Ktunaxa Nation heads to Supreme Court of Canada
The Ktunaxa Nation is heading to the highest court in Canada in its ongoing efforts to reaffirm the right of Aboriginal Canadians to exercise spiritual practices that are dependent upon sacred sites.
On December 1, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear, ‘Ktunaxa Nation Council and Kathryn Teneese, on their own behalf and on behalf of all citizens of the Ktunaxa Nation vs. Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, et al’.
The case stems from the Jumbo Glacier Ski Resort, proposed to be built in an area known to the Ktunaxa Nation as Qat’muk. It is otherwise known as the Jumbo Valley, 55 km west of Invermere.
Qat’muk is of vital spiritual importance to Ktunaxa as it is the home of ‘grizzly bear spirit’ upon which so many key Ktunaxa spiritual beliefs and practices depend.
In 2010, the Ktunaxa Nation made public its Qat’muk Declaration, affirming the spiritual, cultural and ecological values of Qat’muk and the Ktunaxa’s stewardship obligation to protect its lands and waters. For more than 10,000 years, the Ktunaxa have stewarded this land; for 25 years, they have been steadfast in their opposition to the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort.
“Qat’muk has existed long before any ski resort proposal and long before Canada was a country,” said Teneese, Ktunaxa Nation Council Chair. “As a Nation, we have spent too much money fighting in the court system to prove what we have always known. Qat’muk is vital to Ktunaxa as well as local wildlife populations and biodiversity and must be protected.”
“We believe that both the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Constitution Act provide us with the right to freely practice our traditions,” continued Teneese. “It is unfortunate that the Supreme Court of British Columbia and the British Columbia Court of Appeal failed to recognize this, but we are confident the Supreme Court of Canada will uphold the rights of all Canadians to practice their religions and traditions free from interference and the threat of destruction of sacred places.”
Wildsight stated in a press release it stands in strong support of the Ktunaxa’s Qat’muk Declaration and its leadership in creating a Qat’muk management plan that upholds the stewardship principles outlined in the Qat’muk Declaration, according to the philosophy of Yaqaⱡ Hankatiⱡiⱡki na ʔamak.
“This is a truly significant day for the Ktunaxa Nation, and also for the thousands of Kootenay citizens that stand behind them in this fight,” said Robyn Duncan, Wildsight Executive Director.
“We understand from Ktunaxa that Qat’muk is where Kⱡawⱡa Tukⱡuⱡakʔis, the Grizzly Bear Spirit, was born, goes to heal itself and returns to the spirit world,” Duncan said.
The area includes the Toby-Jumbo Watershed, the South Fork Glacier Creek, Horsethief Creek and Farnham Creeks. The Grizzly Bear Spirit is an important source of guidance, strength, protection and spirituality for the Ktunaxa. Qat’muk’s importance for the Grizzly Bear Spirit is inextricably linked with its importance for living grizzly bears now and in the future.
“Wildsight celebrates the rich history of the Ktunaxa Nation and their 10,000 years of stewardship on Ktunaxa ʔamakʔis. We have been honoured to stand in solidarity with the Ktunaxa Nation in their fight to protect Qat’muk—a fight that will go before the Supreme Court of Canada on December 1,” Duncan said.
Directed by Nick Waggoner and Sweetgrass Productions, Jumbo Wild documents the epic tug of war – between community members, First Nations and conservationists, resort developers and politicians – over the future of the Jumbo Valley. Set against a backdrop of incredible backcountry ski and snowboard footage, Jumbo Wild features unprecedented documentation of all sides of a divisive issue bringing the passionate local fight to protect the Jumbo Valley to life for a global audience for the first time.