Indigenous Heritage Stewardship Chapter 5


The St’át’imc have lived upon the land since time began. Our history is written upon the land. Our history is passed on from generation to generation, through the stories and legends. nxekmenlhkálha lti tmícwa [St’át’imc Land Use Plan 2004]

The essay is focused on the archeological perspective of the relationship between First Nations and the Forest Industries related to Cultural Resource Management (CRM). The fifth chapter takes into consideration the St’at’mic nation’s point of view and their fight for their rights and titles of land conservation as well as their implication in the development of heritage stewardship programs and policies. It establishes the link between the heritage stewardship and the forest industry, the development of the relations and the various groups that were created during and after the encounters of both parties. Archeology was usually used as a tool to protect and conserve native lands, and therefore there is a major focus on archeological help that was brought to the St’at’mic communities in the creation of heritage conservation groups.

Many of the forest industries licensees are in close contact with the Lillooet Tribal Council (LTC) concerning forest cutting areas on heritage sites.

LTC Heritage Stewardship Program

A culture heritage team was created beginning 2000, as a result of the LTC relationship with forestry licensees. This program is particular compared to other First Nations as the LTC chose against hiring non-native archeologists to assess the various sites and projects. The first part of the Heritage Stewardship program is the identification of cultural heritage components in various areas on maps and resource planning, different types and views of photos and knowledge on previous archaeological research done in the area. This first part has been called the Cultural Heritage Overview (CHO) and involves meetings with Elders and community members as to acquire the traditional land use management and prioritize cultural sensitive areas. Following this first stage there is the Heritage Field Reconnaissance (HFR) which is more of field based research and identification of site-specific concerns. This particular stage includes the identification and assessment of trail marker trees and wildlife corridors, and to provide an archeological impact assessment. Each report includes the management process for the site-specific and if there is need for further research development. Therefore, if additional research is required it goes on to the final stage of development which is the Archeological Impact Assessment (AIA). This stage determines the sites that are archaeologically regulated and locates and determines the nature of site (such as burial sites). There are various techniques used for this research which are subsurface testing, shovel testing and cultural surveys. For the AIA stage an archeologist is brought in by the tribal council to help the cultural heritage team with the project assessment.

The reports also include local traditional knowledge of the area where chiefs and locals that were familiar with the work and area were allowed to review and verify the reports, with an open say in the matter. Although, there have been troubles during the researches as there was not always enough people or experience, with different result interpretations at times.

As the LTC required local community members to be part of it, this occasion provided work and experience, with the additional participation of learning from their elders. This project also allowed archeologists and the local government to understand better the value of the land for the First Nations and bring a better cooperation between both parties. Still, many industries did not regard the two previous stages as much as the last one as they did not involve a professional.

The difficulty also lay in the decision making process, as to manage an equal decision between the protection of a site and the economical benefits for the community.

Little by little the responsibility for the heritage projects began to shift to the communities themselves (2004) which led on to the formation of the St’at’mic Chiefs Council (SCC) and negations with the government. The SCC created the St’at’imc Land  and Resource Authority (SLRA) to look after the policy and decision making  for resource management and protection. Additionally, forest industrial companies favored community based relations and cooperation.

Heritage Stewardship Results

Although the LTC was very beneficial for the community and employment of community members, it began to decline in influence. By 2004 the primary licensee stopped harvesting as much and this allowed Northern St’at’mic communities to start harvesting their own forest tenure. Their was a big question rising on where the LTC was standing, and it lost influence and disappeared in 2006 mainly because of how it fit in the overall Nation governance: the work the LTC was doing was beneficial but the approval and decision making stage was flawed.

Nevertheless, the St’at’mic were still developing the heritage program: undertaking impact assessment, still relying on the expertise of outsiders and some community members going on to pursue advanced training. During this period the Nation developed the Nxekmenlhkálha Lti

Tmícwa (the St’át’imc Land Use Plan, 2004), describing plan management of the land.

Further conflict with BC Hydro and forest industry encouraged the communities to unite and create broader strategies and measures concerning their rights and title of the land.

In 2002 the St’at’mic Chiefs Council was created (SCC), meeting up regularly to speak about the issues their communities were facing and find solutions. With that initiation taken, the council went on to create the St’at’mic Elder Council (SEC) to provide feedback and guidance to the St’at’mic Land and Resource Authority (SLR) dealing with land and resource issues. The SCC also developed Nxekmenlhkálha Lti Tmícwa (St’át’imc land-use plan (LUP)) for the entire territory. This land-use plan is based on the St’at’mic vision, principles and traditional knowledge of the land, based on one major focus: what can be done to leave what is left from the land instead of what can be extracted from it.

By 2006 the LTC was suspended but the influence and philosophy of the LTC still remained, however, the different draft plans will lead the direction to an ongoing heritage stewardship conservation plan. For this to be developed and set up there should be a governance structure to support and enforce nation-wide instruments.There should also be SLRA review and Elders and traditional leadership. The big question for this stewardship is where will it reside within the St’at’mic governance structure and the design of the implementation. Moreover, in order for the stewardship to develop further there is also the need for the implications of the Elders and the Youth, as the younger generation needs to learn about traditional knowledge to be able to take over the stewardship in the future.


With help of archeologists in the development of the different plans and management, the St’at’mic have been able to overcome many difficulties and arise as a nation, with an ongoing development of a stewardship plan. They have gained more influence in the heritage stewardship awareness and the conservation of traditional knowledge.

First Nations in:

  • Source Michael Klassen (2013) Indigenous Heritage Stewardship and the Transformation of Archaeological Practice: Two Case Studies from the Mid-Fraser Region of British Columbia.