Ski resorts threatened by unresolved native land claims 

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The Secwepewc claim the area is used for traditional hunting, gathering and spiritual practices for thousands of years and call the region encompassing the resort Skwelkwek’welt, which means high alpine mountains.

Further complicating the matter is that the Secwepewc insist Mounts Todd, Cahilty and Morrisey, and the McGillvary watershed, are part of a reserve marked out by B.C.’s colonial governor in 1862. None of the Shuswap’s eight bands are involved in treaty negotiations.

The Secwepewc set up a protest camp at Sun Peaks last fall and have been there ever since.

Members of the camouflage-wearing Native Youth Movement (also known as the West Coast Warrior Society) are leading demonstrations at the resort.

One newspaper report even places a native called Wolverine, a key figure involved in the Gustafsen Lake standoff, at the Sun Peaks camp.

"One of the problems at Cayoosh and Sun Peaks is attaching individual’s actions to groups," says B.C. Attorney-General Geoff Plant. "It really complicates things.

"But people who wear camouflage and balaclavas are hooligans."

The confrontational group also occupied the B.C. Assets and Lands Corp. office in Kamloops in February and led a highly publicized protest during a MuchMusic festival this past spring.

(According to a CBC news report in May, members of the Native Youth Movement were heading to Melvin Creek as well.)

Things became more interesting in June, when natives evicted a tour operator and occupied a cabin belonging to Sun Peaks Resort. Later in the month, a violent scuffle broke out between natives and a non-native man and another cabin built by natives was mysteriously torched.

Kamloops RCMP are investigating the incidents and Sun Peaks management has applied for a court order to remove the natives. Sun Peaks Resort is owned by the Japan-based Nippon Cable Co. Ltd.

The native’s approach at Sun Peaks have Raine incensed.

"If any non-native group went into an Aboriginal community and did those things, it would be front page news," he says. "Their tactics have been absolute intimidation.

"There needs to be one law for all of B.C. It has nothing to do with being an Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal."

It seems that St’at’imc Chief Gary John and Secwepewc Chief Arthur Manuel are taking a page out of Penticton Indian Band Chief Stewart Phillip’s playbook – kill the development and expansion proposals by scaring away investors.

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