Band blocks access to area

First Nations are taking action to protect what they believe is land of cultural significance at the north end of Mabel Lake.

First Nations are taking action to protect what they believe is land of cultural significance at the north end of Mabel Lake.

The Splatsin First Nation has erected fence posts to limit access to nine acres at the mouth of the Shuswap River. The Regional District of North Okanagan is seeking provincial approval to use the site for permanent parking for boaters and residents in the area.

“There is a spiritual connection,” said Chief Wayne Christian of a historic village there.

“We need to protect that area because there are probably burial sites around there.”

Christian says the band will not tolerate any development of the nine acres.

“It (issue) is resolved. We have ownership. We aren’t looking to turn it over to anyone,” he said.

Beyond a fence, the band has no other actions planned to reinforce its position.

Half of the property is cleared of trees for parking.

“We have used it for many years but we don’t have title,” said Herman Halvorson, RDNO chairperson.

He says RDNO has been negotiating with the Splatsin and he isn’t sure how the band’s fence will impact discussions.

“It’s a process and we will have to deal with it,” said Halvorson.

“I don’t believe the regional district has done anything wrong. We’ve been talking to them in good faith.”

Besides providing parking for boaters, Halvorson says the site is used for parking by residents living on the west side of Mabel Lake.

“I would like to get this resolved. The property is well used,” he said.

The Splatsin claim the significance of the Mabel Lake area has been ignored for decades, whether it was logging in the 1890s or a golf resort in the 1990s.

Christian insists the provincial government does not have the authority to grant land to RDNO.

“The provincial government has a legal position of denial,” he said of aboriginal title and rights.

“They continue to say we don’t exist and we are saying yes we do. We have never ceded or sold any of our territory.”