In November 2010 Bertha Andrew piled onto a bus with 39 other members of the Ktunaxa First Nation and made a four day trip from East Kootenay to the Victoria legislature to deliver the Qat’muk Declaration to the provincial government.
“There were only 40 of us,” she recalled. “But we knew we had the support of our ancestors with us… It was the most powerful thing I have every witnessed and I ever became a part of.”
One year later, about 40 people turned out to the Akisqnuk Band Hall on November 15 to celebrate the one year anniversary of the declaration and the latest steps taken by the Ktunaxa First Nation to oppose the development of a resort on the Jumbo glacier.
The declaration outlines the Jumbo Valley’s cultural and spiritual importance to the Ktunaxa Nation and calls for a halt to the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort. The Ktunaxa say the area proposed for the ski and real-estate development is home to the Grizzly Bear Spirit.
“It’s not that we’re against economic development,” emcee Don Sam told the band hall crowd, “but we need to balance two worlds. We need to balance our traditions and history with the cars and the jobs.”
The celebration featured drumming and singing from the Sookenai Singers Drum Group, also part of the original Qat’muk delegation, and a speech from former Lower Kootenay Band chief Chris Luke Sr.
“The people that want to do the development, I don’t think they’re going to go away. But I know if they do, they’re going to do themselves a great big favour,” Luke said.
“I know we’re going to be successful. I can’t see the government of B.C. turning their backs on us.”
But during an emotionally charged open mic period that ended the evening, not everyone in the hall expressed the same confidence.
“Are we preparing our kids to fight the fight?” one member of the local band asked, pointing to a young child in the front row of the audience and asking if the Nation would still have the momentum needed to challenge Jumbo “when she’s 26.”
The nation also screened a new documentary, released during a news conference at the B.C. legislature earlier in the day.
Available at beforejumbo.com, Qat’muk: Where the Grizzly Bears go to Dance, features Ktunaxa members discussing the Jumbo Valley’s spiritual and environmental significance and several are politicians including district mayor Gerry Taft.