Aboriginal group agrees to industry talks

Horses graze on Skeetchestn territory near Kamloops Lake. The band's business ventures include a western village movie set.

The Skeetchestn Indian Band on Kamloops Lake has called off its “peaceful service disruption” that was set to target large resource companies starting this week, and allowed two months to make progress in its demand for resource sharing agreements with public and private companies.

(An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect deadline set by the band council.)

Objecting to logging and other resource activity on its asserted territory around the community of Savona, the band gave notice late last week that it was targeting West Fraser Mills, International Forest Products, Teck Resources, BC Hydro, CN Rail,  CP Rail, Pembina Pipeline Corp. and Spectra Energy. The Skeetchestn council called on aboriginal bands all over B.C. to support them.

Skeetchestn Chief Rick Deneault said Monday he has had offers to meet with seven of the eight companies and his council will not take any action before May 13. The only company he said hasn’t responded was Teck, which operates the Highland Valley copper mine in the region.

In a statement last week announcing the roadblock plan, Deneault cited a recent case of a logging road being constructed by West Fraser, so logs that used to go to a mill in Kamloops can be trucked to 100 Mile House instead.

“The Skeetchestn should receive some financial benefit from those who use our lands, and we should be able to co-manage some of the activities on our lands,” Deneault said. “Companies and governments and their agencies should demonstrate a respect for our opinions about our lands.”

Deneault told CKNW radio on the weekend that the Skeetchestn are not involved in treaty negotiations and don’t have resource sharing agreements for timber such as have been established for Crown timber around the province.

The Skeetchestn maintain that their reserve area was much larger when it was assigned by colonial officials after the Cariboo gold rush of 1858 saw an influx of U.S. miners. Their band’s official history says the reserve area was reduced during the 1860s when Joseph Trutch was B.C.’s Chief Commissioner of Land and Works.

Smallpox reduced the Skeetchestn to the point where only 82 people recorded in the 1877 census, a year after the Indian Act was put in place. The band has since rebuilt its numbers to about 450 people and operates a store and other business ventures.

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