Sun Peaks protests continue 

Natives turn up heat on governments to resolve land claim and treaty issues

Temperatures are on the rise again at Sun Peaks Resort after First Nations protestors blocked a road between Kamloops and the ski resort last week.

A group of about 20 natives ? including members of the Neskonlith band and Native Youth Movement ? halted traffic on Tod Mountain Road for three hours, stopping tourists, residents and workers from making their way to the resort village.

The Aug. 24 blockade was taken down when Kamloops RCMP threatened to arrest the protestors.

The group then marched through the village to protest the resort?s $70-million expansion, which 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.

The natives say Sun Peaks is located within their traditional territories and claim the area ? which they call Skwelkwek?welt ? has been used for traditional hunting, gathering and spiritual practices for thousands of years.

They also insist the resort is on land that was marked out as a Neskonlith reserve in 1862. The Neskonlith are part of the eight-band Secwepewc ? or Shuswap ? First Nation and have refused to take part in the B.C. treaty process.

Sun Peaks Resort leased Crown land for the resort expansion from the provincial government in the early 1990s.

Sun Peaks is owned by the Japan-based Nippon Cable Co. Ltd. The company also owns 23 per cent of both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains.

There have been a number of other native roadblocks and arrests associated with B.C. ski areas this summer.

Four native activists were arrested July 23 at Sun Peaks and their protest camp, which had been there since last fall, was dismantled. Sun Peaks management had been granted a court injunction to remove the natives. Natives say they are now building a protest camp for the winter.

Seven protesters were arrested July 5 after blockading the Duffey Lake Road between Pemberton and Lillooet. The group was demonstrating against the proposed Cayoosh ski resort.

Meanwhile, two Vancouver Island bands have launched a lawsuit that claims the provincial legislature is located, and thus trespassing, on a reserve lands. And northern B.C. First Nations have recently kicked oil and gas companies off their traditional lands.

Earlier this summer, B.C.?s First Nations Summit "war council" ? made up of band chiefs from across province ? threatened to blockade highways, railways and waterways if the new Liberal government goes ahead with a proposed referendum on treaty negotiations.

The idea behind the actions is to create economic uncertainty in B.C. and is an attempt to pressure government into resolving a long list of native grievances.

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