by Andru McCracken, Editor
I’m happy the Simpcw First Nation has secured some private land in the Valemount area. In an age when getting Crown land is nearly impossible, it may make them seem incredibly lucky, but have no doubt, they are getting the leftovers. They might have been the first people here, but they are just the latest to the table, and there is not a lot of Crown land left at valley bottom. Some of what they have been awarded will only have value if Valemount Glacier Destinations Resort proceeds.
Awarding the Simpcw land may seem strange and arcane, a rare special privilege based on race, but the brutal reality is First Nations didn’t get the chance to homestead here. Because of race. They weren’t allowed to compete with settlers for the areas where they had hunted and fished before.
I don’t begrudge the settlers who came afterwards for their hard work. It shouldn’t be diminished. That work and the history should be honoured and it is told and retold in our museum.
I’m really glad no one is being evicted to make way for the Simpcw. No one is being told to go live with their distant relatives in order to make way for progress.
I was doing some research for an article (yet to be published) about the First Nations people that lived in Tete Jaune and this much became obvious to me: for people that made their living by hunting, gathering, farming and to some extent trapping, being evicted and moved into someone else’s territory (further south), was especially hard, even if those people were distant relatives. When indigenous people from Tete Jaune Cache arrived in Chu Chua, the reserve near Barriere, it meant more mouths to feed for a community that was already impoverished.
Those people were banished from this valley and not allowed to return. Archives show that when they did return they were rounded up and sent back.
We can’t rewrite history. We can’t go back and make everything right or even and fair; but at some point we need to acknowledge what happened even if we didn’t do it. That’s what I see happening with the land transfer.
I see and hear some concerns about this land deal. I don’t think those concerns stem from racism.
I think it’s because the method that the provincial government used to determine how much land the Simpcw got has been completely hidden from view.
That could be improved.
I know some people object because they see the Simpcw as new competition with an unfair advantage. They bring resources and power others don’t have. The power to acquire Crown land, for example.
Believe it or not, attracting powerful, resourceful people and groups to this valley is something we’ve been working towards as a community. It’s called economic development. We woo people with skills and resources to help us develop our economy.
In this case, it happens to be people who have a deep connection to the valley and to the land.