Adventure on Cpelmetkwe Ranch
Aboriginal Day - Solstice 2023
*This article contains many Secwepemctsín words. To find out more about the pronounciation and language of this dialectic region check out this online learning tool.
We recently celebrated a massive local milestone for aboriginal and sovereign interests! It was as experienced very simply as a day of yummy food, bouncy castles, birch bark & hide crafts, drumming & songs, lahal (stick game), dice bingo, roping exhibits, prizes and more! It was an epic afternoon.
I wrote about my fun experience at the 2022 event and we interviewed Lyle on Cameo Radio. This year it was last minute when I saw a poster circulating in relation to a gathering at “The Ranch” formerly owned by Exeter Estate Holdings … once upon a time this ranch was owned by Lord Martin Cecil of Exeter. The Ranch was passed down to his heirs, one half to his son Michael, the other half to his daughter Maria.
It was Michael’s side of The Ranch which recently changed ownership and became “Cpelmetkwe Ranch”. Cpelmetkwe Ranch is now part of headquarters of Spelqweqs the business and economic development company of the Tsq’escenemc (People of Broken Rock - Canim Lake). This ranch is one of 3 in BC which went through a process facilitated by the Provincial Government to exchange the land and place it in the ownership of aboriginal interest.
Interestingly, I lived on The Ranch between 2013-2018. While I lived there as a residential tenant I met some great people who were the land managers. One particularly dedicated individual is still working there after the ownership transition and he is thrilled to be there - participating in the dawn of a new era of leadership (despite some of the small town rumors of disparagement about truth & reconciliation).
During my time living there, The Ranch was for sale. There were tours of the building I lived in regularly, I recall interested people coming to tour the site. There were Europeans - a German couple who felt it was “not wilderness enough” for what they were seeking. I recall a well dressed group of Chinese folks - who spoke in Mandarin and did not appear to be the land manager (ranching) type, looking for an investment property. I also recall a cattle company called Blue Goose making an assessment for expansion and further investments in livestock in the Cariboo. None of those interests panned out, and so the interesting story continues!
Ultimately, the change in ownership has become a rather watershed change. From the British Lords of the Monarchy known as the Cecil’s who arrived in the early 20th century as “The Emissaries” farming and ranching and also establishing the town of 100 Mile House it has now passed to a company owned and operated by the Tsq’escenemc “those who hold their hands out to ” (rough translation of the word). Albeit, the company is still registered within the Crown’s corporate entity of Canada (for reference check out CFM Report Episode 14). This is a much different path than the Tsilcotin Nation’s Decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, yet when you come to understand the history it is very much following in the historical precedent set by the antecedents of the T’seqecnem people.
Of the three ranches which were recently transferred to aboriginal interests in BC; the Cpelmetkwe Ranch is of particular significance because it is located within the Municipal boundary of the 100 Mile District.
For anyone who lives in our region, they will be quite aware of the (let’s just call it) dysfunctionality of the District Model in 100 Mile and South Cariboo and particularly some of the absurd notions and dealings within the small District of 100 Mile. That topic will be explored as part of the next article “What on Earth is happening in 100 Mile?”
Roughly translated : Secwepemc means People. Spelqwecs means Eagle. Cpelmetkwe means Underground Spring. District means Ward (a place where people are institutionalized).
Based on this understanding of word magic, let’s understand that aboriginal people’s activities and interests will begin to Rise Now - from the Water Spring - to Soar like the Eagle above the Ward that is 100 Mile where the shared interests of the people have been kept - separate - by the Crown’s Colonial System.
While I was at the gathering I gleaned from my former colleagues who work in the forestry silo of the Provincial Government that things are rather unstable in the workplace. There are so many empty positions and so much change of positions in addition to a huge brain drain from their operations that it has become quite difficult for many staff to manage day-to-day. Yet the ones who do continue to work there - and are valuable contributors - they continue to do what they can to serve their Oath to the Queen (now becoming Provincial Servants with Oaths to the King) despite all of the systemic uncertainty and changes occurring.
I also ran into two of my peers of Tsq’escenemc ancestry who have been instrumental in the advancement of the aboriginal interests of the people. One of whom helped lay the foundation for the construction and set-up of the Spelqweqs company during her time as an elected member of the Tsq’escenemc (Canim) Council to advance people’s economic interests. The other has been operating in the community’s Health & Wellness program advancing well-being through Cultural Enrichment. Both are still under 40 years old and I will personally attest that they have truly jumped off the shoulders of their ancestors to live out what the Secwepemc Chief’s 1910 Memorial intended :
“We will share equally in everything half and half in land, water and timber, etc. What is ours will be theirs, and what is theirs will be ours. We will help each other to be great and good.”
To both of my pals there, they have each indeed continued the tradition of their ancestors - their leadership and acts of dedication to the ongoing needs and struggles of people have showed me the need “to be great and good” and to share in times of need and times of abundance, in my very own life. It’s an honor to know both of these people and to have witnessed each other grow and change since we were just youths. I quite appreciated how Chief Helen described it in her speech in Centennial Park in 2022 :
“Tsq’escenemc holds up our hands to the relationship that we have with our neighbors.” - Chief Helen Henderson.
The profundity really hit me even more this year - as we attended the event “in town” ... when we were watching our little girls as they ran off together holding hands to go play around all over the bouncy castle. We were giggling back and forth among Just Us - with that knowing that you get in the presence of a friend - and my friend she chuckled, her delicately hand beaded earrings (that’s a funny story too) waving as she said to me “this might just be the most diversity 100 Mile has ever seen in a day” … I jokingly responded, “even me, white girl - never thought much of appearance when we were growing up, I have felt a sliver of that feeling of being made ‘separate’ over the past few years, maybe it’s just that I don’t have white hair in a town full of boomers or maybe it’s deeper and I’m really starting to understand what is transpiring across this land” … She followed up with truth “I’ve so often walked around town and felt treated and seen as ‘separate or different’ ... today is good”.
At any rate, if my friends can feel relieved and good about what is happening at Cpelmetkwe Ranch, then so can I. A heartfelt empathic approach will have it no other way, that’s all there is to it when you choose the golden rule.
That’s my story and it just goes to show, like we always say here on the RLN … “Justice” is up to Just-Us!