Some native leaders say their fight is with government, rather than Sun Peaks Resort
More than 200 native protestors marched through Sun Peaks village, near Kamloops, on Saturday to protest against MuchMusics SnowJob 2001 festival.
The campaigners, including the chiefs of seven B.C. Indian bands, chanted and waved signs as they made their way through crowds of skiers and music fans. RCMP officers walked in front as they entered an area where thousands of fans were lining up to see reggae star Shaggy perform. But the protest remained peaceful and the protestors returned to their camp shortly afterwards.
The protestors are opposed to a $70 million planned expansion to the resort which they say will destroy the environment and the traditional way of life of local indigenous people.
They claimed that the SnowJob festival was attracting attention to the development and called on MuchMusic to cancel or move the event.
According to the Kamloops Daily News, the campaigners gathered before Saturdays protest to listen to area chiefs and elders denounce the expansion plans.
Stewart Phillip, the president of the B.C. Union of Indian Chiefs and chief of Penticton Indian Band, said that the unresolved issue of aboriginal title was at the heart of the protest.
"This is the face of the future," he told the Kamloops Daily News. "What you see here today will spread throughout the province because we dont have any means of reconciling our differences with corporate interests."
The chief of the Pavilion Indian Band, Robert Shintah, told the campaigners that his band is also fighting the proposed Cayoosh ski resort at Melvin Creek, near Lillooet.
But not all native people living in the area are against the Sun Peaks expansion.
Five chiefs from the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council declared their support for the resort last week, saying that they have issues with the government and not with private developers.
Five representatives, including one from the Kamloops Indian Band, met resort officials and developers on Saturday morning and exchanged ceremonial gifts. Later they joined Sun Peaks staff to hand out multi-coloured ribbons to symbolize the need for co-operation between "all nations on Earth."
A Sun Peaks spokesman said the resort feels caught in the middle of the row and urged the provincial government to help resolve the conflict.
B.C.s Aboriginal Affairs Minister, David Zirnhelt, claimed that the bands opposing the resort development were in the minority. However, he said the government would sit down and discuss the issue with those concerned about the rights of the local native people.