by Gord Hill
WarriorPublications.wordpress.com, May 28, 2011
Recently, I spent two weeks at Sutikalh, the St’at’imc village established in 2000 to protect the Melvin Creek/Cayoosh Mountain range from a proposed all-season ski resort. Sutikalh is located halfway between Mount Currie and Lillooet along Highway 99 in southern BC, and recently celebrated its 11th anniversary.
I currently live in the Downtown Eastside, and Sutikalh is about as far away as you can get from such an environment. For two weeks I listened to birds chirping, instead of crackheads arguing (although I just noticed there are songbirds here in the ghetto as well!). It was also hella cold; although it’s warming up, the first week I was there the night time temperatures reached -4 degrees Celsius. At first there were fairly large patches of snow left, but after two weeks most of this had melted. But I toughed it out in my MEC Habanero sleeping bag, rated to -7. That, plus my army surplus fleece tops and bottoms, and an outer layer. It’s still cold at Sutikalh because the site is located at 3,500 feet above sea level!
The actual village is located on a previously logged out area, at the base of the mountain, which was replanted nearly two decades ago. It is a wild mix of Spruce, Cedar, Fir and Hemlock, with some Cottonwoods and groves of tangled up Alder. One thing that makes this area unique is that it is a transition zone between the wetter coastal climate and the drier interior. But although there is some vegetation associated with the interior, Sutikalh definitely has a coastal climate.
The water is pure, coming directly from the mountain ice and snow packs. The air is also clean, although Highway 99 which runs nearby has plenty of traffic, including locals, transport and fuel trucks, tourists, and tour buses. Despite the proximity of a vital transport/commuter link between the coast and interior, the village is in a very remote area, and there’s plenty of wildlife.
The main animals I noticed were the birds. There were 10 or so Stellar Jays who hung around the village, as well as Gray Jays, Hummingbirds, and Robins. Less frequently seen are hawks and a pair of very large Ravens. There was a rabbit that sneaks around the village site, and during my time there I saw its fur change from nearly all-white to light brown. On trails there was also fresh deer tracks and pellets, as well as bear droppings.
Each day we had to gather firewood, cuz like I said, it was still cold up there! All the wood was standing dead, and it had to be cut down and carried out of the forest to the village site. Another daily chore was getting water for washing, drinking, and cooking. This required carrying a large container of water from a nearby creek to the main longhouse.
Over the years, Sutikalh has hosted numerous gatherings for local St’at’imc people, international Indigenous youth, ceremonies, and supporters. It is one of the only long-standing, grassroots, sovereign Indigenous land reclamations in the province (along with the Sinixt).
Today, the initial threat that prompted the St’at’imc to mobilize against appears to have subsided. Al Raine and his partner, Nancy Greene, who comprised NGR Resources Inc., had applied to the BC government for a license to construct the ski resort. After the St’at’imc showed their determination to protect the area, NGR dropped the proposal and failed to renew their application.
Despite this, NGR or another developer could decide to pursue the project considering that extensive plans had already been made based on the potential market a ski resort would have. In addition, Greene, a former Olympic gold medal skier, also sits on the Senate and has considerable influence within the BC ski resort industry. NGR was also the company that Secwepemc communities have battled at Skwelkwek’welt/Sun Peaks (near Kamloops).
Sutikalh does not receive funding from any band council, NGO, foundation or corporation. It survives entirely on grassroots support. Donations of money, food, fuel, or other supplies are greatly appreciated. Hubert Jim, who maintains the village year-round, can be sent donations directly through the address below. Unfortunately the blog site doesn’t appear to have been updated for a year or so, but there is some background information there.
For more info :
Sutikalh c/o Hubert Jim
PO Box 20
Mount Currie, B.C.