6 Aboriginal Title

Indigenous Peoples in Interior British Columbia had full access and control over their own lands until recently, compared to other nations within Canada. In British Columbia, the establishment of effective control is in the living memory of the oldest elders and their children. Change did not happen overnight, however, it is still within living memory when access to their territory began limited and dispossession from lands their lands increased. In his book, The Fourth World, George Manuel, who was born in 1921, describes the first time he experienced this encroachment. It came in the form of a fence that had been placed along a path that he and his grandparents had frequented to pick berries. A man told them that they were not welcome.[1] These stories remain in the hearts of the descendants who heard their grandparents share these experiences.

Protection of land and water within Secwpemcúl’ecw is a charge that the Secwepemc Nation takes seriously. When an open-pit copper and gold mine was proposed on the outskirts of Kamloops, the Stk’emlulpsemc te Secwépemc Nation (SSN)—a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship between Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and Skeetchestn Indian Band—stepped in to assert title over the proposed site. SSN spearheaded their own cultural heritage assessment as evidence of their continued occupation over the area. On June 27, 2018 the Government of Canada made the following statement:

In conformity with the approval of the Governor in Council, the Ministers of Natural Resources and Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard have taken the following course of action on June 19, 2018, relating to the comprehensive study of the Ajax Mine Project. The authorities shall not exercise any power or perform any duty or function with respect to the project because, after taking into consideration the Comprehensive Study Report, comments from Indigenous groups and the public, and the implementation of appropriate mitigation measures, the authorities are of the opinion that the project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects that cannot be justified in the circumstances.[2]


The  SSN provided a campaign that highlighted ten reasons why they said “Me7e Pípsell Ta7a Ajax (Yes Pípsell No Ajax)” as follows:

    1. The Stk’emlúpsemc te Secwépemc Nation has an irreplaceable historical, cultural and spiritual connection to Pípsell.
    2. Stk’emlúpsemc te Secwépemc Nation (SSN) has always been caretakers of these lands and we want to ensure the future enjoyment of Pípsell as it is uniquely situated to serve as a place between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
    3. Federally – the current government admitted to the inadequacy of the current federal assessment process and conducted their own expert review and BC is following suit.
    4. Experts express serious concerns about KGHM-Ajax possible effects on our air, water and health.
    5. Biodiversity & sustainability of sensitive and endangered species & ecosystems.
    6. Water withdrawal on an Endangered River in perpetuity?
    7. BC Auditor General Carol Bellringer Reports that BC government management of mining industry is failing to protect the environment against significant risk.
    8. Net Benefits to SSN, British Columbians and Canadians?
    9. Experts Conclude that KGHM-Ajax Represents an Unconscionable Risk to Investors, Governments and the Public.
    10. SSN Employment Benefits Reality Check.[3]

The connection to the land is noted in the report as Pípsell runs deep with the Secwepemc Peoples. “Pípsell” itself means “trout” and the story that was told of Pípsell (also known as Jacko Lake) is known as “The Trout Children” and its location is believed to be that of Pípsell. On June 20, 2017, SSN and allies celebrated the designation of Pípsell as a Secwépemc Nation cultural heritage site. An exhibit to commemorate the story of the Trout Children can be viewed as an exhibit at the Secwépemc Museum and Heritage Park at Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, or here.


The Coyote Project – TRU Law visits proposed AJAX site at Pipsell.

  1. George Manuel & Michael Posluns, The Fourth World: An Indian Reality (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press 2019). 48-50.
  2. Canada, Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, "Decision Statement: Ajax Mine Project" (27 June 2018), online: Government of Canada <//iaac-aeic.gc.ca/050/evaluations/document/123178?culture=en-CA> [perma.cc/M2EZ-6PS5].
  3. "Me7e Pípsell Ta7a Ajax – Yes Pípsell No Ajax: SSN Response to British Columbia’s & CEAA Environmental Assessment Office Ajax Mine Project Assessment Reports" (August 2017), online (pdf): Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation <stkemlups.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/2017.08.09__SSN-Media-Release-re-Me7ePipsell_Ta7aAjax-EAReport.pdf> [perma.cc/EEW7-548W].


Implementing Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action Copyright © by Nicole Schabus (academic lead). All Rights Reserved.

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