Home News Natives group rebukes Olympic land-grab

Natives group rebukes Olympic land-grab

by Archives February 5, 2008

The Olympics will come and go, but Natives will be left with the negative aftermath long after, said Kanahus Pellkey, a Secwepemc Native and Ktnuxa Warrior, and spokesperson for the Native Youth Movement (NYM).
The British Columbia group opposes the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and Pellkey has been traveling across the country along-side Dustin Johnson of the Ts’mksi’yen nation. They brought that message to Montreal last Thursday speaking to the media outside Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, the site of the 1976 Summer Olympics, before speaking to a crowd of over 100 supporters at the Native Friendship Center in the evening.
Pellkey is traveling across Canada to raise awareness about opposition to the Olympics in Vancouver and the negative effects of holding the Games on what she says is “unceded” Native land. “It is all stolen land, here as well as on the West Coast,” she said. “The government of British Columbia doesn’t have the right to develop Native lands that were never ceded.” She says that unlike what happened in the rest of the country, no treaties were signed in British Columbia.
Her main objection is to the role the games are playing in changing her people’s way of life on the land. With other resource industries like agriculture, fishing and logging in crisis, she believes, the political and economic forces behind the games are promoting it as a 17-day worldwide televised info-commercial to attract investment for British Columbia’s growing winter tourism economy.
“Premier Gordon Campbell, of British Columbia has made it his mandate to make all of B.C. an all seasons resort … it’s all about money, it’s all about greed,” she said.
Included in this are massively expanded ski hills – up to 40 are being planned for completion by the year 2012, six more by the following year connecting everything and splicing through B.C.’s backcountry. The B.C. government estimates the profits could exceed $6 billion by the year 2020.
But First Nations groups, such as the NYM, say the land is theirs. “Big corporations coming for the Olympics are going to see the potential to make money when they see our untouched land,” said Pellkey. “We want investors to know our land is not for sale and has never been. For us right now we’re holding onto the very last of what we have.”
The Secwepemc’s traditional territory covers approximately 145,000 square kilometres in the southern interior of British Columbia, an area larger than Florida. But today the Secwepemc have been pushed off that land onto 17 small Indian reservations with the population falling from 100,000 to 7,500 in the process.
“I remember mountains and glaciers,” Pellkey said. “We had all the freedom that any child could want. The children had the run of the mountains. It’s one of the last places in the world where there’s still clean mountain water. But expanding more will further devastate the indigenous way of life.”
To the tune of $284 million, B.C.’s Sun Peaks Corporation is pushing for more expansion with a remodel of its ski resort. The Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee is also pushing for the development as a backup for Whistler, the Olympic skiing site, in case it is washed out. Calls to the Vancouver Olympic Committee were not returned.
The ski resort is located near the Secwepemc territory and the company is also fighting for a major highway through the backcountry, to make it accessible to tourists from Calgary.
If the development goes ahead, that will mean the interior will be opened up, said Pellkey, and that will cause negative ripple effects.
“More tourists will only bring more problems,” said Pellkey. “What Sun Peaks and other corporations are doing to us is affecting our basic human right to live.”
So leery of expansion are the elders in the Secwepemc territory that they have warned others of great droughts and starvation in the future. “Our elders see what is happening when hundreds of great cedars are being pulled from the ground. Our elders tell us to stockpile food and supplies to help feed the coming of the displaced people when the land can no longer sustain them.”
The negative ripple effects of the games also extend to the growing Native population living in the downtown eastside of Vancouver. Over 500 low-income housing units were lost between June 2003 and June 2005, and almost 300 low-income housing units have been lost in the same time period due to rent increases. “Native people will suffer as the coming of more tourists will encourage the closing of more low-income housing,” Pellkey said. “They will be forced to live on the streets.”
And as B.C.’s Indigenous Action Group (IAG) points out, Native people already make up 30 per cent of homeless people in the downtown eastside. The group expects that many of the services now offered – low-rent housing, showers and medical drop-in centres – will face funding cuts, adding to the problem. While some native leaders have come out in support of the games Johnson dismisses them as, “a handful of collaborators.”
He calls these band councillors corrupt and says they’re, “being wined and dined behind closed doors.”
NYM is calling for a “convergence” of native and non-native groups to disrupt the games for five days.
The anti-Olympic activists hope to mobilize protests similar those in Seattle in 1999 and in Quebec City in 2001. While the Olympics are still two years away, the NYM already has the support of several anti-poverty, anti-capitalist and indigenous warrior groups from around the world.

Related Articles

Leave a Comment