Key quotes (excerpts) from Secwépemc communities

Secwépemc wildfire experiences and ongoing wildfire impacts

  • “We just watched the fire that night, burn up the hill…even in that first night we were already feeling the sorrow of what was happening to our land.” – Former Kukpi7 (Chief) Ryan Day, Bonaparte First Nation
  • “To be kicked out of your home and have some stranger come tell you what to do in your backyard…That’s what hurt most, probably. That you’re treated like a refugee almost, in your own country.” – Bert William, Bonaparte First Nation
  • “We ended up fighting three or four fires around our community for days without any assistance. We felt if we would have actually left, we probably wouldn’t have any communities to come back to.” – John Liscomb, Stswecem’c Xget’tem Development Corporation
  • “70% of our traditional territory is burnt… it is about our rights as Indigenous people living off the land… I don’t think that that is taken seriously enough, because we manage our lands for generations and generations, and we have a hundred and ninety-two thousand hectares of complete devastation.” – Jenny Allen, Bonaparte First Nation

Indigenous and local knowledge

  • “I kept hearing that over and over again: ‘had you come to our community we would have been able to help you. We have people with local knowledge that could have helped you.’ [But] there was this level of arrogance on the province’s side that said, ‘we are the professionals, we know what we’re doing. We don’t need your help’.” – Angie Kane, Secwepemcúl’ecw Restoration and Stewardship Society
  • “They (B.C. Wildfire Service firefighters) don’t know the ground. They don’t know the winds. You talk to any First Nation hunter he’ll tell you when the wind changes, cos he has to know that to make his living…It’s just a disrespect for on the ground knowledge it’s a disrespect for traditional knowledge, it’s a disrespect for First Nations’ connection to the land.” – Mike Anderson, Skeetchestn Natural Resources

Secwépemc leadership and advocating for joint wildfire recovery

  • “I saw an opportunity for us to come together. We just knew that this was a vulnerable ecosystem. And so we just decided that there was a greater thing that needed to happen here.” – Former Kukpi7 (Chief) Ryan Day, Bonaparte First Nation
  • “We wanted things to be different. In the past we were totally ignored and really had no say in [wildfire management] and we still see the devastation out there and we didn’t want that to happen again. We just tried to push for an actual recovery plan and to be involved in creating that recovery plan. It’s just all to make things better.” – Stewart Fletcher, High Bar First Nation

Successes and looking forward

  • “We want control and resources to do it right… the identity that comes with doing that work, the skills, the way that it helps people to live, and rebuild who we are and our relationship to the land.” – Former Kukpi7 (Chief) Ryan Day, Bonaparte First Nation
  • “When we sat around the table and talked, it was all the same concerns regarding cultural heritage, archaeology, wildlife and the impacts of harvesting and development on the land. And when we sat at that table, as the group of four, five communities strong, we realized that we could make a difference.” – Angie Kane, Secwepemcúl’ecw Restoration and Stewardship Society
  • “In terms of really demonstrating a different way to work together, I think we were really successful… part of the success is the legacy that it leaves, which is that we’re likely never going to go back to old ways of doing things. The world is different going forward, at least locally, in how we can work together.” – Rachael Pollard, former District Manager, Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development – District of Thompson Rivers; current Sustainable Resource Manager, Resource Practices Branch, Office of the Chief Forester, B.C.
  • “From the very start of everything, we’ve got to be involved… at every step of the way [in recovering our land]. Because [government and industry] just want to run out there [after a wildfire] and do everything, but slow it down, slow it down. It’ll get done but slow it down. This land is our land. Gotta remember that.” – Bert William, Bonaparte First Nation

Click here to go back to the media release, “Review of Elephant Hill fire calls for Indigenous leadership in wildfire management and recovery”.