Lha yudit’ih We Always Find a Way: Bringing the Tŝilhqot’in Title Case Home
Review By Andrea Hilland
January 26, 2024
Lha Yudit’ih We Always Find a Way: Bringing the Tsilhqot’in Title Case Home is a rich ethnography that records the knowledge and experiences of several Tsilhqot’in people and a few of their allies – in their own words – regarding key themes related to the Tsilhqot’in title case. Narratives from numerous perspectives are interwoven to create a multi-layered and comprehensive record of significant events in Tsilhqot’in history, including the title case. The ethnography applies a conversational style that (as the title suggests) “brings the case home” in language that is accessible and engaging for Tsilhqot’in community members (who are the target audience), and the general public.
The ethnography describes three catastrophes that the Tsilhqot’in have endured since colonization: diseases (i.e., smallpox and the Spanish flu) which decimated Tsilhqot’in villages; the Tsilhqot’in War that arose from colonial disregard of Tsilhqot’in law and led to the wrongful execution of six Tsilhqot’in leaders under colonial law; and residential schools which attempted to eradicate Tsilhqot’in language, culture, and worldview. The ethnography also traces Tsilhqot’in resistance to colonization, including the Tsilhqot’in War, direct actions against industrial resource extraction (i.e., logging and mining), and colonial legal processes such as negotiations (e.g., regarding forestry and mining) and litigation (e.g., the Tsilhqot’in title case).
Although the Tsilhqot’in people used the colonial legal system to protect their homelands, they have expressed frustration with the absurdity and injustice of being forced to do so. The absurdity of the displacement of Tsilhqot’in people within the colonial legal system is exemplified in humorous stories about courthouse security guards confiscating knives from elderly Tsilhqot’in women as they entered the Supreme Court of Canada.
A common theme that emerges throughout the narratives is the holistic worldview that Tsilhqot’in people perceive themselves as being interconnected with and inseparable from their lands, waters, medicines, ancestors, non-human beings, and spiritual beliefs. Their sacred connections with all of these things generates a sense of deep respect that compels the Tsilhqot’in to “always find a way” to protect them. Narratives describe the immense beauty of Tsilhqot’in people and places, and photographs augment the textual descriptions.
The conclusion refers to an ancient story about a hunter who had lost his sight but miraculously managed to get it back. The analogy of “getting [their] sight back” is applied to the Tsilhqot’in victory in the title case. The colonial legal recognition of Tsilhqot’in title enables a vision for the future in which Tsilhqot’in laws within Tsilhqot’in territory are truly respected.
Lha Yudit’ih We Always Find a Way: Bringing the Tsilhqot’in Title Case Home makes a valuable contribution to decolonizing and resurgence scholarship by centering the voices of Tsilhqot’in people. Chief Roger William, a renowned Tsilhqot’in leader, was a key driving force in the development of the ethnography, which includes narratives from many Tsilhqot’in individuals. The ethnography was created primarily for the benefit of current and future generations of Tsilhqot’in people, as well as anyone interested in Indigenous perspectives on the history of British Columbia, including anthropologists, historians, lawyers, politicians, and the general public.
Glass, Aaron. Writing the Hamat’sa: Ethnography, Colonialism, and the Cannibal Dance. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2022. 512 pp. $34.95 paper.