Snuneymuxw engage with B.C. Hydro in cultural dialogue over petroglyph damage

Tue. Apr. 29/14

Members of the Snuneymuxw First Nation are still hurt and angry a year after B.C. Hydro mistakenly demolished an ancient petroglyph, but ready to come to an agreement.

A meeting within the First Nation on Saturday brought up emotions around the destruction of the sacred artifact in April 2013, an incident that subsequently drew ire from aboriginal groups across the province. The band is now looking forward to a workshop with B.C. Hydro in which B.C. Hydro officials will learn about Snuneymuxw's cultural presence. Snuneymuxw Coun. Erralyn Thomas said she is hopeful that the situation will finally be resolved.

"This has been ongoing between the two parties. We hope to reach an agreement on how we're going to work together in regards to any B.C. Hydro operations in our territory," she said. "One of the opportunities in this disaster is cultural education on the part of B.C. Hydro, to raise their awareness and their appreciation for landmarks in our community. Things that are held in high regard by our people."

Thomas said that since the incident the community has been enacting extensive internal consultations.

"Council thought it best to engage the community because there's a serious, complex, cultural significance here that requires our whole community to get involved," she said.

"We're having internal discussions before we engage with B.C. Hydro's senior management on this issue."

Thomas added that she hopes the incident can raise the general public's awareness and appreciation of the First Nation's history. Snuneymuxw Coun. William Yoachim said Saturday's meeting showed that there is still a lot of work to be done between the nation and B.C. Hydro.

"Our elders shared traditional stories of significance to the petroglyphs," he said.

"There was some hurt and anger in the room because of a lack of respect and awareness in regards to the petroglyphs. It's emotional stuff."

Donia Snow, B.C. Hydro's executive director of aboriginal relations, said in a statement Monday that a relationship agreement with Snuneymuxw has been in place for nearly a year and is proving to be effective.

"We appreciate the efforts made by Snuneymuxw chief and council, elders and broader community to continue to work with us," she said.

"The agreement has provided for a good foundation to improve process and understanding of culturally and spiritually significant sites."

A date for the workshop between Snuneymuxw and B.C. Hydro will be decided in the near future.