A monthlong armed standoff between Indian rebels and police ended without bloodshed Sunday when the rebels accepted a plea from their spiritual mentor to come out peacefully.
The occupants of the Gustafsen Lake camp, believed to number 17 to 20, were ferried out of the bush in helicopters and taken to the 100 Mile House airport.
Indian supporters lined the road, cheering and raising clenched fists, as the rebels, mainly Indians, were then driven away in police cruisers to jails in Williams Lake, north of 100 Mile House.
“I’m wonderfully delighted that we haven’t had to use force,” said provincial Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh.
A breakthrough in the standoff, which was marked by gunbattles and failed negotiations, came when medicine man John Stevens entered the camp about 270 miles northeast of Vancouver on Sunday.
Stevens, a Cree from Alberta’s Stoney reserve, is the leader of the Gustafsen Lake sundance, a cermony held annually on a parcel of the Lyle James ranch since 1990.
The standoff began after James served an eviction notice to squatters who were on land used for the sundance ceremony. Indians, who say the land is sacred, have demanded an independent review.