The Lil’wat Land Use Plan: Phase One was launched amidst an afternoon of traditional prayer, dancing and drumming on Oct. 17. This seemed very appropriate for a document that approaches land use against a framework based in cultural values.
Ten months in the making, the 86-page document outlines the community’s vision and plan for the management of land and resources within its traditional territory.
“It’s the first time we’ve written down what we’re all about,” said Chief Leonard Andrew. “Ever since the white man came to our land we’ve been concerned about it.”
“This (document) is not the end all, it’s the beginning of what we want to say to the world about our traditional territory.”
That traditional territory encompasses the communities of Mt. Currie, Pemberton and Whistler. The 739,131-hectare area is about a quarter the size of Vancouver Island. The territory extends south to Rubble Creek, north to Gates Lake, east to the Upper Stein Valley and west to the coastal inlets of the Pacific Ocean.
According to Lil’wat Chief Negotiator Lyle Leo, the management of this land and its resources is key to the community’s success.
“Our occupation of the land is written on the land itself,” said Leo in his opening remarks.
“We are now facing pressure on our land. With the world coming in 2010 to the Olympics, it’s timely that we move forth.”
Leo defined the document as a tool that allows for both the preservation of the Lil’wat cultural values and an operational guide for future business endeavours.
“It will determine how we work with neighbouring First Nations and communities. (It outlines) how other governments can collaborate so our government is functional with your government.”
Councillor Lucinda Williams, who sat on the LLUP working group, spoke about the importance of developing a cohesive document that dealt with land and cultural issues.
“The main reason we did this was to assert aboriginal title and rights in our territory.”
The first task of the committee was to develop a mission statement. The statement ends with a simple, ingrained belief that guides the entire document: Our people and our land are one.
As detailed in the LLUP, all future economic development activities, including forestry, mining, hydroelectric and industrial tourism will be conducted so that Lil'wat values are protected and enhanced. Many of these values would be recognizable to non-First Nations people as falling under the heading of “sustainability.” The LLUP also provides for the management of cultural heritage, flora and fauna, hunting, trapping, tourism, energy and wilderness access.
Chief Andrew sees the plan as being a comprehensive living document.
“It is modern, optimistic and inclusive and provides a way for us to use and sustain our land, aquatic and forest resources,” he said.
The plan, which began by dividing the area into 13 watersheds, delineates six distinct zones in the Lil’wat traditional territory, documenting traditional use and preferred use for each area.
Those preferred land uses are: Nt’ákmen (sustainable traditional uses such as fishing, hunting and gathering), collaborative management, cultural education, stewardship, conditional economic development and managed resource use.
Among the more than 75 people at the launch, were council representatives from the Resort Municipality of Whistler, the Village of Pemberton and MLA Joan McIntyre.
At the launch, the Lil’wat Nation also presented its first Fact Book — a public education document for students, media, visitors and the public. Both the fact book and land use plan can be obtained through contacting Liz Jones, director of the Lil’wat Land and Resources Department.