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Hang on to These Words

Hang on to These Words: Johnny David's Delgamuukw Testimony

Edited by Antonia Mills
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 400
  • Book Info
    Hang on to These Words
    Book Description:

    In 1985 and 1986, ninety-year-old Witsuwit'en Chief, Maxlaxlex - or Johnny David as he is better known - was the first Witsuwit'en to give Commission Evidence in theDelgamuukwland claims case in which the Witsuwit'en and Gitxsan of Northern British Columbia were battling for title to their traditional territories.

    'Hang on to These Words'presents the actual transcripts of the questions and answers between lawyers working on both sides and this knowledgeable and outspoken Native elder who spoke in his own language and whose words were then translated by an interpreter into English. The evidence was given in a makeshift courtroom set up in David's own home. Anthropologist Antonia Mills was present during these proceedings, and in this book, she introduces and contextualizes the evidence within theDelgamuukwcase.

    In his testimony, David provides a rich description of the Witsuwit'en way of life as well as the injustices suffered at the hands of Indian agents and settlers. He ends his testimony saying, "If you hang on to these words, everything will be all right." The challenge of hearing his voice, and using it to negotiate the meaning and substance of Aboriginal rights remains unresolved and resonant.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7559-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Hagwilneghl and Ronald A. Mitchell

    I grew up with the late Karl David, who was one of the grandchildren raised by Johnny and his wife, Marion. Witsuwit’en is our first language. I remember one day when Karl was sitting on a fence as my brother John and I were going home from our grandparents’. Karl would always ask in a caring way, ‘Are you not scared walking all the wayback toLhc’etiy[the highway crossing]?’ When I think about it now, Karl was a lot like Johnny in the way he treated people around him.

    Johnny referred to me asYe’ (meaning son or young...

  4. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Misalos and Victor Jim

    I tell many people in my travels that I received my PhD in Witsuwit’en culture and language from my esteemed mentor Tsits Mots, as he was known in Witsuwit’en country. Tsits Mots means ‘Small Grandfather,’ and the term was applied to Mikhikhlekh (Maxlaxlex) / Johnny David because he was not tall. He was an exceptional elder. I worked with the gentleman for many months along with one of our lawyers, Peter Grant, and our Witsuwit’en researcher, Dr Antonia Mills.

    Due to his advanced age, Mikhikhlekh was one of our Witsuwit’en chiefs who gave commission evidence in theDelgamuukw[Gisdaywa]v....

  5. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Michael Jackson

    The land claims case initiated by the hereditary chiefs of the Witsuwit’en and Gitxsan in 1987 culminated in the landmark judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada a decade later in what is now known as theDelgamuukwjudgment. The Supreme Court judgment is arguably one of the court’s most significant decisions in the twentieth century. I hope it will provide a secure legal foundation for the negotiation in the twenty-first century of just and honourable treaties in British Columbia and elsewhere, treaties that honour First Nations histories, laws, and culture and secure the economic and institutional framework for self-determination....

  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-2)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 3-66)

    This book makes available the commission evidence that Witsuwit’en elder Johnny David provided before the British Columbia Supreme Court in the ground-breaking land claims caseDelgamuukw v. the Queen. The intent in publishing Johnny David’s commission evidence, and this introduction to it, is to come closer to a time when eagle down can be distributed between the Witsuwit’en and the provincial and federal governments regarding First Nations rights to their traditional territories. That was the intent of Johnny David in giving his commission evidence, as it was the intent of the Witsuwit’en and Gitxsan in theDelgamuukwcourt case.


  8. The Commission Evidence of Witsuwit’en Chief Maxlaxlex/Johnny David

    • VOLUME 1: Direct Examination of Johnny David by Peter Grant, 20 September 1985
      (pp. 69-89)

      PROCEEDINGS COMMENCED AT 10:05 A.M. 20 SEPTEMBER 1985 [in the home of Johnny David].

      VICTOR WILLIAM JIM, Wet’suwet’en interpreter, sworn.

      JOHN DAVID, witness called on behalf of the plaintiffs, sworn, testifies as follows:

      MR GRANT: For the record this is the commission evidence of Johnny David or Maxlaxlex, and the interpreter at this is Victor Jim, who has just been sworn to translate from English to Wet’suwet’en, and Johnny David is present. John Milne is present representing Mr Goldie, who is acting for the province of British Columbia. Stuart Rush is present as well as myself, Peter Grant, acting on...

    • VOLUME 2: Direct Examination of Johnny David by Peter Grant, 26–27 September 1985
      (pp. 90-112)

      MR GRANT: On the record then. For the record, this is the continuation of the examination of Johnny David which adjourned one week ago on September 20th, and Johnny has been sworn in his own language, in Wet’suwet’en. The interpreter, Victor Jim, has also been sworn in his language to translate from Wet’suwet’en to English and into English from Wet’suwet’en. The other persons present are Mike McDonald, who is doing the video work; Veronica Harper, the court reporter; Antonia Mills, who is here to assist by writing out Wet’suwet’en words for the reporter; Don Ryan, who is here as one...

    • VOLUME 3: Direct Examination of Johnny David by Peter Grant, 17–19 October 1985
      (pp. 113-157)

      MR GRANT: We’ll go on record then. You’ve been sworn on oath on this commission evidence and you are still under oath, do you understand that?

      And you, as an interpreter, have been sworn to translate? You are still under oath to translate to the best of your ability from Wet’suwet’en to English.

      Q Mr David, you described to us the funeral feast and when you received the name Maxlaxlex and the pole raising feast that you held to raise the pole in your yard; do the Wet’suwet’en people hold feasts for other reasons?

      AThree feasts are held, after...

    • VOLUME 4: Direct Examination of Johnny David by Peter Grant, 19–20 December 1985
      (pp. 158-217)

      VICTOR WILLIAM JIM, Wet’suwet’en interpreter, previously sworn.

      JOHN DAVID, witness called on behalf of the plaintiffs, previously sworn, testifies as follows:

      Q I wish to confirm you have been sworn to give evidence on this commission and this is a continuation of the commission (interpreter speaks to witness) – which was adjourned on October 19th 1985? Yes?


      Q Now, I’d like to ask you a few questions about your territory, the territory of your House. Who decides who can use your House territory for hunting, fishing, or trapping?

      AWhen my father was alive he was the one that...

    • VOLUME 5: Direct Examination of Johnny David by Peter Grant, 29–31 January 1986
      (pp. 218-270)

      MR GRANT: This is a continuation of the commission hearing of Johnny David which was last adjourned on December 19th and December 20th, 1985. The witness, Johnny David, and the interpreter, Victor Jim, are still under oath. You understand that?


      Q You recall at your feast Jimmy Michell – or at a feast, Jimmy Michell was given a name and a territory?

      AWhen people had gathered for the feast Jimmy Michell had spoken for me.

      Q Jimmy Michell described that the territory was being passed to you when you received the name?

      AWhen the people had...

    • VOLUME 6: Cross-Examination of Johnny David by John Milne, 24–25 February 1986
      (pp. 271-307)

      CROSS-EXAMINATION BY MR MILNE: For the record, this is the start of the cross-examination of Mr David. Direct examination has taken place over the last four–five months starting in September 1985. Mr David has been sworn throughout, as has the interpreter. Would you explain that to him please?

      MR MILNE: He understands that he is still under oath?


      Q Mr David, I act on behalf of a lawyer called Mr Goldie – he’s the lawyer for the province and he’s asked me to come here on his behalf and ask you some questions.


      Q When...

    • VOLUME 7: Cross-Examination of Johnny David by John Milne, 21–22 April 1986
      (pp. 308-375)

      VICTOR WILLIAM JIM, Wet’suwet’en interpreter, previously Sworn. JOHN DAVID, a witness called on behalf of the plaintiffs, previously sworn, testifies as follows:

      MR GRANT: Just for the record, I want to confirm that I have spoken with Mr Milne and we’ve agreed that we’re going to do our best efforts to complete this very extensive examination in the next two days and, if necessary, go over to the 29th April. I want to set out for the record that since the last adjournment, which was on February 25th, Johnny – the witness – has become ill on one occasion and I’m concerned...

    • VOLUME 8: Cross-Examination of Johnny David by John Milne, 28 April 1986
      (pp. 376-414)

      VICTOR WILLIAM JIM, Wet’suwet’en interpreter, previously sworn. JOHN DAVID, witness called on behalf of the plaintiffs, previously sworn, testifies as follows:

      MR MILNE: For the record, this is continuation of the cross-examination of John David. We had adjourned from the 22nd of April, 1986. All parties are present that were present at the last continuation, except for the reporter, who has changed and is now Bev Ferguson.

      Q Mr David, you are still under oath. Do you understand that?


      Q And Mr Interpreter, you are as well, you understand that?


      MR MILNE: Just as...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 415-440)
  10. Glossary
    (pp. 441-458)
  11. References
    (pp. 459-466)
  12. Credits and Sources
    (pp. 467-468)
  13. Index
    (pp. 469-486)