St'at'imc First Nations celebrated last week the upcoming connection of their communities to the power grid, finally allowing them to benefit from the electricity that has traversed their traditional territory for decades via power lines.
The celebration was held last Friday at Tipella, a remote reserve at the northern tip of Harrison Lake that falls within the traditional territory of the Xa'xtsa, or Douglas First Nation. Four St'at'imc communities are being connected to the grid - Skatin, Baptiste Smith, Port Douglas and Tipella - and no longer have to depend on diesel generators for electricity, an option that's dirty, expensive and unreliable.
"A century and a half ago, Port Douglas was the centre of commerce in what was to become British Columbia," Douglas Chief Don Harris said. "Until recently, the people in the Lillooet Valley were a forgotten people. That's changing now.
"With the same service as other B.C. Hydro customers, we can now refocus our efforts to other important matters like improving our roads, getting phone and internet services, developing our communities, building a sustainable economy and bringing our people back home."
The actual connection is expected to take place Nov. 22-23, with the completion of two substations - one located near Skatin in the north along the Lillooet River, and another at Tipella in the south. Some 30 kilometres of new transmission lines are helping facilitate the transmission alongside the two new substations.
The $30 million project is being financed through a partnership between the St'at'imc Nation, B.C. Hydro's Remote Community Electrification program and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, and comes as part of negotiations to resolve historical grievances with the St'at'imc Nation, according to a news release from B.C. Hydro.
The connection comes after years of negotiations with the St'at'imc communities that began in 1993, when the St'at'imc Nation and B.C. Hydro began discussing the impacts of the power authority's facilities and operations in its traditional territory.
Darryl Peters, chief of Douglas First Nation starting in 1996, was drawn into the negotiations around that time and has since played a key role in getting the communities connected.
From talking to elders, he learned that B.C. Hydro - back when it was B.C. Electric - long ago said they would provide the St'at'imc Nation with power if it provided access to their land.
"There were agreements, definitely," Peters said in an interview. "B.C. Electric and the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs came into the communities, all of the communities. There's other nations where they've done the same thing. What they've done is they have said that 'we will provide you with electricity if you provide us with access to your land,' so that we can have transmission lines."