Last week I watched the documentary, Jumbo Wild. Check out this website: http://www.keepitwild.ca/. This is a story about a new ski resort near Jumbo Glacier – a remote wilderness location in the Kootenay Mountains of British Columbia (BC).
WHAT IS THE CONFLICT?
The proposed Jumbo ski resort is about 55 miles west of Invermere, BC. It is a story about conflicts between the Province, developers, local residents, environmentalists, and First Nations for many years. The BC Liberal government stands to profit from this development. Over the last many years, the BC government has supported this ski resort. The government not only approved the project in 2012, but changed the Local Government Act – making Jumbo Glacier Resort a legal municipality. They have provided the resort with $260,000 in funding and approved its 5-year financial plan – paid for with one million tax-payer dollars through 2018.
Local residents are concerned that there are already too many ski resorts in the region. Environmentalists are concerned about the ecological impacts the resort will have on the receding Jumbo glacier and sensitive grizzly bear habitat. Most importantly, the Ktunaxa First Nation claims the resort will harm a sacred space called Qat’muk. Check out this video to learn more: https://vimeo.com/31890388
WHAT DOES THE SKI RESORT SAY TO THESE CLAIMS?
Ski resort developers have tried to discredit Ktunaxa claims to the region. This is a colonial tactic which Canada has used since the first European settlers arrived. This link shows how Jumbo Valley is discrediting the Ktunaxa: http://beforeqatmuk.com/. The ski resort makes two claims: (1) the Shuswap First Nations (who currently support the development) have more rights to the region than the Ktunaxa, and, (2) the Ktunaxa are lying about the region being a sacred space to them. Check out this link to learn more about the sacred space court case: http://www.thecourt.ca/2015/12/ktunaxa-nation-v-bc-bringing-aboriginal-spirituality-into-section-2a-of-the-charter/
SHUSWAP OR KTUNAXA TERRITORY?
Jumbo developers say that the Shuswap live closest to the proposed ski resort, and therefore get to say what happens. It seems that Jumbo developers are quick to band together with a community that supports them – whether or not their ‘facts’ are true or not! The above maps tell a different story, however! It is true that the Shuswap Reserve is close to the resort area, but Reserve location has nothing to do with shared traditional territories! Jumbo’s argument only serves them, and perpetuates colonial land grabs which marginalized First Nations groups in the first place.
WHOSE VOICE DO WE LISTEN TO IN THIS CONFLICT?
As often happens in resource conflicts, people are making the argument that their story is more important than anyone else’s. In the case of Jumbo Valley, this oversimplifies a complex problem. Jumbo is not just a story about grizzly bears or a chance to ski in pristine wilderness. The Ktunaxa have an important story to tell us, and we need to listen!
LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE:
In Canada, government and industry often put their own wants over the needs of First Nations communities. Indigenous knowledge and narratives have been discredited and ridiculed by settler society. It was not until the late 1970s that First Nations could make legal claims to land and resources by telling their oral histories. Today, many First Nations groups use this legal precedent to protect the sacred spaces they have historical access and rights to. By trying to discredit Ktunaxa oral history, Jumbo ski resort developers are promoting injustice and discrediting themselves! Ultimately, Jumbo continues to marginalize First Nations and render them ‘invisible’ – just like we have done since the 1800s throughout Canada.
In 2012, the BC courts refused to hear Ktunaxa claims regarding Qat’muk. Today, the Ktunaxa have ‘won their day in court’. The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear their appeal. Check out this news report: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/jumbo-ktunaxa-nation-supreme-court-of-canada-1.3495494. The final decision is important, because it will prove Canada’s commitment to ensuring equality and justice for First Nations’ communities. Until Canada makes the decision to give really listen to First Nations’ claims to sacred spaces, injustice and inequality will continue to be the foundation of our Nation.
Until next time, this is Spatial Integrity: Making the Invisible, Visible.