Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Native Studies

The Splatsin Cooke Creek Culture Camp and the Ironies of Access to the Shuswap River

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Native Studies

The Splatsin Cooke Creek Culture Camp and the Ironies of Access to the Shuswap River

Article excerpt

Caution: This essay contains examples of racist language directed at Indigenous peoples.

Introduction

... property served as an important site of struggle, a tool of dispossession but also of Indigenous resistance ...

Egan and Place, 2013,131

Oh look, an old Indian took a shit in your back yard 200 years ago. So, you're no longer allowed in your back yard (move your camper, boat, and dog somewhere else, there's lots of other places for a white guy like you to store your stuff) and every Indian in the Okanagan is going to come and take a shit there. It's traditional. Glad you support them.

Fisher-Dude, HuntingBC.ca, 2010, post 17

I started working with Splatsin people, salmon fishers of the BC Interior Plateau, on land use and resource management projects in 2008.1 One of the first things 1 heard when I arrived at community meetings was that gaining access to the Shuswap River was challenging for Splatsin people because of the privately-owned farms that line the river. For the Splatsin, access issues are particularly significant between Mabel Lake and the town site of Enderby, British Columbia because through that section of river several Splatsin families control salmon fishing sites. Without access to the river from shore many of these families are not able to set nets where their ancestors fished. Access from the river itself, via boats, is impractical and often impossible due to shallows along the river's course.

Through a continuing relationship with the Splatsin Title and Rights Office, I was invited to attend a culture camp at Cooke Creek in August 2010. This camp was located at the Cooke Creek Forest Service Recreation Site,2 near the historic settler villages of Kingfisher, Hupei, and Mabel Lake. The Cooke Creek Recreation Site is a publicly-accessible, mostly unmonitored campground on the north shore of the Shuswap River. It is a popular spot for local, non-Indigenous campers to camp, swim, and fish for salmon and river trout. It is also used by Splat- sin members to fish and to collect berries and other plants, although the partying associated with non-Indigenous camping tends to discourage regular Splatsin use.

The Cooke Creek Recreation Site is located on the shore opposite from a family-controlled fishing eddy.3 Two documented archaeological sites and pit home pits are located here. The named fishing spot and the existence of archaeological sites suggest a long history of Indigenous use (Areas, 1985; Splatsin, n.d.). The Cooke Creek culture camp was scheduled for late August 2010, to take advantage of the late summer sockeye salmon run. The intent of the camp was to bring together Splatsin members, adults and children, to fish, enjoy stick games, camp, feast, sweat, and to tell stories in a culturally-significant place. Indeed, a net was stretched across the eddy and salmon were harvested throughout the duration of the camp. The invitation to and press release about the culture camp from Kuk7pi4 Wayne Christian states:

Splatsin Community will be occupying and using this site to carry out traditional food gathering and cultural practices for the week of August 23 - 29. This area is historically a place where Splatsin people have fished for thousands of years and continues to be an important fishing site for our people today. The goal of this camp is to have Splatsin community gather and practice food preserving techniques. It is an opportunity to have our people come together and be out on our traditional lands (Splatsin, 2010).

In order to ensure privacy and a safe environment for Splatsin families, the Splatsin requested that the campground be closed for five days. The request was made of the Ministry of Forests and it was granted. A locked gate kept people out who were not affiliated with the Splatsin.

When I arrived at the culture camp, some Splatsin people were talking about a controversy that had erupted over the gated closure of the Cooke Creek site to non-Indigenous users. …

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