FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 02, 2021
Tŝilhqot’in Nation celebrates and congratulates Nits’ilʔin (Chief) Joe Alphonse on his appointment to the Order of British Columbia.
Williams Lake, BC: The Tŝilhqot’in Nation is celebrating and extending congratulations to Nits’ilʔin (Chief) Joe Alphonse of the community of Tl’etinqox and Tribal Chair of the Tŝilhqot’in National Government on his appointment to the Order of British Columbia.
The Order was established on April 21, 1989 to recognize individuals who have served with the greatest distinction or have excelled in any field of endeavour that has benefited the people of the province of British Columbia or elsewhere. It is the highest honour that British Columbia can bestow upon a citizen.
On June 26, 2014, after over 25 years of litigation fought by the Tŝilhqot’in people and the brave testimony of Tŝilhqot’in Elders, the Supreme Court of Canada declared Aboriginal title for the first time in Canadian history, in the Tŝilhqot’in homeland. This marked a new era of recognition and respect for Indigenous rights and self-determination, one of which Nits’ilʔin Alphonse and the other Tŝilhqot’in Nits’ilʔin (Chiefs) carry on and which guides the path forward for the Tŝilhqot’in Nation.
Nits’ilʔin Alphonse would be the first to credit this victory to the sacrifice and bravery of the Tŝilhqot’in Elders that testified at trial, and to the many Nits’ilʔin and leaders that fought this litigation over the decades. However, it is fitting that Nits’ilʔin Alphonse receive the highest honour in British Columbia, because of his tireless, critical role in advancing the rights and recognition of Indigenous peoples.
Throughout Nits’ilʔin Alphonse’s tenure as Tribal Chair, he has worked to keep the Tŝilhqot’in Nation strong and unified. Despite the various challenges and struggles that emerged from government or industry, such as the high-profile victories to protect sacred lands and waters at Teẑtan Biny (Fish Lake) from destruction by open-pit mining, “he has remained dedicated and a driving force behind much of the progress within, not only the Tŝilhqot’in Nation, but also with Indigenous rights provincially, nationally and internationally” says Nits’ilʔin Otis Guichon, TNG Vice-Chair. “He is a good person to have at the negotiation table, he is a warrior for our people and passionate about preserving and protecting our traditional way of life and culture.”
Following the historic Tŝilhqot’in decision, Nits’ilʔin Alphonse drove efforts to secure exoneration from British Columbia and Canada for the Tŝilhqot’in War Chiefs wrongly executed in 1864, including a powerful healing ceremony with the Prime Minister on Tŝilhqot’in title lands.
Nits’ilʔin Alphonse has inspired and empowered Indigenous peoples around the world, and today, the Tŝilhqot’in Nation celebrates and thanks him for his many contributions.
- In 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada, in a unanimous decision, confirmed that the Tŝilhqot’in peoples had Aboriginal Title to 1900 square kilometres of their traditional territory.
- During the Chilcotin War of 1864 and 1865, six Tŝilhqot’in War Chiefs were tried and hanged while negotiating peace talks with the colonial government. In 2014 the provincial government exonerated the six War Chiefs of any wrongdoing. In 2018, the federal government followed with an exoneration delivered both in the House of Commons and again while visiting the Declared Title Area.
- Tŝilhqot’in Nation is comprised of six communities, ʔEsdilagh, Tl’esqox, Tl’etinqox, Tŝideldel, Xeni Gwet’in, Yuneŝit’in. Together, they make up over 3,000 citizens (Statistics Canada, 2016).
Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia – Tŝilhqot’in Title Decision:
Statement of Exoneration of six Tŝilhqot’in War Chiefs by the Prime Minister
Tŝilhqot’in National Government
Order of British Columbia
Tŝilhqot’in National Government