Skeetchestn Indian Band Chief Ron Ignace will bring his voice and historical knowledge of the Secwépemc people to the airwaves later this month in an episode of Nations at War, a historical documentary series that airs on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN).
The series, created and written by Tim Johnson and produced/directed by Jason Friesen, combines cinematic historical footage, CGI and interviews with historians to tell the stories of battles fought by Indigenous people across North America.
It began its second season in September.
Bleeding Kamloops, the episode featuring Ron Ignace and wife Marianne, will air on Monday, Oct. 19, at 10 a.m. and again at 8 p.m.
The episode begins by explaining the origin of the Secwépemc (Shuswap) people and how Kamloops came to be, long before settlers arrived.
It then addresses the time before the Fish Lake Accord, a peace treaty that ended much of the conflict between Interior Salish groups like the Syilx (Okanagan) people and the Secwépemc, who were “no strangers to war,” according to the episode.
The remainder of the episode explores post-settler conflicts — or at least some of them.
Ignace said one significant event in Secwépemc history was left out of the episode — the Fraser Canyon War of 1858, when allied Secwépemc groups assisted the Nlaka’pamux (Thompson) people.
The war, which took place during the Fraser Canyon gold rush, involved parties bent on annexation of parts of B.C. to the United States.
Ignace said the Secwépemc helped defend their homeland and worked in nation-to-nation relations to stave off the aggressive American militia groups.
“Today, had we not done that, we would be under the thumb of Donald Trump,” he said.
Ignace said that later, when the Secwépemc people went to Victoria to ask for aid during the smallpox epidemic of 1862, those in the capital refused to help, knowing the disease would ravage the Indigenous population.
“They feared our power and our strength,” Ignace said.
“If they wanted to take away our homelands, retake our homelands after we’d defended them, they needed to destroy us as a people in order to accomplish that. That is the thanks we got from saving this area of British Columbia from being annexed to the United States. And that history got hidden away — deeply.”
Ignace said while there are parts of history missing from the Bleeding Kamloops episode, it does serve as a starting point — one he hopes will prompt people to ask more questions about the history of the region.
“It’s a good start. We need people in the Kamloops area to understand the true history of this land,” he said.
The Ignaces also wrote Secwépemc People, Land, and Laws, published in 2017 by McGill-Queen’s University Press, which goes over 10,000 years of history of the Secwépemc people and how they used the land.
The Skeetchestn chief also called upon the public education system to do a better job at bringing Indigenous history to light
For more information on the Nations at War series, go online to aptn.ca/nationsatwar.