Feature 

‘Setting things right’

The Lil’wat people of Mount Currie look to their past for a new future

Lheltusa kwes zwatnem kwas tsuwa7lhkalh ts7a ti tmicwa.

These lands have been continually occupied by us from time out of mind.

Driving along a rough logging road high above where the Green River empties into Lillooet Lake, I feel the alternating sensations of warmth from the springtime sun and coolness from the shade of tall cedar trees.

My truck is in four-wheel drive and it labours up and down the road until I reach Ure Creek, about 30 kilometres east of Pemberton.

At the creek, I step out of my truck and glance at the water that races down from the Coast Mountains’ glaciers hiding behind the massif of Mount Currie.

The creek sluices its way over and around large boulders that were, at one time or another, part of a towering rock bluff above the creek. I scramble up towards the bluff on the forest’s moss-covered floor, weaving in and out of Douglas fir trees.

This is just a small part of the Lil’wat Nation’s traditional territory. It is a land of mountains and rivers.

The Lil’wat have been here since time immemorial – some archaeological sites in the area date back 8,000 years – and their story is one that is written on the land.

I’m here at Ure Creek to search for a pictograph, a red-ochre rock drawing, that is not shown on any maps. All I have are some loose directions and my sense of intuition.

I search all around the rock bluff but find nothing. After an hour and a half, I give up. Sometimes, the journey is the destination.

According to the Lil’wat, some pictographs are said to be the teachings of Atsemal, a supernatural being otherwise known as the Transformer.

The Whistler area is rich with tales of the Transformer. The Lil’wat say Atsemal travelled by canoe to the Pemberton-Mount Currie area via the Fraser River, Harrison Lake and the Lillooet River system "setting things right."

Another story says Atsemal turned a group of Squamish people who were camped too close to Lil’wat territory into a pile of rocks south of Whistler.

These days the Lil’wat and Squamish, whose traditional territories overlap in areas such as Rubble Creek, Green Lake and the Soo River Valley, are trying to work together to set things right.

The two nations signed a protocol agreement earlier this spring to establish a process that will allow, among other things, the Lil’wat and Squamish to take advantage of economic opportunities in the Whistler area.

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