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Ktunaxa Nation declares territory protected, closed to ski resort

Members of the Ktunaxa Nation visited the British Columbia legislature to make a declaration creating a refuge area in the Jumbo creek valley that would preclude a controversial proposal for a ski resort.

“The Qat'muk is the home of the Grizzly Bear Spirit and is the unique and proper place to celebrate and honour this spirit,” said the declaration Ktunaxa Nation Council Chair Kathryn Teneese delivered Nov. 15. “To fully protect the most sacred core of the Qat'muk area, a refuge area consisting of the upper part of the Jumbo valley is hereby established.”

The declaration also includes a buffer area in the Jumbo watershed “so that the Grizzly Bear Spirit, as well as grizzly bears, can thrive within and around Qat'muk.”

The area north of the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Park in the Kootenays is the subject of a proposal for a $450-million ski resort.

“The Ktunaxa Nation will share Qat'muk with non-Ktunaxa when such use is respectful of Ktunaxa spiritual values and consistent with our Qat'muk Stewardship Principles,” the declaration said.

“We will not agree to any further development or sale of land associated with Qat'muk that would result in irreparable and irreversible harm to this sacred place and our spiritual connection with it,” it said.

“People being there in any sort of permanent way is what the concern is,” said Teneese, acknowledging the area is popular with heli-skiers. “We're certainly not opposed to people going out and experiencing as long as it's . . . respectful and recognizes the values we've proclaimed.

“The Ktunaxa are saying this is an important place to us and needs to be treated as such.”

Science and Universities Minister Ida Chong welcomed the Ktunaxa to the legislature and said she would pass the declaration on to Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister Barry Penner and her cabinet colleagues.

Esquimalt Chief Andy Thomas and Snuneymuxw Chief Doug White, representing the First Nations Summit, spoke in strong support of the Ktunaxa declaration.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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