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corporate dominance | forest defense | indigenous issues

Logging and Ski Resort Development Threaten Pilalt Territory in B.C.

Efforts to protect the mountains and forests continue here at Cheam. Last night at a 'consultation' meeting the people from Resorts West were told, in no uncertain terms, that the people of Cheam will not tolerate any development on ourmountains.
- www.elkcreekrainforest.org (sample letters)
- www.wildernesscommittee.org (sample letters)
- www.elpmedia.com.offline/resorts
YOUR HELP IS NEEDED

In response to June Quipp's press release regarding the development of Mt. Cheam, we have been asked what
one can do to help. Here are some suggestions of possible help:

- Financial support is needed, as we are working with a zero balance budget.
Donations will be accepted at Royal Bank #23 6014
Vedder Rd. Chilliwack, V2R 5M4 transit 1420 Account #
5000971
- People power with any direct action necessary to stop the development of the mountains and surrounding
foothills.
- People power to help build some cabins on the mountains to assist us in reclaiming our territory.
- Tools and knowledge required to build cabins.
- Non perishable food
- Research and expose Catermole Timber, and Resorts West
- Help to educate and inform yourself and others. Read the background information below and Check out these web sites:
- www.elkcreekrainforest.org
- www.wildernesscommittee.org
- www.elpmedia.com.offline/resorts


CONTACTS:

June Quipp @ 604 794-5715,  junequipp@hotmail.com from Cheam
Gabrielle Friesen @ 604 823-6454 and Mr. C Marvin 604 794-7454 from Elk Creek Conservation
Joe Foy - Western Canada Wilderness Committee (604) 880-2580

Letters can be written to:

Resorts West  resortswestbc@yahoo.com
12473 - 71A Ave. Surrey, B.C. V3W 0T9

Cattermole Timber 420-1055 Hastings St. W
Vancouver BC
(604) 685-7200

Robert Nault Minister of Indian Affairs
Fax No. (819) 953-4941


David Anderson  david.anderson@ec.gc.ca
Minister of the Environment
10 Wellington St., 28th Floor
Hull, Quebec, K1A 0H3
(819) 997-1441
(819) 953-3457 (fax)


Hon. Stan Hagen PO Box 9054
Minister Sustainable Stn PROV GOVT
Resource Management Victoria BC V8W 9E2
Fax: 250 356-8273

Mr. Kerry Grozier 46360 Airport Rd.
Ministry of Forests Chilliwack BC V2P 1A5
Chilliwack Forest District Fax: 604 702-5711

Mr. Brian Clark
Regional Manager, 2nd flr, 10470 152nd St.
Environmental Stewardship Surrey, BC V3R 0Y3
Ministry of Water, Land & Fax: 604 582-5380
Air Protection

Mr. Barry Penner #105-8615 Young Road
MLA Chilliwack BC V2P 4P3
Fax: 604 702-5205

Mayor Clint Hames and 8550 Young Road
Councilors Chilliwack BC V2P 8A4
Fax: 604 795-8443

See also www.elkcreekconservation.org and www.wildernesscommittee.com
where sample letters can be found

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SAVE THE MOUNTAINS - Unceded Pilalt Territory Threatened by Development

**Aboriginal Title and Self-Determination:

For almost 50 years members of the Cheam First Nations
have been trying to convince various levels of
government to settle outstanding land claims.
Many people do not realize that prior to that it was
illegal for aboriginals to lay claim to any of our
ancestral lands. Our rights and our land were
taken from us. Since 1953 we have been patiently and
peacefully trying to find a solution.

As Indigenous people, we have inherent rights to our
traditional territories, including the whole circle of
life, from the trees, to the water, the fish and the
animals. Our rights stem from our use and possession
of the land as warranted in our own legal and social
systems since time immemorial.

After long judicial struggles, the courts recognized
our rights to the land and water. The Supreme Court of
Canada recognized Aboriginal Title in the 1997
Delgamuukw Decision as the collective proprietary
interest indigenous peoples hold in their traditional
territories. Our rights include control of resources
sufficient to support and direct our lives and
communities.

In spite of this, the provincial government of British
Columbia continues to steal our land through
legislation and Cabinet decisions. While
private corporations are given privileges to log vast
areas of forest, and to commercially harvest salmon on
a massive scale, they continue to ignore any rights
the Cheam people have to the land and resources that
have been part of our lives and our ancestors' long
before the arrival of European settlers. We have
never ceded our territory, never signed any treaties,
never diminished our claim to our land.

The United Nations has recognized that indigenous
people have the inalienable right to
self-determination, including the right to sustain
and protect their culture. As a central part of our
traditional and spiritual life, water, mountains and
forests are elemental in the protection of these
rights. Yet these rights are not a priority for the
Canadian government. They have allowed our title and
rights, and the knowledge about sustainability, to be
undermined by poor provincial management that
bows to corporate pressure, and international trade
agreements that do not recognize our claims to
resources in the protection of our culture.

Cheam leaders, over the years, have tried in good
faith to settle these differences in a peaceful and
reasonable manner, with no success. In the meantime,
the provincial government continues to take as much
land as possible, while delaying meaningful resolution
of any land & resource issues at the table. We have
tried negotiations, litigation and written notices,
so far none of these tactics have worked. It does not
matter what we say, governments, and big corporations
go ahead and do what they want even if it means
destroying someone else's life. No other Canadian
citizen would stand idly by while land was stolen from
them. Why should we?


Over the years we at Cheam have become well know for
our struggle to gain recognition of our rights to fish
for salmon on the Fraser. In addition to
this, and other ongoing struggles, we are currently
facing an assault on the Mountains that are sacred for
us. Against our strong objection, logging has
already started at Elk Creek and plans for a ski
resort on the mountain are well underway. Because of
the strength of our claim to aboriginal title, our
position is that our actual consent is needed for any
such projects to proceed. Our position links directly
to the issues of our title to the land, our unique
relationship with the resources on our land, and our
right to determine the use of our land and resources.


**Cheam Connection to the Mountains and Forests:

The old-growth temperate rainforest of the Elk Creek
and adjacent watersheds is a remnant of an ecosystem
that was, until fairly recently,
wide-spread throughout Pilalt Territory. Now the Elk
Creek Rainforest is one of the last remaining mostly
intact examples of this forest type in the Lower
Mainland. These areas, their forests, mountains and
waters, have been a part of our Pilalt territory and
culture since time immemorial. They continue to be a
source for gathering plants and berries for food and
medicinal purposes, and for hunting mountain goat,
deer and elk. Our life, and everyone else's, depends
on the food and materials that come from the land.

To this day, the mountains (including Elk, Archibald
and Cheam) are used as sacred mountains for vision
questing, fasts and other spiritual practices.
Mount Cheam and the surrounding peaks also have
Halq'emeylem place names that correspond to their
roles as 'transformer' sites - a key part of our
origin story - where spirits interacted with the
physical world,
turning certain people and animals into stone
formations. Place names in the Halq'eméylem language
mark an important relationship to the land.
Halq'eméylem place names give the land a voice through
the meaning of the names and the stories that are
associated with them. As one of our late elders said
"the mountains are our leaders, the mountains are our
idols, the mountains are our source of food, medicine
and communication, a place for us to pray, and a place
of teaching and learning."

From these forests we have traditionally utilized the
wood and bark of the cedar -our sacred tree.
Recently, archaeologist D.Shceape conducted
a field trip during which a dozen bark-stripped
western red-cedars were found along the banks of Elk
Creek. These trees are physical evidence of
sustainable use of these forests by Sto:lo First
Nations. Three of these
trees, known as Culturally Modified Trees, are located
in Cut Block 101a scheduled for partial cutting.

Elk Creek is also documented as an ethnographic
heritage site and a Halq'emeylem place name exists for
Elk Creek Falls - 'Skwikwetstel' meaning
'cut fish.' This likely refers to the availability of
exposed slate outcrops in the area. For over 3,000
years pre-contact the Sto;lo manufactured slate knives
that were used exclusively for cutting fish.
It is possible that this site contains a pre-contact
slate quarry. There is also community based
knowledge, including contemporary traditional
activity, which attests to an ancient travel, trade
and communication route and camp site in the area and
along the surrounding ridges.

Current development plans put all this spiritual,
historical, cultural, and practical connection to the
land at risk, and consequently put us, our
way of life and our means of sustenance in jeopardy.
In our lives it is not the cycles of the economy that
determine our prosperity but rather our
fortunes wax and wane with the cycles of the land and
the river. We depend directly
on the natural bounty for our survival.



**Development plans in our Backyard:

We are now facing an onslaught of attacks on our title to the land and our way of life in the form of
development plans being approved, against our will, in our own backyard - on our unceded
territory. There are currently nine cut blocks in the Ministry of Forests' "five year
plan" which threaten to destroy the ecological integrity of the Elk Creek Rainforest. In
spite of strong objections from us and other local residents, Cattermole Timber Co. has already begun
felling in one old-growth cut-block in Elk Creek - home to Western Red Cedars and 300 foot tall Douglas
firs that are many centuries old.

The extra-ordinary biological diversity of the interconnected web of life found in this forest
includes old-growth trees and their unique assemblages of mosses, lichens, birds and
invertebrates, and several endangered plant and animal species. The Elk Creek watershed is
known to support populations of Pacific giant salamander, Pacific water shrew, mountain beaver and
Keen's long-eared bat; these four are all red-listed species. Significant vegetation present includes
angled bittercress, pacific waterleaf, Fendler's waterleaf, leafy mitrewort and tall bugbane. The
latter specie was thought to be locally extinct in B.C. This type of forest is also habitat for the
disappearing spotted owl and the Harlequin duck.

In addition, Elk Creek is home to many significant fish species including Chum and Coho salmon and
Cutthroat trout. The Coho salmon are believed to be a genetically unique stock that spawns in the winter.
The lower reaches of Elk Creek provide important spawning habitat for these fish which are our primary
source of food and employment. Activities anywhere above the spawning beds can adversely affect the stream below and compromise the fishes' ability to reproduce.

Forests play a key role in regulating water flow and temperature. When the trees aren't there to absorb
and slowly release moisture, rains run-off rapidly causing unusually high flow rates followed by
parched stream beds. An increased volume of water combined with decreased soil stability means
high levels of silt that can inundate spawning habitat. Logging removes shade and can lead to
significant fluctuations in dissolved oxygen levels and high water temperatures which further degrade fish
habitat.

This threat to our water quality and our river's ability to sup port fish is an assault on our ability
to sustain ourselves and a desecration of our most sacred treasures. To us water is life. It is our
greatest gift from the Pilalt ancestors. We celebrate it in our families, in our communities,
and in our daily lives. Water is one of the foundations of our traditions and our survival as
Pilalt people.

On the ridge directly above these cut-blocks, and on the surrounding peaks, Resorts West is planning to
develop a massive elite ski resort. The plans, if completed, will bring 20 ski lifts on 8
peaks, three resort villages, a golf course, retirement community, condos, and over 400,000 people
each year to our backyard. These developments will displace our traditional activities, dominate our
sacred mountains, ruin our berry patches and hunting grounds, and compromise our ability to reach a
satisfactory settlement that recognizes our title to our land. It will threaten our capacity to sustain ourselves and our communities, our traditions and way of life and will erode our potential for
self-determination.


**We Need Action:

Because of the strength of our claim to aboriginal title, our position is that our actual consent is
needed for any such projects to proceed. Our position links directly to the issues of our title
to the land, our unique relationship with the resources on our land, and our right to determine
the use of our land and resources.

We, some of the people and Elders of Cheam, have been voicing concerns over the development of the ski
resort and logging within the Pilalt Territory. At a recent Band meeting, with about 20 members in
attendance, there was near unanimous agreement that there should be no logging and no ski resort - no
development of our mountains. These concerns have fallen on deaf ears. We cannot sit back any longer and allow these developments to proceed.

We have tried negotiations, litigation and written notices so far none of these tactics have worked. It
does not matter what we say, governments, and big corporations go ahead and do what they want even
if it means destroying someone else's life. This attitude leaves us no other alternative than to take
action to protect what is rightfully ours. This shameful theft by governments and corporations has to stop.