Canadian recording artist Sam Roberts is lending his name to fundraising efforts for the 100-year anniversary of the Lillooet Declaration.
Chief Garry (Kukwpi7) John, former chief of the Seton Lake Indian Band, confirmed to Pique on Thursday that Roberts, a Juno Award-winning rock musician who shot to fame with his hit single "Brother Down" in 2003, plans to visit Lillooet on and around April 27.
"He's agreed to come and help us do some fundraising," John said in an interview. "He's planning to be in Lillooet on April 27. He's going to be putting on a concert at a venue yet to be confirmed. We believe it will be the Lillooet REC Centre."
May 10, 2011 marks 100 years since the signing of the Lillooet Declaration at Spences Bridge, a declaration that the St'at'imc people are the "rightful owners" of their tribal territory, which extends from Whistler to Lillooet and south to Harrison Lake.
The declaration came in response to the seizing of land at "Short Portage" by settlers, acting on the authority of the provincial government at the time. The declaration also protested the proposed construction of railway depots on St'at'imc reserves.
Sixteen chiefs banded together to sign the declaration, which affirmed them as one people and as owners and as caretakers of land upon which they have lived since time immemorial.
The St'at'imc Nation includes bands such as the Bridge River Band, the Seton Lake Indian Band, Samahquam, Port Douglas and the Lil'wat people, who live on reserves located about four kilometers east of the Village of Pemberton.
Roberts will help raise money for the celebration, which will take place in Shalalth, at the north end of Seton Lake just outside Lillooet. The event will take place over a number of days leading up to May 11.
"All the other ten communities are going to join us here for three or four days," John said. "We'll have some sporting events, we'll have some activities for kids in the evenings. We'll have cultural events, fashion shows, talent shows and performances."
Roberts became acquainted with the St'at'imc people after playing the Pemberton Music Festival in 2008. At that time he met Andy Miller, an environmental activist and staff scientist at the Western Canada Wilderness Committee.
"We contacted him originally just by cold calling and he was interested and that was the beginning of a beautiful relationship," Miller said. "He's just really interested in old growth rainforest and knows as most people do that low elevation old growth rainforests have just been severely logged out and fragmented so that a lot of animals that depend on larger patches of old forest are gradually disappearing."
Roberts wanted to see a spotted owl habitat in the region. Rod Louie, a member of the St'at'imc Chiefs Council, accompanied Roberts, Miller and a number of others on a tour of F and M Creek with a crew from ET Canada in tow.
Travelling along a notoriously bumpy road, they arrived at a grove of old growth Douglas Firs and sought out the habitat of one of B.C.'s last spotted owls. Though the owl has since disappeared from the region, media attention helped get the habitat established as a protected area.
Miller later spoke with Roberts's manager and got the artist interested in helping fundraise for the 100-year anniversary. The event, according to Miller, won't necessarily be a concert alone.
Roberts is likely to play some of his music alongside some St'at'imc singers, drummers and dancers, but it's believed he'll also partake in some workshops with youth.
"Sam wants it to be very low key," Miller said. "He's spending two and a half days up there. He just wants to learn about St'at'imc traditions and cultures. We're going to take him to the archaeology sites, petroglyphs, to meet elders and hear stories from the old days. That's probably the dominant thing Sam's going to be doing."
Ticket prices for a concert on April 27 haven't yet been worked out, nor have organizers decided whether the event will be free or by donation.