First Nation’s Campground Re-opens
After a renegotiated contract and a cleansing ceremony, a popular campground in British Columbia that was closed for the August long weekend is back in business.
Ongoing concerns the Chehalis Indian Band had about vandalism and garbage at the 20 Mile Bay provincial forestry campground on Harrison Lake, 50 miles east of Vancouver, were one thing. But when a memorial was destroyed in July, that led to the shutdown, according to the Chilliwack (B.C.) Times.
But now the band has negotiated an interim agreement with the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts to reopen the campground as of last weekend, according to a media statement issued by the band.
“It’s like somebody going and defaming a graveyard,” Chief Willie Charlie told the Times in July of the memorial’s destruction.
Charlie announced the campground would be closed because of an ongoing dispute with the government that awarded a five-year contract to manage the site to the Douglas First Nation in 2003.
The Chehalis band was upset about this because the campground is situated directly on top of the band’s ancestral village of St’epsum, meaning “narrow neck – a place to rest your head.”
The situation intensified further, according the Charlie, in January 2006 when the lands in question were included in the treaty settlement lands by the In-SHUCK-ch band council.
Then, to further throw fuel on the fire, in March of this year the site management was again awarded to the Douglas “against the explicit wishes of the Chehalis Indian Band, and contrary to a previous commitment by the Ministry of Forest and Range made to Chehalis.”
On Aug. 13 another ceremony was held to bless and cleanse the site and re-erect the returned memorial marker, according to the media statement.
“People must have respect for the site to have it reopened,” Charlie said. “We would like to attract more families to the site and discourage the rowdy party crowd that often frequents the area. We want to establish a more family-oriented campground.”
Charlie said further that there will be no tolerance for excessive alcohol consumption, illegal drug use and any more vandalism.
“We will be enforcing this,” he said. “The Chehalis people are willing to share their scenic, beautiful site of St’epsum. All we ask is that people respect it.”