A new documentary series featuring Xeni Gwet’in cowboys and efforts to protect the area’s wild Qayus horses is set to air this month on the History channel.
Film crews were in the Nemiah Valley for several months in 2019 and could be seen at the 2019 Williams Lake Stampede filming the mountain race for scenes in “The Wild Ones,” which will air on the History channel, Monday, Jan. 20 at 9 p.m.
Featured in the series are Xeni Gwet’in Chief Jimmy Lulua, Howard Lulua, Amanda Lulua, Roy Mulvahill, Emery Phillips, Mike “Hawk” Hawkridge and Michael Lares.
Chief Jimmy Lulua said the most exciting thing about the series is the exposure his community, the Tsilhqot’in Nation, and even Williams Lake will get.
“I think it is a great opportunity to show a bit of who we are,” he told the Tribune. “We have to understand this is TV, too, and they have to sell it and there’s a bit of drama. But I think about what the Timber Kings TV show did for the area and how the Williams Lake Stampede and our own Xeni Gwet’in and Tsilhqot’in Nation will look in 2020 because of the exposure from this.”
Lulua said The Wild Ones will showcase the area’s beauty and the world-class piece of land the Tsilhqot’in Nation won in the 2014 Supreme Court rights and title decision.
“It’s another world here. I wake up in the morning every day and see it for myself and now through the series we are able to share this with the rest of the world. It’s a rare opportunity.”
As for the wild horses, he said there are about 300 in the Xeni Gwet’in area and more than 3,000 throughout the Tsilhqot’in Nation.
“We are establishing control to manage the horses in our area properly,” he explained.
From a young age when he was learning how to mountain race, he was also learning how to snare and chase wild horses and make catch pens.
“We rounded up 60 head of wild horses, myself and Darren Sulin.”
A DNA study on the genetics of the wild horses done for Xeni Gwet’in, the Valhalla Wilderness Society and Friends of Nemiah Valley at the Texas A&M University has yet to be released.
Meanwhile, as part of a moose management strategy, Tl’etinqox (Anaham) First Nation to the east of Xeni Gwet’in rounded up horses in 2019 for sale.
“We had an overpopulation of horses and they are taking over everything,” Chief Joe Alphonse said in an interview at the time. “They are cutting into the grazing. In IR2 for the last two years we had a community policy where we don’t allow horses in IR lands because we are allowing the hay to grow. We turn them out onto Crown land.”
Lulua was elected Chief for the first time in February 2018 and at the time plans for filming the series were already underway.
“When I came on board I brought in my friend Roy Mulvahill who has been doing the Xeni Gwet’in Youth Wagon Trip with us for many years,” Lulua said. “I think Roy Mulvahill brings a different flavour. I’m looking forward to the second round.”
Praising Corus Entertainment for its work filming the show, Lulua said series producer Barry Davis did a great job of picking his team.
“They were super involved and a great fit that we’d welcome back at anytime. They participated in community events such as dinners and fundraisers.”
During the last two months of filming the crew was there every day and after the first four or five months it was natural to see cameras around and the community and everyone was used to it, he added.
“They were a great example for any other production team that might want to come here.”
When asked how he looks on TV, he replied “a bit scary.”
“I’ve seen myself on TV before, but this is a little bit different. It’s a whole new stage and we’ve never had that much exposure before.”
There are 10 one-hour episodes in the series.