Two B.C. First Nations are "shutting down the public access” to the popular Joffre Lakes Provincial Park until Sept. 30 to carry out a "harvest celebration."
In a joint statement issued on Wednesday, Líl̓wat Nation and N’Quatqua First Nation said they made the decision to shut down to park so they can harvest and gather resources within the territories, known as Pipi7iyekw.
“We are asking you to help in honouring us by providing us with sufficient time and space that we require to conduct our Nt’akmen within our lands,” states the release.
The Líl̓wat Nation translates Nt’akmen as "our way," encompassing both culture and traditions, according to a community document describing the nation's inherent rights.
Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is known for its three turquoise-blue lakes, which can be viewed along a 10-kilometre round-trip hike.
Generally, BC Parks lists the park as "open to public access year-round." But in a statement posted to its website Thursday says that "due to unanticipated circumstances, the park is currently inaccessible to the general public."
"All impacted day-use pass and reservation holders have been contacted directly. Please continue to visit this page for further updates."
In 2021, the province entered into a partnership with Lil'wat and N'Quatqua Nations, later issuing mandatory day-use passes to visit the popular park under adjusted booking rules.
The nations point to the Visitor Use Management Strategy from 2021 and say the decision to limit access to the park falls under the goals and objectives.
"Shutting down" the park will ensure opportunities for the two nations to carry out ceremonial activities within the park and educate park users on respectful behaviour when ceremonies are occurring, they said.
“Pipi7iyekw-Joffre Lakes Park is located within the shared, overlapping unceded traditional territory of the Lil'wat Nation and N’Quatqua First Nation,” said the nations in a written statement.
"These lands have been used and occupied by the Lil'wat Nation and N’Quatqua First Nation since time immemorial.”
The release also points to the United Nations Declaration of Rights for Indigenous Peoples to have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights. The temporary closure will last until Sept. 30, National Truth and Reconciliation Day in British Columbia.