Ski resorts threatened by unresolved native land claims 

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Eighty-three per cent of the nearby Mount Currie Indian Band voted against the development last October.

The St’at’imc insist the area has been used for traditional hunting, gathering and cultural practices since the beginning of time. It is also claimed to be home to Sutikah, the winter spirit.

The 1911 Declaration of the Lillooet Tribe, signed by all the St’at’imc chiefs, states that they have never ceded, surrendered or released their lands.

(Only three St’at’imc bands – Samahquam, Skatin and X’a’xtsa, collectively called the In-SHUCK-ch – are currently involved in treaty negotiations with the provincial government.)

Environmental and outdoor recreation groups have also expressed concern about development in the Cayoosh Range of the Coast Mountains.

Natives set up the a roadblock at Melvin Creek last August after the provincial government gave the proposed resort environmental approval – after nearly a decade of studies. A small protest camp has remained at the site ever since.

There was another roadblock on the morning of June 16 this year at the same location. A group of about 20 natives set up the three-hour blockade for informational purposes. Pemberton RCMP attended the blockade and did not report any confrontations.

But at 5 a.m. on July 5, more than 40 RCMP constables, members of two emergency response teams, three dog units and a helicopter from detachments in Kamloops and Kelowna arrested seven people on the Duffey Lake Road.

Traffic on Highway 99 between Pemberton and Lillooet, which mainly consisted of logging trucks, was being blocked with a spiked wooden barrier.

According to the RCMP report, there were six natives (four males, two females) and one Caucasian male, all between the ages of 19 and 35, arrested that morning.

None of the protestors were members of the St’at’imc First Nation; two of the people were identified as being from Vancouver and Victoria, while the other five were listed as having no fixed address.

The Cayoosh ski resort is being developed by Al Raine and his wife, Olympic gold medallist skier Nancy Greene Raine. The couple helped build Whistler during the 1970s and ’80s and currently own a hotel at Sun Peaks and are involved in the resort association there.

Raine says the issue is out of his hands.

"My frustration is that it’s a land-claims issue," he told Pique Newsmagazine in an interview. "This is not the way to solve the problem."

At Sun Peaks, the Neskonlith and Adams Lake Indian bands – members of the eight band Shuswap, or Secwepewc, First Nation – are opposed to the $70-million expansion of the ski resort that includes a 230-room hotel and conference centre, a townhome complex, an 18-hole golf course, the addition of two chairlifts and the development of ski terrain on a new mountain.

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