Opinion

OPINION: Some visitors to Cultus feel entitled to trespass

Imagine, if you will, arriving in a new land with hundreds or thousands of others from a faraway country only to displace the people already there.

People who had been there, living on the land in relative peace, for literally thousands of years.

Take the land. Take the resources off the land. Force those people already there to live in isolated, small communities cut off in some cases from one another.

Then 150 years later, with empty beer cans in the cooler in your trunk, sun screen and sweat stinking up your clothes, you decide you don’t like the long drive home from the beach so let’s cut through the Indian reserve.

And then you complain because the residents of that reserve, sick and tired of your speeding, your dust, your insolence, your self-importance—to say nothing of your colonialism, your residential schools and your seething racism—block the road so you can’t get through.

Boo-hoo.

The anger and ignorance from a number of inconvenienced beach-goers this past weekend after members of the Soowahlie First Nation put up a gate on the road was remarkable.

I won’t repeat the comments here because if they weren’t racist, they were just dumb.

On the bright side, it would appear many local aboriginals seem to turn the other cheek.

Not so the inconvenienced suburbanites who couldn’t use the shortcut.

The conversation on two of the more free-speech-friendly Chilliwack Facebook pages was actually deleted by administrators, which illustrates just how out of hand things got.

Here is the simple thing, as I see it: There is a paved road to Cultus Lake called the Columbia Valley Highway and it works just fine. It gets busy on weekends and in hot weather. If you don’t like it, don’t go to Cultus.

The Soowahlie First Nation has a relatively tiny piece of land to call their own and they don’t need kids drag racing down the gravel road yelling racist epithets, as has been known to happen.

I’ve only lived in Chilliwack for eight years but I remember the summer we moved here there was similar frustration from Soowahlie band members, and similar ignorance from people who just wanted to get to the lake.

Jennifer Gilderdale wrote a letter in the Times in August 2006 complaining about being treated badly for taking the shortcut. She claimed she was charged money to drive through.

“They say we are racist, but who brought it on themselves by doing what they did that weekend? . . . I kept thinking to myself how can they charge us to use a road? They use our roads.”

Yes, “they” use “our” roads.

Would it be racist to suggest that “you” are on “their” land? And I’m not talking about just when you want a shortcut to the beach. Your house is on “their” land. Maybe not legally, but your house (if you live in the Cultus Lake or Vedder Crossing area) is on unceded Soowahlie territory.

That may mean nothing to folks desperate for a shortcut around traffic, but it means something to the aboriginals just a generation or two away from near cultural genocide.

I wonder how many of those road users are aware that members of the Soowahlie band had planned an Idle No More-style protest on Aug. 1 to block the road, but it was cancelled due to internal band disagreement about the plan. In other words, it could have been worse.

Some residents are upset at how some band members blocked the road on the B.C. Day long weekend and were unfriendly to trespassers.

I’m amazed, frankly, at the restraint Soowahlie band members have shown over the last decade.

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