This week I want to comment on St'át'imc Chiefs Council spokesman Garry John's recent threats of protest over the possible granting of an extension of the environmental certificate for Cayoosh Resort.
At the outset I want to say that I fully support the Raines and their proposal to develop an all-season resort in the Melvin Creek valley. My own feelings on this issue haven't changed a great deal in the five years since the province first issued the environmental certificate for the project.
I still think it could be the economic lynchpin for a revitalized economy for our area. I believe the St'át'imc could be the greatest benefactors if they worked with the project developers. Recall the words of Osoyoos Chief Clarence Louie: "First Nations have to develop economic power before they develop political power."
I was reminded this week just how strong feelings remain on both sides of this issue.
Non-native people expressed displeasure that we chose to print Garry John's remarks on the front page and suggested we are driving away potential investors. We support the ski hill, but sorry, we can't just ignore what the leaders of the St'át'imc say or pretend their opinions aren't important here.
I also spoke to a person in the native community who reminded me of the depth of feeling on the opposing side of the issue. "They (an unnamed St'át'imc person) said they were ready to lay down their life for that valley," I was told.
Let us all hope it never comes to that.
What I hope we're not headed for is a return to the days of confrontation and recrimination over this issue. That would be a shame.
Our respective communities have made some progress towards building better relations in the last few years but it would be easy and counter-productive - to retreat to the heated and barbed rhetoric that created so much bad feeling back in 2000 and 2001.
What's needed now are cool heads and good leadership on both sides.
The newspaper bears responsibility for some of the heated rhetoric on this issue and I acknowledge that. I hope we won't further contribute to widening the chasm that was starting to close between the native and non-native communities.
I hope Chief Garry John will also accept some responsibility for his comments, which have been inflammatory at times. Chief John may not be accountable to the non-native community but good leaders don't make enemies where there is no war.
The environmental certificate itself means little. Whether an extension is granted or not, the reality is that the Raines are not going to build a ski resort at Melvin Creek in the face of St'át'imc opposition. Let's not undo years of good work in building better relationships over what is really just a piece of paper.
Bridge River Lillooet News AUG 17th 2005.USLCES Home page.