Course:CONS370/2019/Assessing the management of natural resources’ activities on their Traditional, Ancestral and Unceded Territory by the Squamish Indigenous People of British Columbia, Canada

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In this study, we will discuss how Squamish people manage their land using their traditional knowledge, focusing on three aspects: Socio-political, economic, and environmental. The Squamish people work tightly with the provincial government. For example, Minister of Canadian Heritage is providing funding for the West Coast Railway Association to “maintain, protect and preserve its historic collection of locomotives and railcars” (Marketwierd, 2016).[EXPLAIN THE LINK WITH THE SQUAMISH] Through the process of forest management, the Squamish people sometimes make difficult choices, including allowing the Woodfibre LNG project in southwest Squamish, B.C (Cruickshank, A., 2018). Debates regarding collaborative forest management still exist, and further negotiation is required. On April 9th, 2009 the Squamish Indigenous Peoples signed a joint community forest agreement with the provincial government of BC. The agreement gave them the license of occupation tenure [NO, THIS IS NOT WHAT THE LICENCE GRANTS]. This encompasses over 30,000 ha of "crown forest land" (Ferreras, 2019) and the rights to harvest timber within the 30,000 ha. The tenure is renewable, with a 25-year term. This is considered an improvement from the previous tenure agreement, which was renewable at 5 years. (Baker, 2018) Currently, the Squamish Indigenous Peoples are fighting for self-governing rights and the recognition of rights for land issues, outside of their Reserves, within their Traditional, Ancestry, and Unceded lands.

Introduction of Squamish People: Culture, history, and Forests

The Squamish people, written in Squamish language as “ Skwxwú7mesh”, are indigenous people lived in British Columbia, Canada. The main traditional resident area for Squamish people includes Northern Vancouver, Strait of Georgia, and Point Grey; stretching northward to Roberts Creek on the Sunshine Coast, up the Howe Sound as their northern border. From west to east, their traditional territory includes English Bay, False Creek and the southern part of Indian Arm. The approximate total area of Squamish territory is more than 673,540 hectares (Squamish Nation Dictionary Project, 2011). Based on 2016 consensus, there are 3,600 enrolled members, with the majority population living in the 28 registered reserves, which is much smaller than their territory (Indigenous and Northern Affairs, 2019). All the villages together are called “Squamish Nation”.

Figure1. A map showing traditional Squamish reserves. (Squamish Chief, 2019) Within their traditional territory, the Squamish people have their traditional methods of utilizing various natural resources. The forest type in these areas are temperate rainforests consist of Douglas-fir, western red cedar, western hemlock; and shrubs for berry gathering including salmonberry and thimbleberry. Local indigenous people adopted their ecological knowledge and wisdom managing the complex ecosystems. For example, when using red cedar, they would use planks split from standing trees without killing a tree. For red alder and cascara, they take narrow strips from different trees and use the bark for medicinal. For edible berries and nuts, they would take the fruit without killing the whole plant, and burn the bushes sometimes to promote their re-growth (Turner, Ignace and Ignace, 2000). Squamish people have a long history passing through oral education using their own language. However, there are less than 1% of their total population who is still using their spoken language. In the past centuries, contact and colonization have affected their culture and education system significantly through residential schools and the potlatch ban. Been marginalized by the government for centuries, their language and culture are declining, and a non-ignorable fault in culture between before and post-colonization [WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?] (Bracken, Deane and Morrissette, 2009). In order to maintain and revitalize the language, plenty of studies including to document the elder’s speakings; to provide Squamish languages courses to the young; to educate the people about the importance of the language, etc (Baker-Williams, 2006). Some of the Lower Mainland Suquamish Territories are located in the highest valued areas in the province. To further economic development, the Squamish people are working with the provincial government in many aspects including the use of energy, water system, as well as forests (Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, 2011). In this study, we focus on the cooperation with governments on the aspect of forest management, including the infrastructure building, timber production, wood fibre LNG and wildlife management such as salmon. All the practices will be analyzed based on its economic, socio-political and ecological performance.

Tenure arrangements

In the past, the land of Squamish had been owned by large companies operating pulp mills. The pulp mills harvested trees on the Traditional, Ancestry, and Unseeded land of the Squamish Nation. The logging companies did not receive permission from the Squamish people to harvest on their land, and none of the revenue generated was returned to the Squamish people. The town's largest pulp mill was permanently shut down in January of 2006. Since then, tourism, especially out-door recreation is becoming increasingly important, as the biggest contributor to Squamish's Economy. Unfortunately, little of the revenue generated from most recreational activities is returned as rent to the Squamish, the owners of the Traditional land that they are performed on. But these issues are slowly coming to light and the Squamish community is striving for complete management of their own land. On April 9th, 2009 the Squamish Indigenous Peoples signed a joint community forest agreement with the provincial government of BC. The agreement gave them the license of occupation tenure. The Tenure agreement is mostly volume based. It encompasses over 30,000 ha of "crown forest land" (Ferreras, 2019) and the rights to harvest timber within the 30,000 ha. This does not encompass the 673,200 ha of land that is the Squamish Traditional, Ancestral and Unseeded Land. The tenure is renewable, with a 25-year term. This is considered an improvement from the previous tenure agreement, which was renewable at 5 years. (Baker, 2018) Currently, the Squamish Indigenous Peoples are fighting for self-governing rights and freehold tenure, legal rights to the land, without any limitations set by the government on land use. Also, the Squamish Indigenous peoples are also fighting for the recognition of rights for land issues, outside of their Reserves, within their Traditional, Ancestry, and Unceded lands. Currently, the Squamish Land is still legally limited by the government. This is mainly because of the Traditional Lands encompass many recreational and tourists attractions.

Administrative arrangements

In the Squamish Educational institutions are very important to the Nation. There are many indigenous schools that follow traditional learning methods. But there are also many students that attend public schools and are introduced to the western form of a more systematic form of education. On January 17, 2019, the Squamish Nation and the North Vancouver School District signed a Communication and Collaboration agreement suggesting an equal partnership within the educations institutions. This agreement gives the Squamish Nation rights in the involvement in the education decisions when it comes to the students within the Nation that are attending public schools. This agreement outlines the inclusion of the Squamish Nation Language, Culture and History courses, stating that these courses are to be offered to all students in the North Vancouver School District. (“North Vancouver School District Protocol Agreement,” 2019). In the Squamish nation, there are usually annual general meetings, this is important for the community to communicate with the higher-level authorities. The general meeting is an opportunity for any interested party to join in to express their opinions. There are also council meetings, these meetings are restricted to the Squamish Nation and Council Members only.

Tracy Williams, who goes by the traditional name Sesemiya, pins a ceremonial blanket on Kristin Rivers, of the Squamish Nation, as North Vancouver school board chair Christie Sacré and superintendent Mark Pearmain look on during a ceremony to mark the signing of a protocol agreement Jan. 17. Photo Paul McGrath, North Shore News

Affected Stakeholders

The People of the Squamish First Nation have an undeniable right to their Ancestral, Traditional, Unseeded forest land. But these rights are sometimes overlooked due to the long history of European influence. The methods and ways of the Squamish Nation and other Indigenous communities can sometimes be invisible to outsiders because of the vast differences in the outer appearance of forest management. In the eyes of “outsiders”, the use of a forest should look like harvesting, clearcutting blocks, and re-planting. But for the people of the Squamish first nation, the forest is used as a source of food, material and medicine. Hunting and gathering in the forest are seen as a means of living and providing for their family. These activities don't necessarily leave the forest in a visibly different state. The term Affected Stakeholder refers to “any person, group of persons or entity that is or is likely to be subject to the effects of the activities in a locally important or customarily-claimed forest area” (J. Bulkan, 2019) For some Affected stakeholders, their income comes from the harvesting and marketing of timber and non-timber products. For others, they depend on the forest for its traditional and spiritual values. In the past, affected stakeholders were sometimes referred to as “resource users.” This, however, is an outdated term. These people are dependent and reliant on the resources that the land provides. They hold a tremendous amount of knowledge about the land and forest of the Squamish area but are “often underutilized as sources of information” (J. Seys, 2016) They are very rarely included in any form of decision-making when it comes to environmental issues. “Resource users” have relatively little power, but are the most affected by environmental decisions. This unequal power is certainly changing, especially in the last decade. The Squamish Nation affected stakeholders have made it known that they need to be apart of the decision making when it comes to their rights to the Ancestral, Traditional, Unseeded land that makes up the Squamish Nation.

Interested Outside Stakeholders

Interested stakeholders, while mostly well-intentioned, do not have an abiding relationship of dependency with the forest. They have an interest in the forest or reside in the area for the time being, but may not have traditional and ancestral ties to the forest. Some interested stakeholders might have Indigenous heritage but be on a government payroll. Therefore those persons become non-dependent towards the forest itself. Some examples of interested stakeholders are local government employees, union workers, local human rights organizations.

There are sixteen members of Chiefs and government council are elected every four years, along with the Band Member and the Squamish Nation Administration, to form the Squamish Nation Government. The Squamish Nation Government has the responsibility to manage financial and human resources. The Squamish Government has relatively high power, with genuine concern and engagement in the Squamish First Land, but they do not have abiding ties to the forest. [THIS IS NOT TRUE. FIRST NATIONS' GOVERNMENTS ARE AFFECTED STAKEHOLDERS] The vast amount of power from the interested Stakeholders comes from legal aspects, whether it is a government job that ties them to the Traditional forests, or scientific/conservation research and genuine interest of the Unceded land. The Trails Master Plan Stakeholder is involved with tourism activities on the Squamish Land. “Trail License” is an agreement with the property owners that handles issues with tenure and existing trails on private land. (C. Bishop, 2009) Because Squamish has become an increasingly popular tourist attraction and outdoor recreation destination, the interested stakeholders associated with this aspect have relatively high power. This is undeniable, due to the high revenue that these recreational activities generate. Another very powerful interested stakeholder in Squamish is the watershed management and fishing industries. Due to overfishing in the past, Squamish now has strict regulations. The Squamish River watershed has become a priority for the recovery of salmon and other important fish species.


What the Indigenous group is looking for, is the sovereignty in their traditional lands and all the resources within, as well as social acceptance including the opportunity of higher education. Environmental management has always been highly connected with political power distribution. In many cases, Indigenous communities are reluctant to participate in co-management or any survey because of the lack of trust and understanding (Watkin Lui et al., 2016). The Squamish people have always been a relatively successful example of joint forest management [JFM WITH WHOM?]. I believe that the previous projects [WHICH PROJECTS?] were mostly successful, as the open table for multi-governance has been established to some extent. One case study is the Woodfibre LNG project, which was launched in the pulp mill about seven kilometres southwest of Squamish, BC. The Squamish nation has agreed with this project. Out of the 12 elected councillors, six voted in favour of it and six against it, with the two abstentions were counted as for it. The wood fibre project has been carried on for more than five years, and it has gained the support of the chief. The reason for the continuous collaboration is that it follows the completion of the nation’s first environmental and cultural assessment of an industrial project of this size in its territory, said Khelsilem, one of the councillors (Cruickshank, 2018). However, various conflicts remain. Logging has been a controversial problem, because logging activities are happening in the rare old-growth forests, on their traditional territories, as well as the tourism affected their daily life. The tree farms licenses issued by the provincial government have been described as ‘lost’ lands by Squamish people. Intense conflicts have occurred. Some protesters even got arrested (Promislow. 2000). Forest tourism is another controversial factor that sometimes is not well accepted by indigenous people. When searching “Squamish”, the first information appearing on the webpage is the tourism advertising. Plenty of programs and trails have been built to serve this purpose, including the Sea-to-Sky program. Squamish people have contributed a lot to the development of local tourism, and they did gain a share of profit and reputation, as the local small businesses are flourishing. (The chief staff, 2019). However, because the disturbances tourism has brought to the forests, indigenous people on Squamish Nation lands protested the outside visitors and blocked the roads. According to the news, the local people have been “battling speeders and dumping on their urban reserves, and weekend parties and raves on their rural holdings”(Lee, 2016).

Figure 2. Commercial recreational zoning inside of Squamish territory. (The chief staff, 2019) I believe an open channel for communication is critical to prevent conflicts from happening again. Squamish people want their traditional lands to be respected and be used wisely, following their traditional management systems. To diminishing the effects brought by outsiders, high-efficiency communication based on respect and is required.


For the Squamish people, the chief makes the most important calls. Other villagers get to participate in the decision-making table, too. The provincial government is affecting all their decisions, though. Their traditional lands have been divided into small reserves, and they do not have complete control of the natural sources on their lands. Inside the Squamish nation, the political decisions come from 16 elected chiefs and the council. The Squamish Government aims to provide economic development as well as to maintain their traditional, cultural and arts (Squamish nation, 2013). They pass their knowledge about traditional forest management generation by generation. However, the FN government has, at most of the times, followed the goals of the provincial government and the suggestions from NGOs. Government and NGOs are directly leading the decision-making in day-to-day management. Through various frameworks, they are becoming more and more influential [PROVIDE SOME EXAMPLES TO BACK THESE STATEMENTS] (Reed, 1997). NGOs have more resources, such as funding partners, than aboriginal people do. When it comes to forest management, the government [WHICH GOVERNMENT?] act forcefully towards meeting the requirements of the public. According to the Provincial Timber Management Goals and Objectives, BC has the most diverse and valuable forest resources in the country. The main objective of the government management is to “rationalizes provincial goals, objectives and targets within the context of local conditions, needs and values. Local targets guide timber management activities such as harvest practices and silviculture.” The majority of BC’s forest is under the monitoring of the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA) and in the Chief Forester's Standards for Seed Use(Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, 2017). Moreover, even they put first nation management as the first priority, the subordination still exists, thus burying the risk of potential conflicts. In many cases, the Squamish people are highly vulnerable to disturbances due to the lack of social and financial capital. Starting from April 1st, 2019, a wildfire burning at the 17.5-mile area of Squamish Valley Road, which is a popular tourist location, but also Squamish traditional forest land. The fire caused damage to Squamish village as it is close to several reserves in Squamish (Chua, Thuncher and Squamish Chief, 2019).

Figure3. A picture of wildfire staring from a household near Squamish reserves. (Chua and Thuncher, 2019) In general, the governance of forest in Squamish territory is not, at most of the times, executed by the Squamish government. The Squamish people are still be marginalized in many aspects. The forest nearby their forest lands is mainly governed for timber products or for recreational value rather than any of their spiritual and traditional uses.

Future directions and possible solutions

My first suggestion [OUR?] towards forest management in Squamish traditional forests in British Columbia is to build a collaborative co-management, for example, the Community Forest Agreement Program in 1998 [???]. There are many advantages to having collaborative governance. Firstly, the program like this allows flexibility forest tenure to forest system management, as the structure and conditions of the ecosystem are keep changing [WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?]. Secondly, it helps differentiate a different kind of forest and identify different kinds of the community forest. Finally, it increases the power of the indigenous government in forest management decision making. These advantages promote long-term opportunity for employment, recreation, value-added industries. Other social, economic, and environmental benefits are provided by the establishment of environmental stewardship and eco-friendly industries(Pinkerton, 2018).

Figure 3. Composition of various engagement approaching of indigenous people in British Columbia.(BCCFA, 2016) Another suggestion would be to value indigenous knowledge and lifestyle more when it comes to land management. Because they have lived in the land long before any industries or visitors. The indigenous education system, health care and social position need to be recognized and valued. Only by valuing their philosophy can we make the managing system relevant to them. Themes and agendas about wildlife management, sustainable development and other environmental issues should be more relative to indigenous people. Not only because they have more knowledge about local species, soils, water systems, etc; but also because their lifestyle is more susceptible to climate change and other disturbances.


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