Supporters of the Williams Lake Stampede danced the night away to hometown favourite One in the Chamber at the annual Stampede Dinner, Dance and Auction on Feb. 22, 2020 at the Elks Hall. (Williams Lake Tribune file photo)

Supporters of the Williams Lake Stampede danced the night away to hometown favourite One in the Chamber at the annual Stampede Dinner, Dance and Auction on Feb. 22, 2020 at the Elks Hall. (Williams Lake Tribune file photo)

YEAR IN REVIEW: February 2020

Wet’suwet’en supporters rally in front of Williams Lake RCMP detachment

Feb. 2, 2020

Cindy Watt and Brenda Bourdon bid farewell to Woodland Jewellers

It was an emotional day at Woodland Jewellers on Friday, Jan. 31 as sisters and longtime owners and operators Cindy Watt and Brenda Bourdon worked their last shift and passed the business on to Geoff Bourdon.

A Williams Lake institution, Woodland Jewellers has been operating in the community for close to nine decades now and is one of the lakecity’s only fourth-generation family-run businesses. It’s been the beginning and home of many happy memories over the years and none more so than for the sisters who have run the business for most of their adult lives.

Cindy described their final day as “exciting and emotional” as she held her dog Hank at the store on Friday afternoon. Brenda explained that the two of them have been coming to the store since they were both young girls helping out with odd things before eventually working part-time there as teenagers in high school.

Both of them went away for university and other things but both returned to the lakecity and began working at the shop full time, taking on the family legacy. Cindy began work there in 1980 with their father while Brenda returned to the lakecity in 2006 and began working at the store full-time with her sister.

“More than anything else, we’ve been fortunate to be able to help people celebrate the special occasions of their life. We’ve helped people with weddings, engagements, graduations, sweet sixteens, birth and all sorts of special occasions,” Cindy said. Brenda joked however that neither of them has ever helped anyone give birth in the store.

Feb. 12, 2020

Wet’suwet’en supporters rally in front of Williams Lake RCMP detachment

About a dozen people participated in a Wet’suwet’in Solidarity Action protest outside the Williams Lake RCMP detachment Wednesday morning, Feb. 12, 2020.

The purpose of the protest is to draw attention in Williams Lake to what is happening in Wet’suwet’en territory and encourage others to become informed and do credible research for themselves, said Erin Hitchcock, one of the organizers.

“I cannot imagine someone coming to my home and telling me that I have to get out or I face arrest so that they can demolish my home,” Hitchcock said. “They have never ceded their territory out there.”

Annette Frank, a justice worker from Tl’etinqox First Nation, walked across the street from the court house to join the protest.

“I am in support with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs going against the pipeline,” Frank said.

Feb. 15, 2020

Some of Scout Island’s rich history revealed in new book

While everyone in the lakecity knows of Scout Island, few are likely aware of its complete history which is why Ordell Steen of the Williams Lake Field Naturalists sought to rectify that with a new, self-published book.

Titled The Scout Island Story: From First People’s Home to Nature Centre, the book began as a simple pamphlet Steen wanted to make to inform people on the history of this iconic part of Williams Lake. However, the more research he did the more story he had to tell so finally he decided to write a short book detailing the island’s history.

Steen has been a member of the field naturalists since 1984 and a director/manager of Scout Island for many years and in that time he’s gotten to know many of the people who were instrumental in the creation of the preserve as we know it today.

“It’s a pretty small book but I thought it was important for people in Williams Lake to recognize two things; one is that this area has been Secwepemc Nation homeland for quite a long time, thousands of years,” Steen said. “But also for people to understand how Scout Island actually formed and developed and the history of that.”

The book is available at The Open Book, the Station House Gallery and of course, Scout Island Nature Centre, for $9.95, which covers the cost to print it, Steen said.

Feb. 15, 2020

Memorial to honour missing, murdered Indigenous women, girls, others in Williams Lake

A memorial held in Williams Lake on Friday, Feb. 14 to honour murdered and missing Indigenous women, girls, two-spirited and others was the first of many, the organizer hopes.

Crystal Rain Harry, a Xat’sull First Nation band councillor, said up until now Williams Lake has not had a space to honour families who have lost loved ones through murder or who have disappeared.

“When you look up the Highway of Tears the first name you see is Gloria Moody. She was found murdered just outside of Williams Lake off Highway 20 in 1969. Her murder has never been solved.”

Loriann Tenale and her mom Mary Tenale were wearing red hoodies with the words ‘No More Stolen Sisters’ across the front and on the back with a pattern honouring their close friend, Sabrina Rosette, who died at Tl’esqox First Nation in June 2019.

“Sabrina was like my sister,” Loriann said. “Nothing has been done about her murder. We want justice.”

Feb. 19, 2020

Conservation officer service investigating illegal harvest of cow moose near Sugar Cane

With the support of band council, the B.C. Conservation Officer Service (COS) investigated a complaint of a cow moose illegally shot and killed near the community of Sugar Cane, just south of Williams Lake.

Conservation officer Adrian Hayward confirmed the Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) reported Jan. 31 that a band member had allegedly shot and killed the cow moose on private property just south east of the community.

“During a combined investigation between the BC COS and the WLFN law enforcement office it was found that a cow moose had indeed been shot on private property and that the cow moose had been allegedly harvested by a (WLFN) counsellor,” Hayward said, noting he was grateful for the full support the COS received during the investigation from the WLFN Counsel and the alleged offender.

“We’ve had great support from Chief Sellars,” Hayward said. “He’s been very supportive of this investigation.”

Aaron Mannella, chief administrative officer for WLIB, told the Tribune this week that the WLIB was made aware of the recent incident involving a WLIB council member, who is alleged by BC Conservation Services to have harvested wildlife in contravention of the BC Wildlife Act.

Feb. 28, 2020

Lodge owner in Tsilhqot’in declared title area wants to be bought out for fair price

A lodge owner operating within the Tsilhqot’in declared title area wants to be compensated so he can leave.

Hausi Wittwer has owned and operated the Chilko River Lodge for 21 years and said because of the uncertainty and his frustration he does not want to live there anymore.

“I want to be bought out with a fair price,” Wittwer said.

His business has decreased in the last three years.

He said customers coming to his lodge are not high-end and if it wasn’t for repeat customers from B.C. and Switzerland he would not have survived.

“I used to get people just driving in off Highway 20, but not anymore,” he noted, adding he had not received his operating permit for the upcoming season yet, which is also a challenge.

Witter has written letters to provincial government ministers and the premier and has not heard back.

“I think it is not fair that if I write a letter to the premier and to this day there is no answer. At least give me an answer — that’s what I can expect from my leaders.”

In 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada granted the Tsilhqot’in Nation declaration of Aboriginal title to 1,700 square kilometres of land.

Since then, the Xeni Gwet’in has been working with the provincial government taking on jurisdiction.

Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation communications director Sarah Plank said the Tsilhqot’in Decision by the Supreme Court of Canada has raised unique and complex new issues that the province is still working through together with Tsilhqot’in Nation, the federal government and affected tenure-holders.

Similar to private property, Aboriginal title means the Tsilhqot’in Nation owns the lands and resources in the Declared Title Area and has the right to decide how those lands and resources are accessed and used, and to benefit from economic activity on them, Plank told the Tribune.

“We recognize this is a challenging situation for tenure holders impacted by the decision, as these tenures represent their families’ livelihoods,” Plank said.

“The province continues to work with the Tsilhqot’in National Government and the Xeni Gwet’in to achieve both short- and long-term certainty for all those affected by the decision.”

It is complex work in “uncharted waters,” and there are not easy answers, she added, noting the province is committed to working through the issues in a thoughtful way.

Williams Lake

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