[S.I.S.I.S. note: The following mainstream news article may contain biased or distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context. It is provided for reference only.]
The chief of the Pavilion Indian band near Lillooet won't rule out more road blockades, unless the B.C. government gets serious about treaty talks.
"It's sort of like a last resort but we're going to have to start doing what it takes to get our message across," said Chief Fred Alec.
About 30 band members set up a peaceful blockade Sunday on Highway 99 north of Cache Creek to protest a lack of progress in treaty talks. Formal discussions between the band, a member of the Ts'kw'aylaxw First Nation, began in 1996 but broke off about eight months ago.
As part of any negotiations, Alec said the band wants to develop an interim agreement to protect the Pavilion watershed and discuss development plans with the Ministry of Forests. "The people here are at the stage now where they are so frustrated with the lack of movement. Nothing meaningful is happening with these negotiations," he said. "It's going to come to a forefront if the government continues to stall on these issues."
Alec said the band has so far borrowed more than $1 million to finance formal treaty negotiations, another source of tension for the roughly 500 band members.
Citing the Supreme Court's landmark Delgamuukw decision in December of last year, Alec said he's frustrated by the provincial government's stand not recognizing aboriginal title. "Just like there is Crown title, now there is aboriginal title. We are willing to share and co-exist but there has to be recognition on (the government's) part of title," he added. "We're not getting that. These blockades, it's things that we'd hoped that we'd never have to do again. I realize it creates hard feelings but the government is forcing it by not negotiating in good faith," said Alec.
Mike Sakamoto, senior negotiator with the federal treaty office in Vancouver, agreed the negotiation process has "reached an impasse.
"There's been no substantive negotiations in quite some time. We are trying to get back to a process where the three parties (band, provincial and federal negotiators) can meet," he said Monday.
However, because the band staged Sunday's protest, Sakamoto said it was unclear how that would affect the negotiating process. "It may, it may not. That's still to be decided," he added.