Many people know the area between New Denver and Kaslo, in the Central Selkirk Mountains of BC, as the Highway 31A corridor.
For many centuries before that, it was a corridor for animals, plants, and the Autonomous Sinixt, the Indigenous People of this region who were and continue to be stewards of the area.
They had a different name.
“Piq kiʔláwnaʔ[ [pek k-lawna] is named after, and is the home of the white grizzly, sacred to our People,” states Sinixt elder Marilyn James. “In the 1980’s we were reminded of the historic significance of this area by our Smum iem Matriarch, Eva Orr. She brought attention to this vulnerable area where resort development is being proposed.”
Orr explained how piq kiʔláwnaʔ[pek k-lawna] lands had been stewarded for generations, with hunting and harvesting berries, roots, and plants in balance with the ecosystem.
“We believe that the Plant and Animal People have the right to healthy habitats which allow them to thrive. This is even more important with climate change. Our vision for this area will benefit everyone.”
“The Autonomous Sinixt, assert sovereignty over piq kiʔláwnaʔ[pek k-lawna] which lies in the heart of our unceded, traditional təmxʷúlaʔxʷ [tem-hoo-lao] (homeland) and call for a halt to all industrial and recreational developments there,” explains James.
The entire 400 sq/km of piq kiʔláwnaʔ[pek k-lawna] had been slated by the Autonomous Sinixt for rewilding with a gradual roll back of commercial human activities in the area over the next decade.
This includes halting the Zincton Village development proposal which is currently in application stage with the BC government.
Zincton Farms Inc, the aspiring developer of the proposed 55 sq km Zincton Resort, has refused to enter into conversation with Autonomous Sinixt, choosing instead to engage with neighbouring band councils and Metis.
Autonomous Sinixt Campaigns Co-ordinator, K.L. Kivi notes that “Zincton Farms “refusal to engage with Autonomous Sinixt is in stark contrast to the Territorial Acknowledgement* in their Formal Proposal.”
Kivi continues, “The developers’ actions seem more closely aligned with checking government boxes, than their stated objectives of actual ongoing consultation.”
Zincton Farms is owned by Valhalla Outfitters founder, Dave Harley, who asserts that it promotes eco-tourism. In his application for an all-seasons tenure, the Zincton developer admits that the “presumed scale [of Zincton] may have exceeded what was envisioned” in regional planning processes.
The Zincton Ski Resort project is posted on the website of Brett Harley and Associates, which has been involved with hundreds of development projects in China, the United States and Canada. While eco-tourism has developed into an almost 200 billion dollar business, not everyone believes that a few investors gaining wealth merits harm to much needed healthy ecosystems.
Scholar Amanda L. Stronza studied 30 “eco-tourism” ventures and has found evidence that ecotourism can be counter to wildland conservation.:
We found the following trends: Ecotourism is often conflated with outdoor recreation and other forms of conventional tourism; impact studies tend to focus on either ecological or social impacts, but rarely both; and research tends to lack time series data, precluding authors from discerning effects over time, either on conservation, levels of biodiversity, ecosystem integrity, local governance, or other indicators. Given increasing pressures on wild lands and wildlife, we see a need to add rigor to analyses of ecotourism. (Stronza 229)
Aside from the potential economic hazards of losing important habitat for mitigating climate change and preserving eco-systems, The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and BC’s DRIPA legislation mandates that governments, businesses and public come into right relationship with the First Peoples.
“This includes free, prior and informed consent from us for any developments on our lands,” notes James, “recognition of our Traditional Ecological Knowledge, maintenance of our spiritual relationships with our lands, and much more.”
Autonomous Sinixt plans for Rewilding piq kiʔláwnaʔ[pek k-lawna]
- Rejection of all current recreational tenure applications in piq kiʔláwnaʔ.[pek k-lawna]
- Gradual phase out of all current tenures in the area including but not limited to forestry, mining and recreation.
- Gradual roll-back of Highway 31A between Bear Lake and Retallack, starting with seasonal closures.
- Cessation of all low level air traffic above piq kiʔláwnaʔ[pek k-lawna].
- Re-establishment of the ecological integrity of the area via restoration projects.
This Op/Ed was authored by "Autonomous Sinixt", hometown is "Sinixt təmxʷúlaʔxʷ(homeland)"
The Zincton proposal can be made at
People can donate to the Rewilding campaign by visiting bloodoflifecollective.org and clicking on “featured initiative” on the Ways to Give page.
Amanda L. Stronza, Carter A. Hunt, Lee A. Fitzgerald. Ecotourism for Conservation?
Annual Review of Environment and Resources 2019 44:1, 229-253
UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: