Ktunaxa treaty including Wensley Bench land contentious for some
Across Highway 6 from Box Lake there is a stretch of forest familiar with mountain bikers and hikers who walk the old railway bed. A 242-hectare section twice as long as Box Lake running parallel to the highway is now Ktunaxa land, as of March 27, when the area was signed over to the First Nation by the provincial and federal governments.
Not everyone is pleased with the deal. Marilyn James, representative from the Sinixt Nation, who said the Sinixt have had a land claim filed since 2008.
The incremental treaty has been in the works for years, said Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Ida Chong.
“The Ktunaxa-Kinbasket Treaty Council entered the treaty process in December 1993, and is now well-advanced in Stage 4 of the six-stage process,” Chong told the Arrow Lakes News. The council is now negotiating a comprehensive agreement in principle, which will conclude in a final agreement in the future.
James said the governments’ claims that they are signing this land to the Ktunaxa fairly and objectively are not accurate.
“Because we’ve been in the courts, we’ve collected evidence and facts, and this is unequivocally Sinixt territory,” she stated.
James termed the treaty an “act of genocide” because it depends upon the labelling of the Sinixt as an extinct people.
“When you call a people extinct when they’re not, that’s an act of genocide,” she said. “For the Ktunaxa to be doing what they’re doing in our territory is an act of collusion with the government.” She added that for the government to sign the treaty as part of reconciliation made the public a party to the collusion as well.
When asked about the Sinixt claim, Minister Chong replied that “the Arrow Lakes Band was removed from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs records in 1953, after it was determined no members remained.
“As the claim is still before the Courts, the Province does not consider it appropriate to comment on the specifics of the claim,” she added.
When asked why this particular piece of land were included in the treaty, Minister Chong said “These lands were included in the offer because they address a significant interest of the Ktunaxa Nation to increase its participation in the regional economy.
“These parcels have significant potential to provide economic development opportunities that will benefit the Ktunaxa Nation, local industries, and local government, and enhance employment opportunities for local residents.”
Neither Nakusp mayor nor Box Lake Lumber owner Dan Wiebe had known about the treaty until they heard about it from local media, and both expressed surprise that they had not been notified.
Although a request for an interview with a representative from the Ktunaxa Nation was made, there was no response before press time.
For her part, James vowed there would be lots of action taken in response, and told the Arrow Lakes News the number of people with the Sinixt is large.
“A big community stands in solidarity with us now,” said James, and added that more than half of the questions being asked at Columbia River Treaty meetings are about the Sinixt. “People know and are not fooled by what the government is doing.”