The Kiyooka Land Trust, founded in 2021, wants to get Robson Valley residents thinking about how their land can be used to benefit the community. For example, the house on the trust’s land could host educational events, suggests chair Theresa Shea. /SUPPLIED

By Abigail Popple, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, RMG

The Kiyooka Land Trust held their second-ever community event day last Saturday, funded by a $1,000 grant from the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George. The event included a basket weaving workshop by Toni Appleby, a guided tour of the property focusing on medicinal plants by Leona Mintz, and a performance by All My Relations First Nations Dance Group.

Founded in 2021, the trust manages the land where Tete Jaune local Hanae Kiyooka spent much of her childhood.

“I grew up here (in the ‘80s), but it was only in 2016 that I learned the history of the Simpcw community that lived here and were forcibly removed by foot, 400 kilometres away,” Kiyooka told The Goat. “So right from the beginning of our board getting together, truth and reconciliation and Indigenous engagement was something that we felt was very important.”

That emphasis on truth and reconciliation is what led the trust to invite Valemount residents Appleby and Mintz, and the dance group from Kamloops, Kiyooka said.

“We want it to be an organic process of relationship-building, not tokenism,” Kiyooka said of the group’s efforts to organize events with Indigenous people in the Robson Valley. “Learning how we can live in harmony and respect with the land, and with the people that lived here who were forcibly removed, and move forward together – that to me is what reconciliation is, an honest, respectful relationship.”

Theresa Shea, chair of the board and one of the trust’s founding members, said the event was also an opportunity to educate Robson Valley residents about the land trust and how it can benefit the community. 

“We want to let the community know that we’re here and to spread the word about what the land trust is and what we do,” Shea told The Goat. “At some point, we’d love to have conservation groups using the space, biologists, people interested in citizen science, things like that.”

People who are interested in donating their land to the trust can reach out through contact information available on the trust’s website,, Shea added. The trust’s board can help walk people through the steps of seeing if their land qualifies to become an “ecological gift” that they can donate, similar to the tax-deductible donations one can make to a nonprofit. 

“We’re the little land trust that could, because none of us really knew what we were doing,” she said of the trust’s founding. “Now that we’ve already done that legwork, we’re a good resource for people if they want to leave an ecological gift… this is an opportunity to give people an idea of things they can do with their land, if they wish to.”

Kiyooka added that arranging for her family’s property to become collectively owned has been a rewarding experience.

“It’s just been so heartening to do something tangible that aligns with my heart and what my values are,” she said. “It’s something that keeps me going because that’s how I can act, on this small level. It can seem like it’s not enough, but it’s all I have to offer… for it to have moved from a family resource to a community gift, I see a great benefit in that.”