Information about the Current Attack of the Canadian State against the Pilalt People of Cheam, Sto:lo; Coast Salish Territory

December 2009

A Little Backround to the Mountain Goat People

Pilalt indigenous people from the village at Cheam are called “the
mountain goat people” because of an ancestral teaching and the right to hunt the animal is passed down in certain families. One of the most prominent mountains along the Fraser River is Mount Cheam, which marks the Pilalt Territory of the Cheam people. This small community has a long history of protest actions against the encroachment of their Aboriginal Title and Rights by fishing, logging and development. The Cheam Indian Band is one of 30 First Nations communities in the lower Fraser watershed many of which are represented by the Sto:lo Nation.

The traditional way of life of the Sto:lo came under seige when gold was discovered in 1858 and the Fraser River was invaded by miners. One of the earliest representations of its First Nations inhabitants was painted in 1868 and depicts two dugout canoes made from cedar trees, one with a sail. The idyllic scene does not reflect the horrific war of extermination waged by the miners on the Sto:lo and their neighbours further up the
Fraser Canyon, the Nlaka’pamux. Nor does it show the mercury poisoning and blasting from mining that destroyed riparian salmon habitat and diminished the aboriginal fishing resources.

The first settlers arrived by steampowered paddlewheelers. In 1864 the colonial authorities began to impose the reserve system on the Sto:lo which allowed settlers to preempt unceded untreatied Sto:lo land and take over Sto:lo fisheries. Sto:lo territories were bisected by a road in 1873, followed by the Canadian Pacific Railroad which was completed in 1888. (This railroad runs directly through the Cheam reserve, at times as close as 25 feet from people’s houses).

The lower Fraser Canyon beginning at Yale was the most densely populated place on the Northwest Coast due to the extraordinary fecundity of its aboriginal fishery. The ancient and complex system of fishing rights that had evolved here was violated in 1858 when tens of thousands of gold seeking Europeans invaded and provoked the infamous Fraser Canyon War.

In 1878 the federal government imposed its restrictive Fisheries Act; in1884 it banned the potlatch ceremony by which fishing rights were decided; and in 1888 it criminalized fishing without a license. More oppressive rules accompanied the opening up of BC to mass immigration that occurred in 1885 with the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Its passage through the Fraser Canyon resulted in the destruction of aboriginal burial grounds, fisheries and villages. Til this day, the Pilalt people have never signed a treaty with Canada.


In the summer of 2000, the Cheam blockaded provincial roads that cross their land demanding that the government stop encroaching on their territory and act to resolve the Cheam land claims. The dispute concerned a 25 square mile area that has been encroached upon by the Canadian National railway, British Columbia Hydro power lines, highway construction, and a gas pipe line. Ferry Island is still contested Cheam land.

In 2003, several Pilalt were arrested after blockading the railroad through the Cheam Reserve to protest against the logging taking place on Mount Cheam in preparation for a massive Resorts West project, slated as a 2010 venue. Due to the resistance this plan was not completed.

Also in 2003, the DFO came onto reserve [despite an agreement to announce their arrival and abide by a certain protocol] and proceeded to assault then Chief Sidney Douglas. They have pressed numerous charges against the people of Cheam for ‘illegal fishing’. People are often harressed on the river, during open fishing time and closed, with DFO officers performing high speed chases on the water and ramming native fisher’s boats, pulling weapons, and physically assaulting people.


Very few treaties were ever signed in British Columbia, a state self imposed precursor to legislative power over an area of original people. Despite historic resistance by the Pilalts to interference in their internal affairs, the Government of Canada launched a program of social control and cultural extinguishment through the imposition of the Band Council System. The Pilalt’s are still in conflict with the Canadian State, and it’s coastal indigenous policing tool: the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO)

Recently, Denise Douglas of Cheam appeared in Chilliwack Court defending herself and the six remaining members of Cheam all charged with illegal fishing. Their charges stem back to 2000. This is the small number that remains in the case, despite numerous individuals being charged. Most people settled out of court for a measly $150 fine preferring to avoid the long, intimidating court case, financial hardship, and the cultural alienation of dealing with the Government of Canada.

But Denise is fighting the State and asserting that;
~ DFO cannot close the river
~They have inherent right to the fish,
~And, their title and land has never been ceded.

The trial has been recessed until March 9th, 2010 at the Chilliwack Courts. Supporters are encouraged to come witness the trial, and learn more about the struggle in Cheam. Contact Denise Douglas

Supporting Land Defenders in court is not advocating one tactic over another. We need to spread the struggle out of the reserves and the courts, until it permeates every aspect of our lives, until we all are
truly free.


Contact June Quip at Cheam: 604-794-5715

Cheam People Shut Down Railway and Halt Logging
A saga of resistance
by Yuill Herbert

October 23, 2003

At about 4 pm on October 2nd two trucks pulled to a halt while straddling the railway tracks that bisect the Cheam Reserve. A small crowd, including members of the Cheam Nation and supporters from local communities, gathered around the trucks forming a human blockade against the trains. Earlier that day, elder and former Chief June Quipp had warned Canadian National Railways that trans-Canadian train travel would be halted, and that she was good on her word.

The blockade is the latest action in the Cheam’s struggle for unceded territory that began with a protest fishery three years ago and continues today. This time, however, the blockade is about a new threat to the Cheam’s land and way of life: the clearcutting of an old growth forest to make way for a ski development on their sacred mountains.

The Cheam Reserve is situated on the Fraser River close to Chilliwack, British Columbia. CN’s mainline railway track bisects the Reserve, passing at some points within ten metres of houses. The ground shakes and conversations halt at least once an hour, as trains rumble past. The shrill whistle warns drivers at several crossings, one of which recently proved deadly for an elder with poor hearing. Many of the houses in the Reserve overlook the major employer, a garbage dump servicing the Chilliwack area.

Logging commenced several weeks ago in the Elk Creek Rainforest above the Reserve, the last old growth in the lower Fraser Valley. The sacred mountains are the site of a proposed Whistler-style mega development, to be operational for the 2010 Olympics. Resorts West, the developer, envisions twenty ski lifts on eight peaks, three resort villages, a golf course, retirement community, condos, and four hundred thousand annual visitors. A late elder’s words convey the importance of the proposed site to the Cheam people: “the mountains are our leaders, the mountains are our idols, the mountains are our source of food, medicine and communication, a place for us to pray, and a place of teaching and learning.”

Heidi Smith, a recent graduate from Ontario, has been living on the reserve for two months. “I have experienced every emotion in the past week. It makes me physically sick to see the lie I have been raised in. To me it seems so extreme, the police and the blockade, but to the people who live here it is nothing, it is what they live with.”

Within four hours of the blockade’s formation, thirty-two police officers had arrested seven people, breaking one person’s arm and badly bruising a grandmother in the process. The blockade persisted until dark the next day, when a forty member tactical police team moved in with dogs, prison vans and a Supreme Court order to clear the tracks. A peaceful dispute resolution process resulted in the removal of the blockade in exchange for a meeting with the Minister of Forests the following day.

Elder June Quipp told the story of one young member of the band whom she had to convince to leave the train tracks after the blockade had ended. “It frightened me because probably both he and I would be killed if a train came. He had sacred items in the mountains and said that if the mountains are ruined, his spirit would be gone. He said that he may as well lie down and die. That is what a lot of people are thinking. I know I am.”

Underlying the actions of the Cheam people is a deep conviction in their inherent right to traditional territories, stemming from use and possession of the land since time immemorial. Having never ceded their land, the Cheam demand a degree of consultation over their territory. According to elder June Quipp, that they are not heard is not for lack of trying. “We have tried negotiations, litigation and written notices, so far none of these tactics have worked. It does not matter what we say, governments, and big corporations go ahead and do what they want even if it means destroying someone else’s life.”

It is for this reason that the people of Cheam fall back on blockades: they are effective. The Minister of Forests, Mike de Jong, arrived the following day and listened to two hours of testimony from protesters, explaining why they believe the area should not be logged. He left the meeting without any conclusive plan but promised to take the issue to cabinet. Finding this vague commitment insufficient, a police negotiator secured a one-week grace period during which no logging would take place.

This lag in logging activity does not mean rest for the Cheam community however. The people of Cheam are planning to restrict access to others places of worship in the community, an action symbolic of the way in which their spiritual locations are treated.

As June Quip states. “so we are back to direct action. We have got a lot of sympathetic ears and supporters. We are really really busy.”


by joey only

October 2003

Earlier this year Cattermole Timber successfully overturned a court injunction the Western Canada Wilderness Committee had preventing two logging projects. One cut block was at Anderson Creek north of Hope, an old growth forest hidden deep in the round mountains east of the Fraser Canyon. Anderson Creek is at a transition zone from Coast Mountains to British Columbian interior, that region was previously logged in the old fashion when entire mountainsides were devastated by massive clear cuts. The Anderson Creek old growth is a known nesting area for the nearly extinct spotted owl, there may be two dozen of these marvelous owls left in BC. The logging of Anderson Creek received no special attention while the second Cattermole cut block is at Elk Creek, incidently also a known spotted owl habitat, has been much more public.

Elk Creek has an intact old growth forest just outside of Chilliwack BC. There has been hot local opposition to logging one of the last remnants of Fraser Valley old growth. A multitude of petitions, letters and a protest had found their way to MLA Barry Penner’s office over the last two years. When the Chilliwack office of the BC Forestry service asked for public commentary 700 people wrote in with 100% opposition to the logging project. The Pilalt at Cheam First Nation strongly oppose the logging of Elk Creek as they liken the forest there to a church, and a sacred place to find medicines. The benefits of this logging project go to one place and that is Cattermole Timber Co. and its stock holders.

The logging began at both Elk and Anderson Creek when the forest fire ban was lifted. Since the beginning of October there has been an ongoing series of protests and actions which have complicated but not stopped the logging at Elk Creek. On October 3rd band members at the Cheam reservation blockaded the CN Rail Line that runs through the reserve. The Pilalt demands included no development and logging on their sacred mountains. (I will come back to this). The RCMP sent 12 large vehicles, including a transport, 15 passenger vans and a budget cube truck all full of armed men and dogs totaling about a hundred police officers. Before the police arrived the CTV news truck packed up and fled. The blockade came down quickly but there was a promise to meet the Minister of Forestry Mike Dejong at 11AM the following day.

The meeting with Mike Dejong took place at Rosedale’s Community Center. People from the Cheam shed tears for the protection of their sacred forest. In the end it was agreed that a one week cooling period what be put into effect, for one week there was no logging in Elk Creek. Just before the CN rail blockade a protest camp was set up on private property next to the cutblock. On September 28th the campers made first contact with the loggers, at about 9:30 that morning a logger showered an environmentalist with sawdust. Then at 11:30AM a logger dropped a 160 foot tall tree dangerously close to the observers. A similar act at Grizzly Creek in the California Redwoods resulted in the death of 24 year old David Chain when a Pacific Lumber Co. faller dropped a tree on him, that was in 1998.

Protesters began to wake up in the mornings and climb up to a helicopter landing pad, occupying the Landing Zone (LZ) so the choppers could not drop off the fallers to log. On October 2nd a logger threatened to shove a camera up someone’s ass. Once a protester suggested that everybody calm down the logger said, “Why do you think that Cattermole put me in here? It’s not because I am calm,” and warned, “you better watch out, watch your nights, watch your back doors.” On October 15th, which was after the one week cooling period, a logger chased an environmentalist 50 feet and threatened to `break their fucking knee caps.’ The loggers continuously behaved in threatening and intimidating ways towards the environmentalists.

On Friday October 17th the Chilliwack Times reported Chilliwack/Sumas MLA John Les as saying, “it’s clear these people are deliberately putting themselves in danger, perhaps looking for a degree of martyrdom.” What is even clearer is statements of these sorts add to the culture of violence that has been shaping up in Elk Creek, they almost amount to permission for Cattermole to use violent and coercive means to finish the logging project and run like hell with the money. In July the government granted through Order in Council #732 that Cattermole could export the same amount of wood that is planned to be cut at Elk Creek to off-shore mills. Joe Foy of the Western Wilderness Committee considers `that to be about 20 offshore jobs’. It is clear that the MLA’s do not desire to protect their communities interests, but instead will side with the profit making venture of the business communities.

By Monday October 20th Cattermole was able to resume cutting after the Elk Creek campers had successfully prevented logging since October 15th, a remarkable accomplishment. To prevent the Landing Zone (LZ) from being blocked a new LZ was cut on the far side of the now raging creek. It was the morning of October 23rd when a Cattermole Timber Co. employee assaulted two protesters that the new LZ, #6, had been found destroyed. While the choppers came to deliver engineers to fix the LZ; what actually happened was a violent retaliation. The assault was similar to the attack by Interfor workers on protesters in the Elaho Valley, perhaps a set plan to use fear/terror to secure business interests. Both of the protesters did not fight back when assaulted to a degree that brought them to Chilliwack Hospital. The attacker actually hit a protester over the head with the bag of spikes that the helicopter delivered. The RCMP were notified but nothing seems to have been done.

The Cattermole Timber head office in Vancouver denied that any assault had taken place when phoned, despite the fact that there were witnesses, and a doctors report on the injuries. Regardless of what they say, the escalation of violence at Elk Creek has happened with Cattermole Timbers Co. knowledge. If one examines the assault they may start to question how much it costed for Cattermole’s helicopter to fly in and out of the area four times before the assault. It is not cheap to fly a helicopter, they are generally not used to deliver bags of spikes to hit environmentalists in the head with. With Cattermole employee’s claiming that they are not in Elk Creek because they are calm, it may be entirely plausible that upon seeing the damaged LZ a decision was made to fly in someone that was `NOT CALM’. Planned or not, this was a violent reaction to the success of disrupting the operation by those opposing it.

Cattermole has dropped most of the trees that it was licenced to take. The next goal will be to build a road in to Elk Creek so that they can take the wood.


Also on October 23rd, the same day the assault took place at Elk Creek, the BC Liberals pushed through the second reading of the enabling legislation for the Working Forest Innitiative (Bill 46). All 38 Liberals voted in favor, and the third reading likely happened on Monday October 27th. Bill 46 is even more unpopular than the logging at Elk Creek. Tofino Town Council and Tofino Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution to stop the Working Forest Innitiative as it may threaten the multi-million dollar tourism industry at the old growth of Clayoquot Sound. The Union of BC Indian Chiefs, the First Nations Treaty Summit and dozens of First Nations bands have signed a joint statement against any attempt to privatize the forests. The Governments own public consultation found that 97% of 2700 respondents opposed Bill 46. 1% said they supported the Working Forest Initiative, this is happening under the pretext of democracy.

This boils down to the fundamental issue, which is that public opinion is no longer a deterrent to big business and governments drive to create profit. The Working Forest Initiative is supposed to give the timber industry economic certainty. It is essentially a privatization scheme in that corporations will be able to receive compensation if they are restricted access to any Crown land that they wish to cut. This will open up 45 million acres of BC public land to private industry. The transferring of public monies and resources into the hands of large and powerful companies is nothing new, yet few people understand how the economy actually works. Privatizing the forests is subsidizing an industry through tax dollars with the left hand, while the right hand cuts people off welfare because `the money is not there’. While hi-tech logging companies employ fewer people than ever their capacity to take is at its greatest in human history, traditional logging techniques employed far more people taking less wood. The Working Forest Innitiative allows for raw logs to be exported to the United States, which has and will cost lots of rural jobs in BC. The government is subsidizing an industry that refuses to employ the people of BC in the interest of profit, this successfully transfers wealth from the poor to the rich.

MLA Barry Penner paid a visit to Elk Creek with Ministry of Forest officials. On October 9th he asked MLA Mike Dejong in the legislature, `how this decision to log 5% of Elk Creek area was made and describe what, if anything, is being done to ensure that a balanced approach is being taken to managing the forests for the benefit of everyone?’ The wording of his question should give one remarkable insight into the governments position.

Minister of Forestry Mike Dejong answered that “the old growth trees were not part of the logging agreement,” even though they are being cut down. Cattermole has access to 110 acres, which is about 5% of the Elk Creek drainage. 60% of the trees will remain standing. 6 hectares have already been completed. According to both the BC Liberals and Cattermole cuts of this nature are good for Old Growth forest, and good for the Spotted Owl. Not only is public debate out of the picture but so is science.


The truth is that the fight at Elk Creek is the first act of an unfolding tragedy. The Pilalt at Cheam have been fighting to assert their sovereignty as indigenous people’s of BC. Elk Creek is like a testing grounds for the War For Cheam. The Pilalt have begun to assert their fishing rights on the Fraser River, setting up camp and harvesting salmon through traditional means. On May 13th 2003 the Department of Fisheries (DFO) assaulted Head Band Councilor Sidney Douglas while operating a band owned grader near the fishing camp. Sid Douglas was handcuffed, pepper sprayed and beaten. Community members at Cheam arrived and blockaded the DFO truck from leaving while RCMP officers scrambled for intercept. Regardless of the DFO the Cheam Fishery continued through the summer. Members of the Pilalt community maintained a camp there all summer, fishing with nets, working with family, with children playing in the Fraser River, and food on the bar-b-q. The fight to harvest their own fish was temporarily won yet an overwhelming series corporate interests lay on the horizon, all licking their lips hungry for Pilalt salmon, trees, and mountains.

On September 26th three men came to Cheam on behalf of Resorts West. With hi-tech equipment they unveiled plans to put a tramway up Chipmunk ridge near Cheam Peak. $50,000 was offered to the Cheam Band with an acre of land to display First Nations art work, a very insulting proposal! Brent Harley of Brent Harley and Associates (a resort planning group involved in the creation of Whistler) and Norm Gaukel owner of Resorts West, and Gary Youngman (a First Nations consultant) were given a dramatic and unanimous No! These corporate types proposed a 125 person aerial tram claiming that the proposal was not dependent on a ski hill development. However it has been uncovered that Resorts West is planning to build an Olympic sized ski resort complete with an 18th Century Castle on Cheam Peak.

This prompted the October 3rd blockade of the CN Rail Line at Cheam, and hence a complicated series of demands based on the complicated threat to the Cheam Nation. (Some demands included at bottom of article). The logging at Elk Creek is really a testing ground for bigger development projects. Can corporate power break the resistance of the Pilalt and their alliances? This is scenario is nothing new in BC, ski resorts and indigenous resistance have been going on bitterly for years. There is no battle as old and ugly as the one where Secwepmec people from the interior lands of Skwelkwekwelt have been fighting the expansion of the Sun Peaks Resort north of Kamloops. This is a very widely publicized fight in which there has been solidarity actions, blockades, protests, camps, arrests and confrontation. The Native Youth Movement was a key element fighting for these sacred interior mountaintops where traditional medicines are gathered, for their hard work they earned an RCMP crackdown. Sun Peaks is owned by capitalist and one time Olympic Gold medalist Nancy Greene Raine.

On May 2nd 2000 the St’at’imc nation constructed a camp, Sutikalh, at Cayoosh Creek near Lilloet to stop another $500 development proposal by Nancy Greene Raine’s company (NGR Consultants). Though the unemployed in the ex-logging community of Lilloet were in favor of a Melvin Creek Ski resort the St’at’imc would not allow these pristine mountains to be taken without a fight. NGR Consultants had until August 2003 to renew their Environmental Assessment Order for Melvin Creek, though the camp at Sutikalh still stood in the way. To get the new EAO work had to be done at Melvin Creek, a road or parking lot or something…this author saw with his own eyes that no construction had begun by August. NGR Consultants have dealt with the bitter struggle at Sun Peaks for a long time now, attempts to buy out the St’at’imc failed, and it is likely that the Melvin Creek project will not go ahead. With 11 out of 12 bands still opposing the ski resort it is problematic development despite the fact that the snow in the Cayoosh Mountains is some of the best powder in the world. However the 2010 Olympics still needs Ski Resorts and needs them fast.

The blockade in Cheam was met with a solidarity action by the Tsalalhmec Band of the St’at’imc Nation (Seton Lake). Led by long time supporter of the camp at Sutikalh, Chief Garry John, the Seton Lake band blocked a BC Rail freight train for two hours. This action came on October 4th, the day after the Cheam blockade. When Whistler was built in the 1960’s the St’at’imc band at Mount Currie was promised jobs, economic growth, and all these other wonderful things. I encourage everyone to take a drive through Mount Currie, a community devastated by poverty which received no benefits from the creation of Whistler. The St’at’imc Peoples are well aware of what ski resorts can do to a community.

The logging at Elk Creek, the Working Forest Legislation and the resort proposals for Mount Cheam and the Cayoosh Mountains have things in common. They all serve no public good but only exist to put wealth into the hands of private investors. All of these proposals seek to make corporate wealth from the lands of indigenous peoples in BC while breaking their power; that is economic colonization and genocide. All of these linking attacks on the environment are attacks on the legal owners of that environment which is the First Nations people’s of BC. Almost all of the Nations in BC have never signed a treaty nor surrendered the land that corporations are pulling profits out of directly. It is theft to take things that do not belong to you. It is still theft when Resorts West offers a pathetic $50,000 compensation to the Pilalt for the service of having 20 ski runs on a sacred mountain overlooking the territory. A prolonged conflict is in the making which should be referred to as the Battle for Cheam, amidst a war where corporations hope to take all of the spoils of British Columbia regardless of who or what is in the way.


-Logging in Elk Creek must be stopped now.
-No tram.
-No ski runs or resorts.
-No building 1200 units.
-No development unless authorized by the Pilalt, on our sacred mountains.
-Any logs that have been cut so far belong to the Pialt.
-No gravel extraction.
-plus other demands to CN Rail and issues from previous claims.