Sutikalh, Home of the Winter Spirit, St'at'imc Territory - Hubie Jim of the St'at'imc Territory has been resisting the $500 million Cayoosh Ski Resort project since the BC Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) approved it in 2000.
You’ve been invited to speak about your experiences as a land defender. Can you first tell us who you are?
I'm Hubert Jim known as Hubie from Sutikalh. I was first introduced to the radical side of land defense in 1975 when the DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) harassed our community's grandmothers. They cut the grandmothers' fishing nets and let them sink. In response, the grandmothers occupied a major road and shut it down.
It was the grandmothers who brought me back in 2000. When I heard they sent out a request to protect our land, I came back with a group of guys for what I thought would be a few days. Fifteen years later and I'm still here. I'm here to respect the grandmothers' request: to look after the land for the future; to provide clean air and water, what we all need.
It's really clean and healthy land and water. Could you talk about that?
When we first moved here, the place was dying. The bushes were almost non-existent. As we cleaned the land, it came back to life. At first the land was so barren, you were able to see in all directions. Now you can't because the trees and bush have grown tall. We had the water tested and it's pure. It stays cold even in the hottest days of summer. You can find twenty-five types of edible berries near the house. All the medicines are still here. All the animals are coming back. We become part of them. They are like family.
The animals keep asking us when we're coming back from those cement cities. Coming home to the forest. Like the deer who sent a message to the chiefs up in Shuswap (Secwepemc) territory not long ago. A woman had a dream of a young doe with two young deer inside of her, but the deer were dead. The dead deer were spirits asking, “Why have you sold us out?” The deer won't come back because the territory where they lived and ate is now cattle-grazing ground. The dream was a warning from the animals. We'll lose everything if we don't watch it.
Can you talk about the Cayoosh Ski Resort project, the proposal, and the impact?
All I can say is, just look at Whistler. That's part of the same territory. I was born there before it became a ski resort. Now the land is dead. The resort dumps a semi-truck of salt on the slopes every week, to fluff up the snow and condition it. They also create a lot of garbage. They promise us good jobs, but in the end all we get are dish-washing jobs, snow-shoveling, out-of-view jobs.
What happens when even one skier goes through the snow on top of a mountain? It creates a little skinny track. A few months later, that track becomes a canyon. Where did all that water go? It evaporated and rolled down the hill.
That web of life is disappearing and being replaced by that electronic web. It's affecting the birds and the bees that migrate, who play a vital role in our life, who pollenate our vegetables and our fruit. Everything that we do has an effect on the animal and the insect, the water and the air that we breathe. Many have forgotten the words: “Only take what you need, leave some for the future.” Many have forgotten and keep taking and taking and not putting back anything, creating an imbalance, when we're all born equal.
Has there been any talks or moves about developing the ski resort?
The environmental assessment for Cayoosh Resort had an extension by the B.C. government. The assessment is still open. Once the government notifies us that the agreement they made with Al and Nancy (Greene-Reine, the people who want to build the resort), is void, then we can leave. Until then we stay. Plus, I'd like to see this reclaimed as the twelfth community in the St'at'imc territory. There's five more to take back. There's still four more needed to honour all the names in the St'at'imc Declaration written over a hundred years ago.
Here in Sutikalh we try to live a clean way and remember the past; to take the best of both worlds. It's a simple life: honouring nature, our food, our water, our medicines. The spark of life inside each one of us needs to shine bright to help our Mother Earth heal. Every day she's asking for help. Who hears? Just a few of us stand on the land. There should be more. The young ones need to learn who we are, why we did this, and why we continue.
Food and or Cash Donations can be made to:
Sutikalh c/o of Hubert Jim
PO Box 20
Mount Currie, B.C.