How the PVTA are starting to decolonize the way we play

Last year, the PVTA (Pemberton Valley Trails Association) summarized its year : over 700 members, over 1600 volunteer hours, 16 trail building days, 160 participants and over 900 trail building hours, to support multi user trails in this little hamlet where we live.

I appreciated seeing photos of board members out and about last week, updating signage, to acknowledge that all of this land we find ourselves on, had names before we scratched trails through it or “discovered” how beautiful it is, or how fun and healthful it is to move through it.

On the PVTA website, I read that:

The PVTA respectfully operates on the unceded territory of the Líl̓wat Nation.

The PVTA values the time immemorial relationship Líl̓wat has with the land and draws inspiration from their continuous stewardship of this land on which we all work, live, and play.The Líl̓wat are an interior Salish people and are a distinct nation within the St’at’imc group.  Traditional Territory encompasses close to 800,000ha of beautiful, resource rich land that includes temperate coastal regions, old growth rainforest and arid areas.  Records indicate the Líl̓wat people have lived in the region before records began. Sites on Qwal̓ímak (Birkenhead River) were found to be occupied some 5,500 years ago!

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In times past, each clan had a winter village with many s7istken (semi-subterranean pit-houses).  Examples of these can be seen from one of our favorite recommended hiking trails ‘Lumpy’s Epic‘ on Spel’pul’ which means ‘nuts stashed away by squirrel’ (aka Signal Hill).  If you visit, soak in the energy of the place and the majestic views of Ts’zil (pronounced ta-zil, aka Mt. Currie) which means “Slides on the Mountain”.  Look closely and you can see how the PVTA logo gains inspiration from that very name.  Please enjoy the area, but please do not go over the wooden fencing. Respect the history, the land and the people who once lived there.

Relationship-building is slow work. (As anyone who has tried speed-dating, or started a new job, or moved to a new town, knows.) It requires trust, a willingness to get vulnerable, and to keep showing up, to make repairs when you’ve messed up, and to be patient enough to meet the other people where they’re at. It requires curiosity and humility and a willingness to ask questions and sometimes look silly. It doesn’t fit well into a capitalist efficiency/productivity paradigm, and it isn’t always easy when you’re powered by volunteer hours that never quite seem to be sufficient to meet the possibilities of time spent. Naming this bigger reality feels important to me, as a way of acknowledging my deep appreciation for the way the PVTA is showing up, on this territory. I am grateful for that leadership.

How wonderful it is to learn that Signal Hill was “Spel’pul” (nuts stashed away by a squirrel), before it was Signal Hill. How wonderful it is to have the opportunity to grow our sense of place and belonging, by being humble and respecting the language and the stewardship, the systematic oppression and the sovereignty reclamation, of the people with deep deep history here. 5500 years (from just one dated site) of history conveys a deep belonging and inter-relationship that I respect. That my 20+ years cannot touch, and doesn’t have to compete with. Because this is what being in relationship means. We honour what exists. We are allowed to be more than just one thing. What a beautiful thing if we can share stewardship of this place, for future generations.

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