Spirit Dance at Meziadin
Chief Joseph Gosnell and the Nisga'a Treaty
In January 1887 a delegation of chiefs from the Nisga’a and Tsimshian peoples of northern British Columbia, seeking restitution from a government that had stolen their lands without a treaty or compensation, arrived by steamship in Victoria’s Inner Harbour. They were met by Premier William Smithe, who refused them entry to the provincial legislature with a blunt rebuke. “When the white man first came among you,” he told them, “you were little better than wild beasts of the field. ”
The Nisga’a Treaty electrified the British Columbian and Canadian political landscapes like nothing else in recent times. Called “an absolutely shocking betrayal of democracy” by hotliner Rafe Mair and the “end of more than a century of degradation and despair” by Nisga’a leader Chief Joseph Gosnell, camps on either side of the issue were polarized – and many Canadians on both sides are still reeling from this hotly debated treaty.
Spirit Dance at Meziadin explores the issue of the Nisga’a Treaty in a concise, readable manner, highlighting with detail the history of the Nisga’a from pre-contact to present day. Journalist Alex Rose related the main tenets of the 1999 agreement, offering a thoroughly researched history of the Nisga’a journey, and an exhaustive and fair exploration of the issues that struck a controversial note throughout the country.
Rose makes excellent use of his great familiarity not only with the treaty process but with all the players who participated in this monumental campaign – particularly Chief Joseph Gosnell, who has emerged as one of the most respected First Nations leaders of the present day. “No one could be in a better position to write such a book…” said Gosnell. “Alex has worked closely with Nisga’a Tribal Council handling treaty-making for the last 11 years. ”
Spirit Dance at Meziadin is an invaluable resource for anyone seeking to understand the history of land claims in British Columbia and the tenets of the 1999 agreement. It also offers unprecedented insight into Nisga’a culture and the province’s colonial past.