughout the turbulent, trying and incessantly violent challenges presented by DIA band councils, police and native ‘goon squads’ that have overshadowed and tormented their lives Telquaa and Frank have remained resolute and fearless in their efforts to achieve justice for their people.
Working as they do, within a reality that the majority of British Columbians would find difficult to grasp, it’s not surprising that Telquaa and Frank’s story has gone unnoticed by the status quo, mainstream media. They challenge that status quo perception of native land claims just as the defenders at Gustafsen Lake challenged it in 1995 and the Sun Peaks protesters and the Melvin Creek protesters are challenging it today. And in a similar manner they have faced the harsh and brutal reactionary responses to their work by every segment of the dominant culture including segments of their own native people. Their story is not a romantic one nor is it a subject that decent white folk would wish to discuss around the evening supper table. It’s a story of survival and pain and endless struggle and it’s a story of courage and hope as well.
The Radical would like to thank Telquaa and Frank and their family for the opportunity to speak with them. It’s our hope that their voices, so often stifled and distorted amid the din and glare of bureaucratic red tape and the modern-day glitz that passes for mainstream reporting, can finally be heard.
Our talk begins with Telquaa showing me the marks on her wrists that she claims were a result of the handcuffs which the RCMP put on her two years ago when she and Frank and their family were returning to Canada after a chiefs conference in June of 1998. Telquaa said that the cuffs were purposely applied too tight and left that way for so long that she was left handicapped to the point where it took nearly two years to be able to use her hands properly for writing or doing her artwork.
Radical: So that incident happened in Oliver, B.C.?
Telquaa: Yes, it was about a week after the Chiefs conference from North and South America which met at Keller Place in June of 1998. We went down and did a rally because I do a lot of ‘No Treaty’ rallies even if I have to do them myself because I’m totally against the B.C. Treaty process. While I was there the Chief from my territory was walking towards me and we stopped and looked at each other and I said to her, ‘You, you’re the one that did my whole family in for the land at Maxan Lake.’ She went out the door and started to call the cops on me.
Radical: What Chief was that?
Telquaa: My own Chief, Maureen Ogden. She’s right beside Eddie John all the time every place you go around Burns Lake and Smithers. She would always be with him when they were doing all the deals that were going on. Every time that she’d have a confrontation with me she’d run to Eddie John about it. So Eddie John knows all about my land fight up north. It ended up in the Supreme Court in Smithers. We have all the court papers from that. It all had to do with Maxan Lake, my land, tribal land, my family’s land.
Radical: What was the outcome of that court case?
Telquaa: We ended up going to New York about it, five of us.
Frank: Me and her and the kids drove out to New York city and went to the United Nations. Eddie John was the Carrier-Sekani Tribal Council Chief at the time and Maureen Ogden was working under him in the council office. The RCMP had evicted us off Telquaa’s land at Maxan Lake because we were doing work with the Elders on their traplines. Telquaa’s family had built a big log home at Maxan Lake. Maxan Lake is way up in the bush. That’s her land.
Radical: Where is that in relation to Prince George?
Frank: It’s west of Burns Lake about thirty miles off of the main highway. When the government was making reservations Telquaa’s Grandfather met with the Royal Commission on Indian Affairs and had them set that land aside. We have the minutes of those meetings. What happened was the Tribal Council took the trapline away from Telquaa’s family and signed it over to people on the council.
Radical: How did they manage to get away with that?
Frank: It was all part of the land claims scam that’s been going on for years. What they’re doing is taking away all the Indian names that were part of the old Potlatch system. It’s a big fraud thing that’s going on. They ended up relocating us and forcing us off the reservation. That’s why we’re in the city. Anyhow, we kept going to see the council because we were losing our kids to the ministry of Children & Families. They were being apprehended and then sent down to the Mormon homes in the city and getting abused. That’s why we say that Eddie John’s responsible for child abuse because those kids were physically abused while in these foster homes. We’ve got nieces and nephews who were abused. Our family was the only family from the community who lost children. So we were targeted but we kept confronting the Carrier-Sekani Tribal Council and tried to have them step in and intervene on our behalf and try to help us get our land back. We went to Indian Affairs ourselves. We got all the documents from the Prince George office. We were told to sue Indian Affairs for all of this because none of us are able to live on the reserve except for old Wally who wouldn’t move.
During that time when all the kids were getting taken away one of them pulled up in a limo by our house on Sardis Street in Vancouver. He was just a young kid. He was talking about ‘them’ taking pictures of him doing sex acts and stuff with older men. That same kid they later sent to jail. Most of the kids ended up in jail. Bruce he’s doing seventeen years for a crime he didn’t commit.
Radical: Who’s Bruce?
Frank: Bruce Michell, that’s Telquaa’s nephew. They ended up railroading him in court. That’s what they tried to do to us too, that’s why we ended up going to New York City. After we got evicted we had no place to go so we said, well, let’s drive to the United Nations. We had gotten an invitation from the Coast Salish people in Washington, USA. They invited us to use their NGO status at the United Nations so that we could make a presentation about what was going on with us up there at Maxan Lake with Eddie John and losing our kids and losing our land and losing lives. I say losing lives because there were accidental deaths that weren’t accidents. That’s why I say that Eddie John should be charged with war crimes because what the Tribal Council has done is an act of war against us, especially Telquaa. She is of the Bear Clan and that, in our tradition means a lot.
Telquaa wrote a story that was printed in the Burns Lake newspaper. She told the newspaper that we didn’t need the DIA, that our people were successful in governing themselves. Her dad had a sawmill and he hired all the guys around the community. And her brothers had a small mill too. They made railway ties and other products. But then they contaminated her dad with TB and they contaminated all the men folk and left the women folk….
Radical: When was that?
Telquaa: My father died in 1959. This all took place around the time when Alcan was moving into the area back in 1952 1953. Later on when Eddie John became Chief of the Tribal Council he was involved in making deals with Alcan. He was into logging the traplines too.
Radical: How is Eddie John involved with the logging of the traplines?
Frank: In Fort St. James. He has a big logging outfit, trucks and everything.
Radical: Is this the only instance that you know of where you say Eddie John’s been involved in questionable activities?
Frank: No. Then six million dollars went missing a couple of years ago and the three guys that were involved with Eddie on that ended up drowning in the river. They said it was accidental.
Radical: So all of the guys who were incriminated in that six million dollar scam drowned under mysterious circumstances?
Frank: Yes. And so Eddie John ended up with all these traplines and then they were logged off. When we were back at Maxan Lake we met with all of the old people and talked about their traplines. We had a whole wall covered with maps of the traplines. It covered the whole territory around Maxan Lake.
Telquaa: We should tell Arthur the story about Eddie John’s uncle.
Frank: Oh, Moses Isaac?
Telquaa: Yes. It was during the time that we were going back and forth to court from Vancouver to Smithers. There were many times that we had to go back and forth and show up on short notice. One day we were coming back from court in Smithers and we had another old man with us and we saw this old man just walking down the highway in Vanderhoof. He had a cane and a long trench coat and a cowboy hat on. He was just walking along and so I said, should I pick him up, should I pick him up? And the old man who was with us said, ‘Don’t ever pass an old man. Pick him up.’ And so we stopped to pick him up and he said, ‘No! I don’t want to get in. I’m walking. I’m walking to Prince George.’
Radical: From Vanderhoof?
Telquaa: Yes. He’d already walked from Fort St. James [a distance of over 40 miles. Ed.] and it was another 50 miles to Prince George. He said he was going there because of something to do with Eddie John. ‘He’s a lawyer and he has to help me. This is my last chance. He’s my nephew and I have to deal with him. It has to do with my trapline,’ he said. He was real mad. And so we picked him up and we drove him to Eddie John’s house in Prince George and Eddie John wouldn’t let him in. Wouldn’t open the door for him or nothing. Finally he came back and he says, ‘He won’t even open the door.’ He was after all the logs on his 220 acre trapline out at Ft. St. James and he was just going to log it without even dealing with the old man.
And so Moses Isaac decided that he was going to run and so we drove him down to Vancouver and he stayed with us for a whole week before he decided he was going to go and get his own place downtown. But during the time he stayed with us he was scared for his life because he believed that he was going to get killed for his land, for the logs on his trapline. So after a week we put him up in a hotel downtown. He was fine when we put him in there. Then, the next day when we went to check up on him he was gone. His room was cleaned out. It was just like the old man had disappeared. A few years later I met someone from his area and I asked her if she knew the old man and she freaked. She ran. She wouldn’t even answer me. So I asked another woman who’s last name was Isaac too and she said that he had died. So I don’t know if they did him in or what. No one said anything about it after that.
Radical: So it was just one day later that you went to see him and he was already gone?
Frank: Yes. He was quite an independent sort of person and I knew that if we didn’t put him up that he would run on us so we put him up at the New World Hotel downtown. It was an Indian hotel, owned by Indians.
Radical: So when the old man disappeared then Eddie John would have been able to go in and log off his trapline?
Frank: Yes, that’s what happened. He had already logged off half of it before the old man had gone in to Prince George to see him.
Radical: Do you know where that trapline area was?
Frank: Not exactly but it wouldn’t be hard to find out. The Wildlife Office in Smithers gave us all our papers. Also an Anthropologist at UNBC who was employed by the Gitsan Wet’suwet’en gave us documents that were related to the stealing of all our Indian names and how many … people died. She was a bit hesitant to give them to us but she did.
Radical: How do they steal the names?
Frank: Through the Potlatches. Because the government always has a lot of money to spend and the band chiefs use that money to buy Potlatch names. It is illegal though but they still do it. If they have a real Potlatch put up by the hereditary Chiefs you wouldn’t see any of those guys around. Anyway what they do is they move in people from other reserves and make them band councilors and Chiefs and then they vote to force the original people off their land. That’s what they did in Telquaa’s area and everyone was evicted. Everyone except for Wally. He stuck it out but he lost all his kids to the state. Welfare took them all away. They use the welfare system on our families quite a bit.
Telquaa: And the courts.
Frank: Yes, her sister was threatened a couple times by them but she stood up against them and fought back. Like I mentioned earlier some of our family were railroaded through the courts and are doing long jail terms in prison as a result. That’s the kind of conduct that we’re having to deal with when it comes to the judicial system. There’s a conspiracy between Shirley Meldrum who’s the Federal Crown Prosecutor who was railroading all of us in court. She’s married to Godfrey Sebastian who’s the Indian lawyer….
Telquaa: He was also the Grand Tribal Chief of the Hazelton Gitsan while the land claims were going on up there and we didn’t know that and we were going to see him when we were trying to get help with what was going on in my territory at Maxan Lake. And there he was all along sitting with Maureen Ogden and Eddie John. All these guys were tagging together and we didn’t know all this. So we’re still up against the same bunch.
Frank: Anyway, we brought all of this information to the attention of the United Nations when we went there and we said that there was a conspiracy to eliminate indigenous people from their traditional territories, that they were committing genocide on us by forcing us to leave our land. We told the court that there was a conflict of interest with respect to our case because of this relationship between the Chiefs and Council. We called for a mistrial because of that. How we originally found out was that while it was all taking place this old man who was attending the trial came up to us in court and said did you know that that person is married to so and so. We had Elders come to court with us because we couldn’t afford a lawyer. We were using Indian law which allowed us to do that.
So when we went to New York City we were told that we could come back and wouldn’t be arrested so we returned. We went back to court and asked for a Stay of Proceedings because they didn’t have any evidence and because of this conflict of interest.
Radical: So they were just been giving you the runaround?
Frank: Oh, yes. For example they kept dragging us back and forth to court for four years over a case where they’d charged us with a Break and Entry (B&E) to the Band Office. What happened was we had set up a meeting through Brian Gardiner the local NDP MP to go along with one of the Elders to pick up his social assistance cheque. When we got to the office one of their Indian goons jumped us and then we were charged with starting a fight and B&E.
Radical: So what about Brian Gardiner? Did he come to your defense?
Frank: No, not really. I was kind of hoping that he would but he just ignored us after that which was too bad because I feel we have a strong case and I still want to sue them for putting us through all the legal hassles that came out of the charge.
Radical: Four years of that? Goodness you folks have had enough experience with the legal system that you could probably open your own law firm? (Laugher from all)
Frank: Well, actually we do get a lot of people coming to us to ask for advice.
So when we got back from New York City we went up north to go to court and then came back down to Vancouver afterwards because the Chief had moved into the big log cabin that her sister had built.
Radical: The Chief moved in?
Frank: Yes, they took it off of the land and put it down on her place and now she’s renting it from herself! You should read those transcripts. They’re committing crimes against us. It’s just a kangaroo court. That kind of justice system is not meant for people like us.
Getting back to that Eddie John guy. I’m thinking about all the kids that got taken away from their families. They’re all grown up now eh. They’re at home now, staying with Mary.
Telquaa: They came home on their own.
Frank: After they turn seventeen they just kick them out of the foster homes because they don’t get anymore money for them. There was another young guy, Phillip. In fact Phillip was the one who came to the house in a limo that one time rolling in dough and saying he had a limo driving him around and a hooker and telling us how he was making his money. They were using him in the sex trade. They were renting him out.
Telquaa: The same thing happened with another kid downtown. He saw us getting on the bus and so he jumped on too and told us the same thing about the sex trade.
Radical: I heard a similar story recently related to Jack Webster the former Talk Show host. Apparently he was in a bar one time and someone came in and showed him a photo of a supreme court judge in a very compromising position with a young boy. What incensed Jack so was the fact that he felt that there was nothing he could do about it.
Frank: Yes. Telquaa tried to go to court for those kids and they told her that she couldn’t have them. They said it would be like they were attached to the end of a rocket because she was always fighting for her rights. So they denied her the right to raise those boys. Two of the boys had asked me. These were Tequaa’s nephews, her brother’s kids. He died down here in Vancouver too. They killed him. They said he OD’d [over dosed. Ed.] but I know they killed him. He wouldn’t have OD’d himself. I knew him. I saw him the day before he died. I went there and gave him a quart canning jar of hot moosemeat soup. The next day when I went to visit him they’d cleaned out his room and said he’d OD’d in the washroom. Why would he be in the washroom when he’s got his own room in the hotel? It didn’t make any sense. They said they found him naked in the washroom. I think that they killed him because he was hooked up with M_ P_ M_ P_ and her and Eddie John kinda grew up together and M_ is a heavy drug dealer selling drugs up north. She’s the runner. She owns three houses in the city here. Just from selling shit, you know like crack and cocaine.
Telquaa: And she’s always got a lot of young men and boys traveling around with her too.
Frank: Our friend Donovan got hooked up with her for a little while too. It was hard to get him away from her.
Wolverine phoned us up recently and told us that he liked what he’d heard from us in the paper and on the radio and then he said that we should go down to the resource centre and get a copy of the war crimes act and charge them with genocide. So we went down there. I have a resource worker who dug it up for us and gave us a copy so I’m consider it. What I might have to do is go out to Lethbridge, Alberta and see Russell Barson. He’s an international lawyer. We’d like to get him to represent us in an international court and get the preliminary hearings going at The Hague. We already have the information, we’re already in the door. The lady Nadia who put Telquaa on the website http://www.dialoguebetweennations.com is our in. Anyone can go to that site and read what Telquaa has to say and they can also make comments regarding our inherent rights. [At this point Frank holds up a drawing depicting a flag and then goes on. Ed.] This was the original flag for B.C. It had the four Clan Chiefs in the corners. When some of us went to look at it in the archives in the museum in New Westminster they denied having it. They said it burned up.
Radical: This was a flag that was used before the whites showed up?
Frank: No, this was a flag that they made when B.C. joined Confederation. They sat down with four of the biggest Chiefs in the territories and ten sub-Chiefs. There’s two ledgers with minutes of those meetings. There’s also four staffs and inside those staffs are maps. There’s also ten medals one of which is in Telquaa’s home. Two of the staffs are in the Shuswap and the Okanagan. So all of these things are starting to come together. That’s why we say No Treaties for B.C. because in that original agreement Native people have sixty percent of all the resources of the province. So that’s why they’re covering it up. As Indians we’ve got a big bank roll and they’re spending it on us. So this is why we’re saying that we can charge them for the crimes that they’re committing against all of us.
Radical: So all these negotiating teams that the feds have set up are filled with people who have bought into this big cover-up?
Frank: Those guys that went to the Residential schools were cloned for this particular reason. The federal government employed what they called ‘social scientists’ to condition our people. They advised the government on how to go about stealing our land. They said take them away from their land base, take them away from their culture, take them away from their language and they’ll be a defeated people and while your at it train some of them so that they will say ‘yes’.
When they held that UN Tribunal in Vancouver back in June of 1998 my Dad, Ed Martin, spoke there. He said, ‘I got a son that won’t conform. And he still won’t conform to this day.’ And then he went on about how they were trained in the Residential schools, how they were dictated to. It was just like the military. They altered these guys to a point where they would do whatever they were told. So I think Eddie John and ten other Indian Chiefs and lawyers were given special treatment at UBC when they were getting their degrees. They didn’t fully pass the tests but they arranged it so that now they would have all these puppets to eradicate our history and to take it out by making these treaties.
Treaties are supposed to be between Nations. If we are going to negotiate treaties then they must be between the Queen not the B.C. government or the Canadian government. My great great Grandfather was Mungo Martin. He carved a hundred and twenty foot totem pole, a replica of which sits near the Planetarium in Kitsilano, Vancouver. If you read the placard you realize that he designed that pole so that it has all the clans, representing all our people as Nations, carved in it. He sent this totem pole to the Queen of England so that she would remember all this. To remind her that we have inherent Rights and that we have to be dealt with as separate and sovereign Nations. The pole that’s here is a duplicate of the original one and it was placed here so that the provincial and the federal governments would also remember these things.
Radical: Maybe it’s time that someone brought the politicians down to view it again so that they might understand?
Frank: So that sixty percent (60%) of the province represents a big pot of money and those guys are planning to keep it unless we stand up and challenge them on it. You see ninety-nine percent (99%) of our inherent rights are recognized by practice. If we don’t practice them we’ll never achieve them. Under International Law they say that the perimeters of our territory go as far as the dialect of our language and that’s the land that we’re supposed to hold and protect. Telquaa has a file of all the Indian names and all the families and the different territories which they go with. That’s our evidence. That’s what shows how our local governments looked after ourselves before the arrival of the Europeans. That’s what the federal government and the provincial government are trying to destroy now by using their judicial system and courts and putting the Elders in old age homes and hospitals.
Radical: It’s very much like what I was recently told by Candace Hall who was working for the Sto:lo Nation in the Fraser Valley. She found out that the government was giving vaccines to the Elders in that community and they were dying off at an alarming rate. When she tried to alert the native population to what was going on she was harassed and intimidated to the point where she finally resigned her position. It appears to be just one more way in which the original culture is being wiped out.
Frank: That’s what those guys do. There was a health centre in Prince George that was a branch of the Carrier-Sekani Tribal Council and they did all kinds of stupid things out of that health centre to the people like sterilizing a lot of the women. Now I think it’s an independent body.
Anyhow, one of the reason why Canada is having trouble with signing all these International agreements like NAFTA and the FTAA is that they can’t claim to be a Sovereign country because of all these unsigned treaties that exist here in B.C. So they’re having real problems with that because we’re making noise and saying look we’ve got rights. The truth of the matter is that B.C. is still Indian land whether you like to admit it or not. And even Eddie John knows that but he won’t stand up for his people because he’s been brainwashed like the rest of them. He’s a Catholic too. They’re all Catholics. They’re all products of the Residential schools.
Radical: What do you see as a solution to this problem of having all the Pope’s puppets being in charge making land treaties for native people in this province?
Frank: You know seventy percent of the native people today are youth and I think they should be empowered to have a greater say in what goes on. They know what the problem is.
Telquaa: All of those middle aged people that went to university in the 60s and 70s should all be eliminated from looking after their people because they’re unfit. The young kids have more brains than they do now so they should step aside and give it back to the youth before anything worse happens than what’s already going on now.
Radical: All in all considered I find it amazing that the two of you are still feeling positive about things after all that you’ve been through. Do you have any plans to eventually get out of Vancouver?
Frank: Yes. Our plan is to take back Maxan Lake. They can’t keep us away from there. We want to set up a Longhouse there. A Council house for the kids. The kids have already formed their council for Maxan Lake. We want to do some independent buildings. Build our own homes. Cob houses and stuff. Many of us are artists and we’ve got plans to market our work on the net. We want to set it up so that we can work with the youth who’ve been taken away from their culture by the current system. It will be a place of healing for all these kids who grew up in foster homes and now are looking at regaining their cultural heritage.
Radical: That sounds like it would be a wonderful thing to have happen.
I thank you both for sharing some of your concerns with The Radical. I know that there is much more that we didn’t get into in any detail but what you’ve told us I think is very valuable to a correct understanding of what’s been going on in this province as far as the land title issue is concerned. I wish you both the best and look forward to working with you in the future.
(Anyone wishing to contact Frank or Telquaa can do so by contacting helen michell [email protected] or The Radical at radi[email protected] )