Secwepemc Nation: Reclaiming Land, Sustaining Culture

RAVEN envisions a day when Secwepemc Nation’s title to the land is reflected in land use practices that incorporate the caretaker values that have kept this land and waters healthy since time immemorial.

RAVEN is excited to be working with Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation to secure Aboriginal title to unceded traditional territory in interior B.C. Their vision is to enshrine Indigenous stewardship practices into law for future generations. 

“Today out of the 180,000 square km of our homeland, we occupy through the reserves less than one percent of it.”

— Ron Ignace, Chief, Skeetchesn Band, Secwepemc Nation

The Secwepemc title area comprises lands that used to be teeming with salmon and deer, covered in thriving forests. But with the onslaught of mining, logging and settlement, the environmental damage is vast and deprives the Secwepemc of their livelihood. The Aboriginal title case aims to give jurisdiction to the Secwepemc over this territory, so that they can revitalize the practices that sustained this land for thousands of years. 

A title win would facilitate a new, healthier economic development and resource development, one that seeks to balance the ecology, people, land and businesses. Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc land title is about building and maintaining long-term sustainable economic development in a healthy environment. 

Ed Jensen, Secwepemc knowledge keeper says, “If we continue to look at our natural world and objectify it as opposed to seeing it as spirits and living beings, we will continue to be destructive with it.” 

A team from RAVEN travelled to the territory together with videographer Paul David Shea of Photographers Without Borders in 2019. We were honoured to hear community testimony about the importance of this case and to witness how interconnected the legal challenge is with their stories of belonging to the land, air and water.

Watch the short video  below to hear from community members and witness the powerful beauty of their lands:

The title case is ongoing and the Secwepemc are determined to bring back the health of the land for their future generations with this case. 

Here are some recent updates as of November 8th regarding the case, from Sarah Hansen, legal counsel to Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc: 

·        A Electronic Trial Protocol has been proposed,

·        SSN’s Notice of Civil Claim has been amended to substitute lead plaintiffs (newly elected Chief Casimir),

·        Elder interviews continue and are at various stages for 2020 depositions. Currently, we are in the process of scheduling multiple Elder depositions with opposing counsel between November 2020 and February 2021. 

·        Witness interviews and mapping sessions are on-going,

·        Retention of Experts has progressed, and

·        An extensive amount of work conducted to marshal the evidence required to prove the Title Claim.

In addition to supporting the legal challenge though our fundraising campaign (donate here), RAVEN is planning a longer documentary film project in the Skeetchestn and wider Secwepemc territory to chronicle how stories, as ‘deeds to the land’, form the backbone and foundation for Aboriginal Title cases, and for our understanding of the Indigenous legal frameworks that support Secwepemc sovereignty. 

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