BC Heritage and Sinixt Smum iem Matriarch, Marilyn James, signed aMemorandum of Understanding (MOU) this month to formalize her ongoing work at the Vallican Occupation Camp in the Slocan Valley.
The Campwhich is an ancient Sinixt village and burial site is known to the Heritage Branch of the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development as “DjQj-1 and djQj-3” in archaeological terms.
“I’ve been hosting student groups, classes and public events at the Camp for many decades now, as well as caring for the site,” said James, “so it’s good to have the government recognize my authority there.”
Due totheir extinct status under the Indian Act (1956), the Sinixt have struggled for official and governmental recognition not just their rights in their tum xula7xw (traditional territory), but also their responsibilities to their ancestors and the land.
The Camp is where Marilyn James and the Autonomous Sinixt have reburied 64 partial and complete ancestral remains since 1990.
“The VallicanCamp represents the longest peaceful occupation of Indigeneous lands in Canada. In light of that, it’s a little ironic to be signing this agreement with the Heritage Branch, but due to ongoing disturbances at the Camp, I decided to go with it.”
The Autonomous Sinixt constructed a traditional pit house at the site in the 2000s. The pit house has been used for ceremonies as well as educating people about how the Sinixt lived in their winter villages.
“I’ve toured thousands of children, youth and adults through the pit house and the site,” said James, “and it’s always a memorable occasion for people to share in our lifeways on a physical level.”
In addition to many uplifting and amazing events at the Vallican Camp, such as the 1991 visit of Tibetan lamas and more recently film crews recording Sinixt realities, it has also experienced ongoing and disrespectful disturbances by Indigenous folk and settlers unauthorized to be on site.
“Lateral and settler violence is a real thing weAutonomous Sinixt experience regularly here.” According to Wikipedia,
“Lateral violence is displaced violence directed against one's peers rather than adversaries... and it occurs within marginalized groups where members strike out at each other as a result of being oppressed.”
The MOU with the Heritage Branch will allow James to follow up with colonial authorities about ongoing violations of the site if she chooses to do so. Anyone wishing to interact with the Vallican Camp in any way, should contact Marilyn James to request access. She will be holding an open house at the site after the COVID-19 crisis has passed.
Marilyn says, “Vallican is very precious to us because of our longrelationship with that place. Our sacred mountain, Sw̓ar̓ak̓xn (Frog Peak), looks down on that place, reminding us that we Sinixt have an incredible capacity to survive as a people.”