On Sunday May 2nd four of the Outlaw Band members drove 3 hours north of Vancouver to the Cayoosh Valley on Hwy.99 to participate in the 10th anniversary celebration of Sutikalh. This is a camp that the Sta’ta’imc Native people of BC’s coast mountains built to oppose development
in their pristine wilderness. The camp is only a three hour drive from Vancouver but it’s a world away in lifestyle and mentality.
In 1990 the natives opposed the paving of the road through Cayoosh Valley which eventually became Hwy 99 between Mount Currie and Lillooet…a drive with world class scenery. Opening up that road made more logging and development possible, road blocks were met with police resistance. When Nancy Greene Raine decided that high alpine Melvin Creek Creek Valley would be an ideal place for a ski resort for its scenery, grade and quality of snow people from all 12 Sta’ta’imc communities opposed the plan.
They remembered all the promises of jobs and prosperity that were promised to them when they gave up the land which Whistler was built on, they knew that pristine quality of the wilderness would suffer and most importantly the pure water would be threatened. In a last ditch effort they came together and built a camp for which to organize their resistance to the plan. At that time the natives used direct tactics such as shutting the highway down, but this only brought RCMP response.
Because of the Lillooet Declaration the natives realized that they had international law on their side. The occupation of the land meant that they were using it, therefor were entitled to keep the camp meaning no ski resort could be built without a long drawnout fight. As Nancy Greene Raine’s other pet project Sun Peaks Ski Resort was routinely confronted with direct tactics by the interior natives, another battle with natives would be a PR disaster. The ski resort was never built though their continuous efforts meant that many times they came close to winning the battle.
For 10 years Hubert Jim has lived in the camp and has most often been accompanied by Doug Dan…both from the Mount Currie reservation. Hubie practiced what he preached and became a very spiritually powerful man while living 3400ft above civilization in the quiet valley. He faced all sorts of confrontation from RCMP, military and rednecks from Lillooet. He never backed down. I first hand have seen some of the enduring harrassment Hubie has lived with.
Last July when I was there some tourists parked in a manner that blocked the bridge and refused to move when I asked them.
When I came back with Hubie, Doug and a few camp supporters from Denman Island one of the fat (likely American) tourists pulled a shotgun on us. It must have worried him though when nobody flinched even an eye muscle.
“Put the guns away,” Doug ordered in a hostile voice.
I said out loud, “So you are gonna shoot five people cause they don’t want you parking in their driveway blocking our bridge?”
He put the gun away and reluctantly they drove off.
I had many experiences at Sutikalh since I first started visiting the camp in 2003. I climbed all of the mountain range on the north side of the valley and visited much of the south side while picking berries with Irene, Janice and Skahish Billy. There I met many of BC’s most famous radical natives such as Wolverine and Arnie Jack, Tse’peten defenders from the Gustafsen Lake stand-off of 1995. We swam in Duffy Lake, picked berries, made pies, dodged grizzly bears, seen thunderstorms, northern lights and all sorts of wildlife. I took my mother and two of her sisters up there for a night even to introduce them to BC Indiands first hand on their vacation. I have visited the camp during every month of the year, even the cold winters. I love that place and I love it’s caretakers dearly, the wise men Hubie and Doug are. I first earned their respect when I went up to the mountain tops exploring alone for over 4 days up there above 7000ft, I personally enjoyed the alone time.
We never thought the camp would last ten years, so it was worth celebrating even though the weather was cool and rainy. People came from Denman Island, Neskonlith, Vancouver and further to take part in the ceremonies which were led by a Gautemalan holy man who has taken his family up to the camp for many many years. Natives from South America are close family to Hubie. He preaches that all four colours of the medicine wheel must come together now in this desperate time of human depravity. We arrived as the Mayans were wrapping up the ceremony where no one was allowed to film or photograph those rituals.
After the ceremonies was a lunch complete with deserts, roasts, salads, vegetables and more. It was much easier to fill my plate than it was to empty it. Once enough digestion was done with my Outlaws played numerous songs for everyone who was inside the pithouse while the cold rain fell a little while. We played our Louis Riel/Our Home On Stolen Land medley and everyone was very excited to hear more songs. That was fun and all but the best part for me was sitting with Doug Dan in his cabin away from everything and catching up, smoking and hearing his wise tales while contemplating many things.
It is my hope that they camp will always stand there. I was only able to visit a very short time this month but I am sure I will make time as the summer progresses to get up there and top a sweet mountain. I never get tired of the alpine view, mountains surround us like a sea while the valleys are like deep cracks. The Joffre Mountain group towers over everything nearby, it’s rock appears black while its glaciers are a soft blue. The tops of the mountains have alpine plateau’s where it all looks like green carpet covers its sides from a distance, then the orangish brown rocks at the top take over the mountain peak. To the west everything is greener like
rainforest, to the west everything is drier like Lillooet 40km away. Once you top the mountain range and go to the other side you hear no cars, it’s a wild world of grizzlies, wolverines and wilderness that will eat you up. It’s one of the most beautiful places on earth.
I have more stories about Sutikalh posted on my personal myspace page which is mostly dediated to my mountaineering adventures. Perhaps some of the better blogs from there I will re-post here on wordpress. I have had so many adventures at the camp, many of the best were back in 2004-2005 though last summer Todd Rebel and I hiked the entire mountain range from Rohr Mountain to Sutikalh. It was very rough terrain and took us more than four days. We didn’t have much food on us so it was quite gruelling but quite rewarding!