Click here to read the Sutikalh and Skwekwek’welt 2002 Submission to the International Olympics Committee
Click here to read the International Indigenous Youth Network Statement “No Olympics on Stolen Unceded Native Land”
No Olympics on Stolen Native Land
by Zig Zag adpated from no2010.com
“What causes opponents to come of their own accord is the prospect of gain. What discourages opponents from coming is the prospect of harm.”- Sun Tzu, The Art of War
The 2010 Winter Olympics, to be held in Vancouver-Whistler from February 12-27, 2010, is today a very real threat to Native peoples, the urban poor (many of whom are also Native), and the environment.
While cutting social services, healthcare, education, etc., the BC Liberal government is at the same time providing billions of dollars to construction companies & other Olympic-related industries. The capitalists are making millions, while the poor are literally dying in the urban & reservation ghettos. Already, more land has been destroyed for the expansion or construction of highways, ski resorts, & Olympic venues. Billions of ‘public’ money is also being spent on new bridges, port facilities, railways, as well as urban transit.
Most of this work is directly linked to 2010, to improve transportation & other infrastructure in preparation for the games. Some of it forms part of a larger strategy aimed at capitalizing on 2010 and related tourism and trade, especially with Asia-Pacific (the International Trade & Investment to 2010 Strategy, as well as the $600-million Gateway project). All the expansion in transport infrastructure (highways, ports, railways, bridges, etc.) is meant to assist in greater resource exploitation, including ski resorts, mines, logging, natural gas, oil, etc. Since 2003, the BC government has been working to speed up the application process for these industries, making it easier for corporations to get projects approved. Premier Gordon Campbell has described these as “reforms to open up every sector of our economy” (BC Resort Strategy & Action Plan). The result has been huge increases in mining, gas & oil, as well as ski resorts.
Mountains Under Attack
“The mountains, pure & undisturbed, are essential to the survival of all people. Mountain ecosystems provide us Indian people with all of our physical, cultural and spiritual needs… the mountains are our shelter and protection… The most powerful medicines are collected in the mountains. The source of all water comes from the mountains. The mountains are the most spiritual place for us.”- Elder quoted in “Our Elders Tell Us,” Our Mountain Worlds & Traditional Knowledge, 2002
Since 2000, the main Native struggles in the BC interior have been against the construction, or expansion, of mountain ski resorts.
At Sun Peaks (Skwelkwek’welt) ski resort near Kamloops, over 70 arrests have been made of mostly Secwepemc youth & elders. They’ve blocked roads, occupied buildings, established protection camps and sent delegations to Europe, Japan, and across N. America. This is all part of their campaign against a massive $294-million expansion of Sun Peaks, including new hotels & condominiums, more ski hills and golf courses, all of which involve large-scale destruction of mountain habitat.
At Melvin Creek, just north of Mt. Currie, the St’at’imc have established the Sutikalh camp to stop a planned $530-million ski resort. The camp was first set up in May 2000, and continues to be occupied to this day. It has served as a rallying point for community resistance to the resort, which also forced many chiefs & councilors to publicly oppose it as well.
In Cheam, 2003, several Pilalt were arrested after blockading a train during protests over logging on Mt. Cheam, the site of a proposed ski resort by Resorts West. Plans include 20 ski lifts on 8 different peaks, three resort villages, a golf course, and as many as 500,000 visitors a year.
Two resorts are planned for Merritt (Nlaka’Pamux territory), along the Coquilhala Highway.
At Valemount, Revelstoke & Blue River, new resorts have also been approved, while the Jumbo Glacier Alpine Resort (near Invermere), has been approved for a $450-million expansion (all of these are in Secwepemc territory).
Near Kelowna (Okanagan), Big White and Crystal Mountain were both approved for over $100 million in expansion. And there are more.
This sharp increase in resort development is largely due to government promotion of the industry, which included the establishment of a Ski Resort Task Force in 2004. The task force was largely comprised of members of the resort industry (inc. Darcy Alexander, Vice-President of Sun Peaks), and their primary goal was to increase ski resort development in the province. The group released a Resort Strategy & Action Plan in 2004, which made clear the connection between the industry’s rapid growth and 2010: “The Resort Strategy links to the Spirit of 2010 Tourism Strategy & the International Trade & Investment to 2010 Strategy. All these strategies are designed to grow tourism throughout the province, maximize opportunities created by hosting 2010… and attract national & international investment.”
Expansion of the ski resort industry was accomplished largely through Land & Water BC, Inc., a government agency that sells & leases ‘Crown’ land. The LWBC streamlined the application process and made other changes to increase certainty for investors, improve transportation infrastructure, etc.
Despite their portrayal as being eco-friendly, ‘low-impact’ tourism, ski resorts cause large-scale ecological destruction to mountain habitat. If you think about it, building a resort town along with massive ski runs & chairlifts on top of a mountain obviously has a big impact on the environment. There is extensive logging for roads, ski runs, parking lots, town centers, golf courses, and townhouses. Then there’s water, sewage, & electrical systems. On top of all this there is the operation of the ski resort itself.
Besides the influx of millions of tourists into mountain resorts annually, their activities include not only skiing, but also heli-skiing, cat-skiing, and snow-mobiling. Most ski resorts also use fake snow that contaminates the land & nearby water (and many are beginning to use recycled ‘waste’ water to make fake snow). In the summer there may be mountain biking, dirt-biking, festivals, etc. All these people & ‘sports’ activities, in mountain habitats, adds to the ecological impact of resorts on wildlife, land, & water systems.
Nor are ski resorts just about skiers & snowboarders; they are also major sources of money in real estate deals, the selling & leasing of land. Most mountains are claimed by Canada as Crown land, and it is the provincial government that is both the regulator of the resort industry, as well as its main promoter. The government & resort corporations are also the main beneficiaries, gaining huge profits from real estate deals.
The government often leases out areas for ski runs, while selling land to be used for the resort town, far below market value. In turn, the resort corporation then re-sells or leases parcels out for condominiums, shops, hotels, etc. For the provincial government, selling land below market value encourages investment by corporations, and is a form of subsidizing them (like tax-breaks & building infrastructure such as roads). In the end, what’s it to government? The land is stolen & represents primitive accumulation; that is, capital acquired at little or no cost, so it’s all profit anyway!
Stolen Native Land
BC is unique in Canada in that most of the province is unceded, non-surrendered Indigenous territories. According to British & Canadian laws, sovereign Indigenous territories were to be legally surrendered to the Crown prior to any trade or settlement. This was set out in the 1763 Royal Proclamation. In accordance with this, the British, and later Canada, carried out a series of treaties in its westward expansion across the prairies, and the northwest territory. These included the Numbered Treaties (such as Treaty No. 1, etc.). In BC, aside from a small number of treaties on Vancouver Island (the 1850’s Douglas Treaties), and Treaty No. 8 in the northeast portion of the province, all of BC remains unceded Indigenous territories.
In 1875, when the BC government passed a Lands Act to open land to settlement, the federal government issued the 1875 Duty-of-Disallowance, striking down the Act and citing the absence of treaties legally surrendering Native lands. In response, BC threatened to withdraw from Canada. The next year, the federal government passed the 1876 Indian Act, extending government control over all Natives, including those in BC. Natives were dispossessed of their land, which came under the control of the government. At the same time, the Indian Act imposed the band council, reserve and status systems, and authorized the relocation of Native children & youth into Residential Schools. It was also used to ban important ceremonies and traditional forms of governance.
Despite this, Native peoples in BC remained aware of the illegal dispossession of their land, and continued to protest & lobby the government. In the early 1900s, several Native organizations devoted to land claims were established. Delegations were sent to England to petition the Crown to upheld British & Canadian laws. In 1927, the Indian Act was amended to outlaw land claims organizing, and many of these first Aboriginal political organizations ceased to exist.
Today, most of BC remains unceded sovereign Native lands, over which neither the Canadian or BC governments have the legal or moral authority to govern. With current attempts to legalize the prior theft of Native land & extinguish Native title & rights (the BC Treaty Process), the ongoing dispossession of Indigenous peoples from their lands continues, and by itself constitutes an act of genocide.
Native Opposition to 2010
2010 Olympic organizers knew they had to gain the support of Native peoples in the region to avoid charges of racism as well as protests. They also saw Native culture as a good way to promote the Olympics & tourism overall.
Their primary agents to accomplish these goals were the Indian Act band councils, primarily the Squamish & Mt. Currie, but also the Musqueam & Tseil-Watuth. In 2004, these bands formed the Four Host First Nations Society to “take advantage of all opportunities including economic, and establish a clear First Nations presence in the Games while protecting aboriginal rights & title” (November 24, 2004, press release). Chief Gibby Jacobs of the Squamish band is himself a board member of VANOC.
In 2003, even before Vancouver was selected as the host site for 2010, the Squamish & Mt. Currie bands were given $20 million in money, land, and facilities, including a Native cultural & craft center to be built in Whistler itself. This was a clear move to buy off not only the band council, but also segments of the community with promises of jobs in construction & services. The deal committed the two band councils to participation & support for 2010.
As part of its promotional work, VANOC has also begun sponsoring many Native events & seminars, including a February 2007 Vancouver hip hop concert organized by the Knowledgeable Aboriginal Youth Association (KAYA, a government-funded youth group). John Furlong, VANOC president & CEO, praised this collaboration, stating that the 2010 Games will “raise the bar internationally for building partnerships between Organizing Committees & Indigenous peoples.” What he fails to mention is that these partnerships are the result of literally buying people off, to pacify and silence opposition.
Despite Furlong’s claim of ‘raising the bar’, neither the Vancouver Bid Corporation, VANOC, or the International Olympic Committee (IOC), responded to submissions made by the Skwelkwek’welt Protection Center & the Sutikalh camp, in June, 2002, stating their concerns about the impact of the Olympics. In 2003, a Secwepemc delegation traveled to Switzerland to make a formal complaint to the IOC, informing them of ongoing violations of Indigenous & human rights in this country. Although the IOC has an official policy to not hold events in countries where human rights abuses occur, Canada’s & BC’s violations were ignored.
Most Native political leaders –those in government-funded organizations– support the Olympics. Overall, they also support the government’s plans to increase corporate access to lands & resources (neo-liberalism). This is because they are mostly capitalists who are themselves enriched through partnerships with government & corporations. Their promotion of 2010 is really an extension of their overall promotion of ‘economic development’, which is capitalism.
Due to their ‘leadership’, as well as multi-million dollar Olympic propaganda, many Native people in general see the Olympics as a huge money-making opportunity (which is, after all, its real purpose). Some plan to mass-produce artwork, or t-shirts, or jewelry, or food, etc. for 2010 tourists. Others are already working in the construction industry. Aboriginal tourism is seen as another market that will benefit from 2010.
The capitalists would applaud this ‘Olympic Spirit’. But many Natives also see the Olympics for what it really is: big business at the expense of the natural world. Nor is it just the concern of the ‘four host First Nations’, who may gain the most economically. As the Native Youth Movement has correctly pointed out, 2010 is a concern to all Indigenous peoples in BC: “Although the 2010 Olympics are planned to take place in only St’at’imc & Squamish Territories the negative effects of these Games will carry out onto other Indigenous territories of the area and the aftermath of this will create an invasion, not seen since the gold rush.” (Cancel the 2010 Winter Olympics, NYM leaflet, 2006)
While a few benefit from jobs, and even fewer make millions in profits, the real Olympic legacy for future generations will be ecological destruction. That this is occurring now, even as the world faces a growing environmental crisis, reveals how short-sighted and greedy people can become through their long-term exposure to capitalist ideology. The land defenders of the Secwepemc & St’at’imc, along with NYM and a Squamish elder (Harriet Nahanee, see below), have been the most vocal Native opposition to 2010.
Countdown 2010: Anti-Olympic Resistance into 2007
For the urban poor of Vancouver, which includes many Natives, 2010 has already meant hundreds evicted from low-income housing, more homelessness, criminalization, and increased police repression. Aggressive policing in the Downtown Eastside has also involved immigration officers targeting (mostly brown) immigrants.
Organizations such as the Anti-Poverty Committee, Downtown Eastside Resident’s Association, No One Is Illegal, Downtown Eastside Women’s Center, and the PIVOT legal society, have been the most vocal & active in challenging these conditions. Since October 2006, over 20 arrests of members of the Anti-Poverty Committee have occurred during protests or occupations.
In May 2006, two dozen protesters were arrested at Eagleridge Bluffs in N. Vancouver, for blockading expansion work on the Sea-to-Sky Highway. Many were middle-class residents, environmentalists, students and other concerned citizens. On January 23, 2007, Harriet Nahanee, a 73-year old Squamish elder and one of the first arrested at the blockade, was sentenced to 14 days in jail. Others were given fines of up to $5,000, as well as community
In East Vancouver, community groups have formed to stop the expansion of Highway 1, including the Liveable Region Coalition and Gatewaysucks.org. They oppose a planned $1.4 billion project to twin the Port Mann Bridge and widen Hwy. 1 from Langley to Vancouver (part of the Gateway strategy). Member groups of the LRC include the David Suzuki Foundation and the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation (SPEC).
• If the 2010 Winter Olympics goes unchallenged, BC & Canada will indeed gain positive international exposure. This, in turn, will create greater international investment & corporate invasion, a process already underway & affecting many areas & communities. If opposition occurs, however, it can contribute to economic uncertainty , deter some investment, and limit the impact of 2010 on some communities & regions.
• While it is unlikely that social opposition will become so strong as to stop the Olympics from occurring, they can be disrupted. Due to the many diverse social issues & communities 2010 negatively impacts, there is potential for a strong anti-Olympics movement to develop. It can also be seen as a catalyst for new social movements & resistance to emerge from.
• Due to the diversity of social sectors & concerns, any anti-Olympic movement must include respect & tolerance for a diversity of tactics as a basic principle.
• Because 2010 is such a good example of corporate power & class conflict, anti-2010 opposition should incorporate anti-capitalist analysis in order to broaden understanding of this socio-economic system.
• The first crucial step is education to mobilize our people into action.