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Protesters’ issues bigger than us, says Sun Peaks

Local First Nations not supportive of resort protest

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As far as Sun Peaks Resort is concerned, the protest is over.

"The rally was on Sunday and we haven’t seen anything since then," said Christopher Nicolson, the executive director for Tourism Sun Peaks. "There are still a few people camped out in a remote section of the valley where the (next nine holes) of the golf course is going in, but that’s been it."

On Sunday a group of 140 protesters, including members of local First Nations, converged on Sun Peaks Resort and marched through the village to call attention to ongoing development in the area. Signs read "No Justice On Stolen Land" and "Off Our Mountain".

According to protest organizer Janice Billy, the event was planned for a year. The last protests in the area took place more than two years ago, resulting in several arrests and a court order banning activists from the resort. That order expired in June.

Land and Water B.C., the province and the RCMP are now involved, said Nicolson. "As far as we’re concerned it’s out of our hands, there’s nothing we can do."

While Nicolson says it’s vital that the provincial and federal government resolve First Nations land claims, he says the Sun Peaks development has already been approved by the local community, government and local First Nations.

"Sun Peaks is simply a staging ground to get media attention," said Nicolson. "We’re looking at a small group, led by one family – the same family that has been up here in the past – and they do not have the support of the First Nations communities in Kamloops.

"It’s a small family, this one group, working by itself to achieve its own ends."

The protest also included members of the Council of Canadians, and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, which annoyed local First Nations.

Chief Felix Arnouse of the Little Shuswap Band, Chief Ron Jules of the Adams Lake Band and Chief Art Anthony of the Neskonlith Band, which protest organizer Janice Billy claims to represent, have all voiced their opposition to the protests.

"It is insulting when outside groups attempt to compromise our efforts in dealing with issues that affect our people in our territory," Arnouse told the Kamloops Daily News.

Chief Nathan Matthew, the president of the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council, which represents 17 bands in the area, said there was some division over how to address land claims in the area, but the protests were not helpful. "We do see protests as not being truly effective in moving things along."

The central issue is the Neskonlith Douglas Reserve land claim, which includes Tod Mountain, Mount Cahilty and Mount Morrisey, where Sun Peaks is located. Many members of local First Nations never accepted the Sun Peaks Master Plan, which called for a massive resort expansion in the area in 1993, although some local Secwepemc bands did sign on to the protocol agreement.

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