RAVEN - Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs

Secwepemc: Reclaiming land, sustaining culture

Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc First Nation is going to court to secure Aboriginal title to their unceded traditional territory in interior BC.  

They will face vigorous opposition from well-resourced government and corporate lawyers.

Will you stand  with the Secwepemc?

 

The Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc (pronounced Ste-kem-LUP-sem t’ suh-WEP-muhc) have occupied their traditional lands in the Kamloops/Thompson region of BC’s interior since time immemorial. Secwepemc culture is intimately linked to Secwepemculecw, their homeland, and to each particular place that supports Secwepemc economy and culture through food, medicines, or timber. Some of these special places, such as Pipsell (Jacko Lake), Goose Lake, the Prayer Tree and Coyote’s Sweathouse, have storied connections with Secwepemc history, ancestors and spiritual beings.

“Our spiritual connection that rests on the physical connection to Pipsell is inseparable from that physical place. We are spiritually connected to Pipsell where our Ancestors’ spirits are contained. Our ancestral Warrior Chiefs stand with us, and we must protect our legacy and our links to this place that defines us as a Nation.”

– From the Pipsell Declaration

$7,178
OF OUR $500,000 GOAL

The Power of Place

Pipsell

At the heart of the land that is being reclaimed through the title case is Pipsell (Jacko Lake), a spiritual site which is the source of a foundational story for the Secwepemc people. The Trout Children Stseptekwll (Oral History) contains important principles of Secwepemc Indigenous law regarding reciprocal accountability to living beings on the land. This oral history also informs social conduct across generations. Trout from Pipsell and plants from the area — harvested in the crucial period in early spring before the higher-elevation plants are available — continue to play a significant role in the food economy of the Secwepemc.

YecweminemResponsibility for the land

The Secwepemc determination to pursue title to their land in court is grounded in Secwepemc Indigenous law and the concept of yecweminem —   the obligation to care for  and protect land, water and sky worlds within Secwepemc territory.

For decades the Secwepemc have had to contend with a storm of unwanted and polluting projects on their territory, including most recently the TransMountain pipeline and the proposed Ajax gold-copper mine. Mining, roads, settlement, and ranching have deprived the Secwepemc of the enjoyment of their lands. In many places, development has destroyed or damaged the land’s ability to provide for the Secwepemc, or to be used in accordance with Secwepemc culture.  The Secwepemc are determined to restore the land to a state of balance, and maintain their traditional and contemporary spiritual practices on the land in the locations marked by their ancestors. Their vision for their land is a healthy ecology supporting a thriving Secwepemc culture and a robust Indigenous economy that contributes to the whole Kamloops region.

“Getting out on the land helps bring our children back. Without the land, we are disconnected” –  Youth from Skeetchestn community 

Pipsell, the Hunting Blind Complex and Goose Lake collectively comprise  a unique historical site in North America. Together, they are a cultural and socio-economic keystone site. This includes not only the lake itself and its Water People and Water World (aquifer) but also special places such as the Prayer Tree, the red-headed woodpecker and chickadee habitats, the Hunting Blind complex and associated grasslands, and Sky World. It is unthinkable that such a profoundly sacred place for the Secwepemc people should ever be dewatered and filled with waste rock and tailings, as the Ajax proposal would have it. The Secwepemc have declared Pipsell a Cultural Heritage Site.

“Before contact there was pristine land teeming with salmon and deer. This is when the Secwepemc followed the caretaker laws and relationship between humans and the land.  In the Secwepemc language we are relatives to one another (Kwseltktenews).  Among the Secwepemc every person has a right to clean air, clean water, properly managed lands for foods, spirituality, economic enterprises.”

– Robert Simon, community member.

 

“We see Pipsell as uniquely situated to serve as a place of sharing between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. (…) Our decision to preserve and sustain Pipsell is for the long-term benefit of all Canadians, ensuring the future enjoyment of this special place serves to further reconciliation, so that we may all be great and good.”

(From the Pipsell Declaration)

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