UBCIC Remembers and Honours St’at’imc Elder and Land Defender Rosalin (Sam) Edmonds (Yaoqus)
(Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil Waututh)/Vancouver, B.C. – April 26, 2022) The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) joins the Lil’wat people and the St’at’imc Nation in mourning the recent passing of their elder and land defender Rosalin Edmonds (Sam).
ng St’at’imc woman, Rosalin tirelessly worked for the land and her people, and she would remind us all to “stand tall and strong”. She had a powerful way to draw in allies, from Buddhist monks, to Chinese Canadians for Reconciliation, the Native Youth Movement, women from the Downtown Eastside, and many others, all heeded her call and made several trips to Sutikalh, one of the longest permanent land defense camps, to lend support. Thanks to her passion and commitment, she made connections around the world and brought support to her home community and territory. UBCIC remembers Rosalin for her incredible energy and deep commitment to defending the Land.
Born at Lil’wat in 1949 to Madeline (Wallace) and Benedict Sam, she lost her mother early and was forced to attend residential school in Williams Lake, at St. Joseph’s Mission. One of her last trips was to attend the investigation and provide her testimony about the horrors she was subject to and witnessed, which led to the recent findings. She still saw the release of the preliminary report in January 2022 and recognized the importance of holding Canada accountable for its genocidal system and policies.
Rosalin returned to her community and the frontlines, being instrumental in the 1974 Lil’wat roadblock and the occupation of the Department of Indian Affairs (DIA) offices. Then UBCIC President Grand Chief George Manuel recognized the leadership qualities in Rosalin and asked her to take on more responsibilities for organizing from the ground all the way to the international level; she never stopped.
When Nancy Greene Raine and Al Raine proposed to develop a ski resort in the untouched mountains in St’at’imc territory at Cayoosh Creek, Rosalin was one of the main organizers of the opposition, including setting up the Sutikalh Camp, named after their winter spirit. She would always organize for supplies, firewood and food to be delivered to the camp, set to celebrate its 22nd anniversary on Sunday, May 1, 2022. Rosalin’s life and many contributions will be remembered there.
She knew that it would take a bigger plan to stop the ongoing dispossession and destruction of St’at’imc territory, she was a driving force of St’at’imc land use planning and worked closely with the St’at’imc chiefs. At her funeral many of them talked about how she would always check in and follow-up to make sure they were on top of things. She herself monitored the permit that had been issued to the Cayoosh Creek project and would continue to write letters every year requesting that it be cancelled in line with the legislation that foresees that the permit be cancelled if there was no activity on the ground. Although a number of extensions were granted, she never gave up, kept writing letters and celebrated when the permit was finally cancelled.
She connected her tireless work all the way from the ground to the international level. She travelled to Japan on the Peace Boat and directed the drafting of international submissions to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, decrying the criminalization of land defenders and Canadian policies that violate indigenous and human rights.
Rosalin set an unmatched standard in terms of organizing to support grassroots people and initiatives on the land, drawing in support from the city all the way to the international level. She taught people about the importance of protecting the land and demonstrated it with her tenacity. She showed everyone how they could contribute in their own way and be true allies following the direction and addressing the needs of the people on the ground. Always an organizer, she wrote her own memorial brochure recognizing her beloved family, international friends, allies, friends from other nations and her special St’at’imc friends and elders. In her memorial brochure she said: “I do it for my ancestors who thought of us today and I do it for today for my grandsons, my grandchildren’s future! This is St’at’imc Territory forever, not for Sale or Trade!”
As the St’at’imc hand drumming rang out at Rosalin’s funeral, she was remembered often leading the Women’s Warrior song that originated from Lil’wat and that embodies her and her tireless work to protect the land. Her words and vision will continue to reverberate and it will take many to continue her work and legacy. She will be remembered at her beloved Sutikalh at the anniversary celebration on May 1, 2022, starting at noon, all friends and supporters are welcome.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, UBCIC President, stated “The Union of BC Indian Chiefs is deeply saddened to hear of the recent passing of Rosalin Sam. She was deeply committed to defending the spiritual, cultural and environmental integrity of St’at’imc territory. We shall miss her strength, energy, and unwavering commitment to the future generations of St’at’imc People. UBCIC mourns with all who knew and loved Rosalin, and we send our most heartfelt condolences to her family, Nation, community, and loved ones in the territories here and around the world.”
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President, 250-490-5314
Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer, c/o 778-866-0548
UBCIC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
For more information, please visit www.ubcic.bc.ca