A small group of determined protesters staged a sit-in at the Shuswap Indian band office that escalated into death threats and resulted in Chief Paul Sam’s son, Nicolas Sam (a.k.a. Bubba) being charged with uttering death threats and the granting of a restraining order preventing Nicolas Sam from communicating with protesters Audrey Eugene, three year old grand-daughter Amy Eugene and brother and sister Ted and Marjorie Eugene.
At 11:30 a.m. on Monday February 25, 2002, 11 members of the band office demanding a meeting with Chief Paul Sam and Councillor Alice Sam, the chief’s former wife and a representative of the Department of Indian Affairs to discuss their concerns over financial accountability from the chief who has held office for over 20 years.
The protest was initiated after 90 year-old elder Marceline Stevens went without heat for three days in minus 20 degree weather in the last week of February. With no assistance forthcoming from the band office, the wheelchair-bound elder was forced to spend $700 of her pension cheque to have an electrician fix a broken fuse box.
According to Audrey Eugene, spokesperson for the protesters, while the chief and council met with the protesters that evening, Dean Sam, the chief’s other son and CEO of the Kimbasket Development Corporation, began removing files from the corporation. Alarmed by this development the protesters chained the doors at 7:30 am the following morning after chief and council left following a night of fruitless negotiations.
Unable to break the impasse, Chief Sam sought and gained a court injunction that ordered the protesters to leave the office. On numerous occasions during the stand-off, Bubba Sam, who stands over six feet tall and weighs over 300 lb.s and friends, gathered outside of the chained door shouting death threats to the mostly female protesters inside.
Bubba Sam was formally charged with uttering death threats against Audrey Eugene and grand daughter Amy Eugene and will appear in court on April 23, 2002.
Later, Audrey Eugene recounted several instances of excessive spending by the extended Sam family controlled band office. Two weeks before the protest, the Shuswap band and local businesses sponsored two baseball teams to travel to Australia this summer for a tournament. But on the other hand, the band office refused to give $83 for an off-reserve child for school supplies whose mother is on assistance. Eugene said that the band office sent the chief’s other son down to Las Vegas for a three month bar-tending course that was available at a local community college.
Eugene has started a campaign to oust Chief Sam in this fall’s band election now that the Corbiere decision allows for off-reserve members to vote. She said that prior to 1982, when Chief Sam was first elected, audit reviews sent to INAC, were open to all band members to review.
“This is a reserve in crisis. We want someone from the department (of Indian Affairs) to come in here and take a look at what’s going on,” said Eugene.