First Nations - Land Rights and Environmentalism in British Columbia

Encampment at Vallican with Frog Mountain seen in the distance, 2005. Photo: Peacemaker (Click to enlarge)


Eva Orr (right) welcomes monks to Vallican, 1991.
Photo: J. Addington



Sinixt elder Eva Adolph Orr (left) passed away on 20 February 2006. Eva was born in about 1910 while her mother was in Sinixt Territory berry picking. She was among the last of the Sinixt people to be born "free" instead of in "captivity" on the Colville Reservation. She spoke the Sinixt language and knew the creation story of Frog Mountain, which overlooks Vallican and embodies the oral history of how Frog saved the Sinixt people during a time of terrible suffering.

 top of page

In 1989, Eva Orr oversaw the first of a number of Sinixt reburials at Vallican (right), an ancient Sinixt village and burial ground. International visitors to Vallican have included exiled Tibetan monks (above), Indonesian forest activists and a film crew from Germany. As of 2006, the Sinixt have repatriated and reburied a total of 61 skeletal remains.

"We have a cultural law that says you must, when you are done with this body, go back to the earth. When people go and dig up our ancestors and put them on shelves, in boxes, in macrame wall hangings, or use them for other types of decoration, it makes my ancestors break their cultural law. They can't go back. And it is our responsibility, because we are the descendants of those people. They are our ancestors. It is our responsibility to bring our ancestors home and rebury them and protect their resting places" Marilyn James, Spokesperson, Sinixt Nation.


Frog Mountain, from Vallican.
Photo: Dick Tilton

 top of page

"In 1987 the Ministry of Highways began construction of a new road at Vallican in the Slocan Valley. Construction was halted when many artifacts, skeletal remains and pit house depressions were uncovered. The ancient village and burial grounds were studied, but no attempt was made to contact any Sinixt descendants. The remains were sent to museums and the government proposed establishing an information and picnic area at the site. When Sinixt elder Eva Orr learned of these events, she sent some of her people to investigate" Sinixt Nation.

Bob Campbell, Sinixt Head Man, Vallican, 2005.
Photo: Peacemaker


Vallican (nkweio'xten).
Map: Bouchard and Kennedy

Since 1989 the Sinixt have kept a presence at Vallican to protect the graves from further disturbance and to demand that Canada revoke their extinct status and reallocate the Arrow Lakes Indian Reserve. This occupation of Crown land is the longest ongoing aboriginal protest in Canada.

Historically Sinixt villages were made up of autonomous kinships and households under the direction an authority of a "Head Man" or chief (ilmixwm). Head Man Bob Campbell (left) greets visitors and Sinixt supporters to Vallican during a fall ceremony in 2005.

 top of page

Non Sinixt protests have also been held over the unsustainable Kootenay culture of destruction and waste. When Slocan Forest Products began road building in 2000 to clearcut the forests of Trozzo Creek in the Slocan Valley, there was wide spread community anger over the industrial logging of public land and the wrecking of an important public watershed. To protest, a barricade of logs and signs was erected at the logging company's gate (right).

Protestors locked themselves to the barricade and asserted solidarity with the Sinixt: "We stand on unceded Native land uninvited, as visitors. Trozzo Creek lies within the traditional territory of the Sinixt People. They have never given permission to Slocan Forest Products to build or blast or log in that watershed" EACT Watershed Alliance.


Blockade at Trozzo Creek, 20 September 2000.
Photo: EACT Watershed Alliance


View north looking up Slocan Lake, Sinixt Territory.
Photo: R. Spiess

A happy event in 2005 was the birth of baby Agnice (right), the first Sinixt to be born in Sinixt Territory in almost one hundred years and the great grand daughter of Eva Orr (c. 1910 - 2006). The photo on the right appeared on the front page of the local newpaper: with baby Agnice are mother Lola Campbell, grandfather Bob Campbell (son of Eva Orr and Sinixt Head Man), and uncle Robert Watt (appointed Guardian of Vallican).


The Slocan River system is one of the last strongholds of the Bull Trout. As freshwater char that spawn in their natal headwater streams and migrate great distances, their movement patterns have severely altered by the extensive damming of the Columbia River. Vallican symbolizes hope for the remarkable indigenous fish species that is the namesake of the Sinixt (sngaytskstx).

Agnice Sophia Campbell, born 9 October 2005.
Photo: Nelson Express

 top of page

Source:     Printed:

Copyright: All Rights Reserved. Researched, written, compiled, formatted, hyperlinked and encoded by Dr. Karen Wonders. Images and intellectual property rights reside with the credited owner. Commercial transmission and/or reproduction requires written permission. Use for educational and research purposes requires proper citation.