A story written about one celebratory day took only a few hours to write - and several years.
The story I wrote pertaining to the city's 100th birthday was thanks to the efforts of many more deeply involved in Prince George history than I. I just had the privilege of being able to dust off the biggest lumps of the buried narrative.
The article was the cobbling together of some research done by UNBC's Norman Dale, the oral history told to me by Lheidli T'enneh Chief Dominic Frederick, and a big group of other inputs of information here and there dating back through my whole career.
Like a lot of stories do, this story started because of a different topic. Dale contacted Citizen writer Aurthur Williams in 2013 on other matters and their email conversation grew to include the ousting of the Lheidli people from their very homes. That event occurred in 2013 to make way for the railroad and civic developments planned by the government of the day and the railroad developers, who were quite intrinsically partnered on all these issues. Today we would call it "corrupt" and "conflict of interest" and they might have called it that even then, but it was done nonetheless.
Dale, a longtime academic with deep research experience into First Nations topics, had been examining the Lheidli history closely and had located two articles in particular, one from the Fort George Herald (Sept. 6, 1913 edition) and one from the Cariboo And Northwest Digest (Summer, 1948 edition).
These were golden insights into the "white" mentality of the day. The very man who was tasked with negotiating the land transaction on behalf of the Lheidli T'enneh people - they gave up Fort George Park and the rivers' confluence in exchange for the Shelley Reserve village site - later admits with pride to being the mastermind of the ousting when the people, sensing a bad deal, called him on it by refusing to leave.
Again, we have modern words for that kind of negotiation, and if you follow the stories through and observe the sneakiness to it all, it seem that those words were on their minds back then as well. It was corrupt from the start, and the colonial insurgents knew it, and added violence to the mix.
The research for my article deepened with many conversations with provincial and federal officials over the years, including but not limited to the period when the Lheidli people voted on a treaty proposal (rejecting it). This stuff may not all get used at the time, but we reporters tend to file things in our notebooks, computers and memory banks. This centennial article gave someof it purpose.
Last year, with fellow Citizen reporter Charelle Evelyn and photographer Brent Braaten, chief Frederick and communications liaison Kevin Brown gave us a detailed and exhaustive tour of the main Lheidli reserve lands and other points of cultural interest. It was, even for this veteran reporter, a chilling exercise in knowledge and empathy.
It was also exciting, because the Lheidli people and mainstream folks of today are making huge reconciliation progress and it shows. Our grandchildren stand a good chance of getting along as equals, I daresay, but anyone who thinks aboriginal poverty is of their own making just hasn't done their homework. The inequality is still legislated by federal law. Those who contend "they lost the war" and got what they deserved need to be schooled in the apartheid-esque points of the Indian Act and perhaps take a class from Norman Dale who has ample evidence of where all these broken relationships started.
It's fine to celebrate a fine city's 100th birthday, but to ignore the breeches of contract (there was no war here) that founded our city and assume those deeds are no longer valid is myopic at best. I'm pretty sure I'll not get a chance to write the bicentennial article in 2115, so I wanted to tell the fullest form of the story this time around.