Taxi business provided some colourful fares 

Mark Hunter putting Pemberton Taxi up for sale after rough year

It's been a rough year on Mark Hunter, owner of Pemberton Taxi.

Last July he had six tires slashed on one of the buses in his fleet, while another had four tires slashed. He discovered this just three weeks after another two buses were set on fire, one found completely destroyed in the parking lot of the new community centre.

Now he's selling the company in an attempt to get out of debt and seek other opportunities.

"I've been at it for 24 years now," he said in an interview. "I'd like to get into something else and with the Olympic excitement and all the business right now, this would be a good time to sell it."

Hunter came to Pemberton a quarter-century ago. Like many who end up staying in the corridor, he came to Whistler to be a ski bum but couldn't afford a place in Whistler so he moved north.

A year after coming to Pemberton he took up the reins of the local taxi business.

"I have to watch my words on this one," Hunter said. "The fella that had it had run it down. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. When I saw it covered Whistler at that time I took it on, but I never thought I'd be a taxi person back then."

In over two decades couriering people around the valley and into Whistler he's encountered some colourful characters. At one time he found himself driving Mike Harcourt, Premier of British Columbia from 1991 to 1996.

But his most memorable client was Chief Bob Satiacum, a leader of the Puyallup tribe in Washington state who was staying in Mount Currie while fleeing the law.

Satiacum was a loud advocate for his people from the 1950s to the 1970s, touching off a fish war with Washington state when he defied its rules. That war ended when Indian tribes were given half the state's salmon catch, according to the Seattle Times.

Satiacum's public activities masked some clandestine ones that were making him rich - among other things, gambling and selling cigarettes. That attracted the attention of the FBI. In 1982 he was convicted of racketeering, selling contraband cigarettes, illegal gambling and a murder-for-hire plot.

He fled to Canada and stayed here for years, at one point hiding out in Mount Currie. That's where Hunter met him.

At the time Hunter was president of the Pemberton and District Chamber of Commerce and Satiacum came out to play golf at its annual tournament. Not wanting to drive home in his Pontiac TransAm, Hunter drove Satiacum back to Mount Currie and heard his story first hand.

"It was all over the news that he was up here," Hunter said. "(Police) were trying to get him sent to the United States.

"He was the most amazing man, a great inspiration for the natives."

Eventually Satiacum developed a heart condition and wanted to return home to his people. Hunter said he only made it as far as the Okanagan, where he was caught in 1991. He died in jail.

"He wanted to return to his homelands for his final years," he said. "He stayed in Mount Currie and they notified the legal department in Washington State to see what can happen with court process or whatever. They tried to get our police to arrest him and deport him."

With his most colourful fare long gone, Hunter said he's eager to find a buyer. He's already drawn some interest after posting a notice for the first time last week.

"If someone walked up to me and said they wanted to buy it, I'd probably sell it if the money's right," he said. "If I don't find a buyer I'll keep on going."

Hunter has just started operating a night shuttle between Pemberton and Whistler. If the taxi business is sold he's not certain what will happen to that service but it will likely stay in place.



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