Ktunaxa stand their ground

Hundreds support First Nation at Jumbo Glacier Resort rally

Ktunaxa Nation Council member Margaret Teneese marches with between 300 and 400 people down 10th Ave S in Cranbrook on November 30. The Ktunaxa Nation made their voice loud and clear that they will continue to protect Qat’muk

Hundreds of Jumbo Glacier Resort opponents led by the Ktunaxa Nation paraded down the streets of Cranbrook on Friday afternoon, vowing to keep the controversial project from happening.

It was an atmosphere filled with singing, laughter and celebration of a community coming together for a common cause – saving the area the Ktunaxa calls Qat’muk from development. Estimates put the crowd at between 300 and 400 people. The rally was the second of two events related to Jumbo happening in the province on Friday. In Vancouver, a group of Ktunaxa Nation members including chair Kathryn Teneese and elders filed an application for judicial review.

For Ktunaxa, Qat’muk is where the Grizzly Bear Spirit was born, goes to heal itself, and returns to the spirit world. Ktunaxa rely on the continuation of traditional spiritual and religious practices, and the Grizzly Bear Spirit is a unique and indispensable source of collective as well as individual guidance, strength, and protection.

In Cranbrook, the group moved down 10th Ave S with the Sookenai Singers setting the tone. Families, children, elders and dignitaries of all ages participated in the march that ended at Rotary Park – adjacent to the Cranbrook Law Courts where the Ktunaxa expects legal proceedings will take place.

Once at Rotary Park the Sookenai Singers kicked things off with a performance and MC Joe Pierre shared a note from Cranbrook’s favourite NHL star, Scott Niedermayer. Pierre, also a councillor for the St. Mary’s Band, announced that the judicial review was being filed in Vancouver as the group gathered there.

The crowd then sang along to an altered rendition of Tom Petty’s classic “I won’t back down.”

NDP candidate for Kootenay East Norma Blissett told the crowd that the NDP was standing with them in their fight against the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort, which was recently granted Mountain Resort Municipality status.

“The majority of people who live here are opposed to this project,” Blissett told the crowd. “We have enough ski resorts. We do not need more at this price.”

At least one attendee agreed with Blissett that there are already enough ski resorts; a sign in the crowd read “Keep Jumbo wild, ski Kimberley.”

Blissett thanked the Ktunaxa for standing up for what they believed, and encouraged them to keep at it.

“I want to say thank you to the Ktunaxa community for standing up,” she said.

Newly elected chief of the St. Mary’s Band Jim Whitehead addressed the size of the crowd, and said the fight to keep Jumbo wild was just beginning.

“This speaks for itself as far as the importance of this place, Qat’muk,” Whitehead said.

The next performance featured an original song with lyrics including “Let’s keep Jumbo gondola free.”

Gerry Wilkie, Area G director for the Regional District of East Kootenay, delivered a passionate speech, thanking the Ktunaxa people for continuing to fight after the RDEK passed on land use decisions for the Jumbo Valley to the province in August, 2009.

“Thank you for doing what I am ashamed we could not do back in August 2009,” he said. “We didn’t deliver democracy to the people of the East Kootenay. Today you, the Ktunaxa people, are taking an important stand.”

Wildsight executive director John Bergenske said the occasion was a joyous one that united people from different areas of the community.

“This is a day for me, really, of celebration,” he said. “Today I think we go away with a common feeling.”

Despite recent decisions to name the Jumbo Glacier Resort a mountain resort municipality, Bergenske said he is confident the Ktunaxa’s voice will be heard.

“I have no doubt that there will not be a resort in Jumbo Valley,” he said to loud cheers from the audience. “I’m just so overwhelmed and so happy to see all of us here together. We are all part of this land.”

NDP MLA for Nelson-Creston Michelle Mungall spoke on behalf of MLA for Columbia River Revelstoke Norm Macdonald who was unable to attend. The Jumbo Glacier Resort lies within Macdonald’s riding. Mungall said her party has always been loud and clear in their opposition to the Jumbo Glacier Resort.

“We’ve been doing this for 20 years,” she said. “In the Legislature, Norm Macdonald and I have been unwavering.”

Mungall said the decision to grant mountain resort municipality status came as a shock to the two opposition MLAs.

“We were floored,” she said. “That mountain resort municipality is anything but democratic and therefore has no ability to work in the public interest.”

Mungall said the NDP is with the Jumbo opposition and support for their cause is offered around the province.

“Every single NDP MLA is watching what’s happening here today,” she said. “First we’re going to use every legal tool we have. I know the Kootenay people, and that resort will never happen.”

The event finished off with the Sookenai Singers marching the gathered Ktunaxa flag bearers and members out.

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