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Efforts to protect traditional land of the St’át’imc people finally come full circle

In May, the St’át’imc finally heard the news the had been waiting more than 20 years for – the B.C. assessment office has canceled the environmental certificate giving permission for a proposed ski resort at Sútikalh (Melvin Creek) in the middle of St’át’imc Territory.

“To our friends and allies, our hearts are filled with deep gratitude,” said Qwalqwálten (Garry John), spokesperson for Sútikalh from his home in Tsal’álh of St’át’imc Territory. Qwalqwálten has served as the former Chair and Spokesperson for the St’at’imc Chiefs Council and has also filled the role as elected Chief for Tsal’álh. He is a former Board member of the Council of Canadians.

This sacred area is known as Sútikalh, home of the Winter Spirit. It is in the Cayoosh mountain range, an area resplendent with wilderness, dense forest and bush.

According to the Georgia Strait, the four-season resort was proposed to have 14 ski lifts and a capacity to host over 14,000 people a day in the Melvin Creek Valley.

In 2000, the St’át’imc established a camp on their traditional territory and lit a sacred fire that was kept burning over the years. Indigenous groups from as far away as Quebec and Argentina visited the site in support of the St’át’imc.

In the Declaration of the Lillooet Tribe of May 10, 1911, St’át’imc Chiefs stated, “We claim that we are the rightful owners of the territory and everything pertaining thereto.” Since that time,  the St’át’imc people and leadership have continuously upheld their unceded title to their territory.

“After twenty years of extensive efforts, to the Province of British Columbia and the Canadian Government, we can only ask why it has taken so long for the message to be heard?” he asked.

“The gratitude we hold for all of the people that have supported our cause is immeasurable and there are so many individuals and groups to whom we extend our heartfelt gratitude to for their support, tireless efforts, and commitment,” he added. “Over these two decades, we have laid many strong warriors and supporters to rest. They did not live to see the results of their good work on this struggle and we continue to keep all of them in our prayers to this day. We have made it this far because of the deep resolve of so many toward saving these sacred lands from destruction.”

The Council of Canadians supports Indigenous Peoples’ rights to free, prior and informed consent on decisions that impact First Nations. We work to amplify the voices of Indigenous Peoples and continue to call on all governments to uphold and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as it is written. The Canadian government must stop all efforts to weaken or water down any articles within the declaration.