To the editor,
Re: Cayoosh Resort article dated Aug. 3rd, I wish to clarify the statement that Al Raine had committed to withdraw the application if he did not receive St'át'imc support.
In 1990, prior to making our application to the Province of BC, we met with former Lil'wat Chief Fraser Andrews and his son, Robert, to discuss the possibility of a mountain resort in the Melvin Creek valley. We posed an important question; did they know of any special values in this valley and were there any sacred sites or areas of spiritual significance? None were identified at that time but it was suggested that we meet with other Bands to review this question. We then called the Cayoose Band office and eventually met with Trudy Redan and Kathy Grant, who set up a meeting with Chief Redan and a several Band Elders. By late 1990, we approached the Province of B.C. and indicated that we thought this valley had tourism potential.
Through the provincial government, we learned that the Melvin Creek valley was slated for logging within a year or two, so we met with the province and Ainsworth Lumber representatives. Eventually, everyone agreed that if there was resort potential, a resort would likely contribute more to regional economic development. Ainsworth Lumber then agreed to delay the logging plans and to consider a revised plan that would reduce the amount of timber to be harvested and limit the harvest areas to actual ski trails and development sites.
By 1992, we met regularly with Chief Rodney Louie, who was then the administrator in the St'át'imc Tribal office. We also met with Larry Casper and others who represented the economic development interests of the area. During this period, we explained our vision and what was required to realize a resort in Melvin Creek. We invited Tribal representatives to tour Whistler and introduced some eight representatives from various Bands to representatives of the Whistler community. We also explained our vision for Cayoosh Resort, a resort that would be many times smaller than Whistler Resort. We also indicated that the only Melvin Creek land to be developed with buildings would be less than 150 hectares and all ski slope lands were leased only.
Chief Louie invited us to make a presentation to a Tribal meeting in Mt. Currie in 1993, which we did. In all of these meetings, we clearly indicated that we would like to have the support of the St'át'imc and requested direction from the Tribal representatives. In 1994, it was suggested by Chief Louie that we enter into a protocol agreement that would outline how we would work with the St'át'imc communities to see the resort development realized with economic benefits going to all St'át'imc Bands. Subsequently, we met Rex Grant who was then working with the Tribal Council and agreed to his draft protocol documents, which were to be presented to the chiefs for their subsequent approval. During this period, no representatives of the Tribal Council ever committed their support or St'át'imc support for the project, however, we were told that if there were employment and financial benefits to the St'át'imc people, there should be support for such a project.
During the planning stages in 1993, we needed to complete studies on mountain goats and other animals in the Melvin Creek area as part of the initial environmental studies. Fred Shields was hired to do the site observations. He and an assistant spent almost a month in the area in the late spring observing the goats and other animal activity. These observations were very important in determining wildlife activity and ongoing study requirements.
Early in the planning stages, we approached the St'át'imc leadership because the resort could significantly impact the St'át'imc people. We believed that we needed St'át'imc support as well as the non-native community support. We knew that there would be some general impacts on all Bands but for the Mt. Currie and Cayoose reserves, these impacts could be negative if not properly understood and addressed. We met regularly with Chief Kathy Wallace in Mt. Currie and their economic development officers. We never hid any information from the Bands and delivered copies of the archaelogical studies to Lill'wat, N'quat'qua and Cayoose Band offices as well as the Tribal office prior to submitting these studies to the Province of B.C. We have always believed that the St'át'imc people needed to understand our proposal, including the positive and negative impacts, in order to maximize the positive and minimize the negatives for the local people. It was also important that the job opportunities be well known and that both younger and older people have training opportunities. We strongly believed that if the St'át'imc people understood our proposal and that we understood their concerns and issues, we would be able to develop the best possible plan and obtain support for the proposal.
In early discussions with Chief Louie, we spoke of possible solutions to land tenure issues. Prior to Delgamuukw and other court decisions, we recognized the St'át'imc interest in the land as we had read some St'atimc historical books. We suggested that rather than a one-time cash settlement, we thought that ongoing financial fees from the project would better serve the St'át'imc interests. This approach led to our proposal to pay to the St'át'imc people the same fees required by the Province of B.C., both in terms of land purchase fees and annual lease fees for the ski slopes. We understood that it was important that the St'át'imc people had a portion of the revenue coming from any project in their traditional territory, so we offered to accept the St'át'imc interests equal to those of the province. In addition, we committed that the development company would hire a First Nations person as the head of Human Resources and that person would assist in developing training programs for local employment opportunities and be responsible for the hiring policy. We also proposed that some lands in the Melvin Creek Valley would be set aside for First Nations development. These conditions are all commitments in the approved environmental assessment certificate.
By the late '90s, the project started to bog down and the protocol agreement that we have agreed to with St'át'imc staff did not go forward to the chiefs. In 1996, we met Chief Mike Leach and he assumed the role as the contact person. As the provincial environmental assessment review began, there appeared to be a change in both leadership and positions. This provincial process seemed to complicate our previous discussions. At that time, Chief Leach indicated to us that to receive approval for the project, it would most likely require a vote of the all St'át'imc people. We indicated that we were willing to meet with all Bands and Band members and discuss how we might best do this. We also indicated that if we were given fair access to present our proposal to all Band members, we could live with the decision of the St'át'imc people. We had confidence that if the St'át'imc people understood our proposal, they would see the benefits that could be realized by St'át'imc community members, especially the growing younger population.
Chief John has repeatedly indicated that we had promised that we would abide by the chiefs' decision and we are failing to honour our word. We agreed to respect an informed decision of the St'át'imc people and there was never any discussion about a decision by the chiefs alone. Naturally, we were disappointed to receive the August 2000 letter from the chiefs rejecting the project.
It is unfortunate that we have never had "face to face" negotiations with the St'át'imc chiefs and people. We sincerely regret that as a result of the many strong words reported, we have been positioned as the enemy of the St'át'imc people. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Perhaps the political environment will not change quickly but in Melvin Creek, there is a wonderful opportunity for all people of the region, but especially for the younger people.
Sun Peaks, B.C.
Bridge River Lillooet News AUG 24th 2005.USLCES Home page.