Xeni Gwet’in hikers who travelled over the Coast Mountains from their home community last summer are gathering in Whistler to attend the premiere of a film featuring their trip.
The film Shaped by Wild, by outdoor clothing company Arc’teryx, will also include other stories of those living and adventuring in the Coast Mountains.
Arc’teryx filmmakers visited the Xeni Gwet’in in the Nemiah Valley, and documented some of the preparation for their trip over the Coast Mountains, and both the beginning and the end of their journey along a route meant as both a way to support men’s wellness and return to a tradition nearly lost to living memory.
Five men left the Nemiah Valley in July of 2022 to cross the mountains and the Homathko Icefields along the way, making their way 75 kilometres through dense rainforest and high waterways along the way, returning to a seasonal trip made historically by some of the Xeni Gwet’in.
Three of the hikers were members of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation and one of them was Chief Jimmy Lulua.
Lulua said the trip was meaningful not just for those who made the journey themselves, but also for the elders of the community, who saw the trip as a return to a nearly lost tradition and the location of the Chilcotin War.
“I was pretty surprised to see the emotion on our elders,” he said of their group arriving in Bute Inlet after the hike, where community members had flown ahead to meet them and welcome them.
Lulua said he saw the journey as coming full circle after the official apologies by both the provincial and the federal governments for the hanging of six Tsilhqot’in chiefs which took place in Quesnel in 1864 as a response to the Chilcotin War.
A chief returning to the location of the Chilcotin War after the Supreme Court decision in 2014 of a declaration of Indigenous title to Tsilhqot’in Nation and the apologies for the hanging of six chiefs was a way to honour those chiefs, according to Lulua. He said he hopes the film also helps draw attention to the work the Tsilhqot’in Nation has been doing and Xeni Gwet’in specifically, in working to sustainably manage their territory.
The hike was made possible partially through the support of Arc’teryx, which helped outfit the hikers with technical gear and clothing, and White Saddle Air, which provided helicopter and logistical support. Lulua said he was grateful for what they contributed and for the support of the entire Xnei Gwet’in community and the Tsilhqot’in National Government.
Both Lulua and his daughter Kaitlyn Lulua are featured in the film and are heading down to the premiere, Saturday, February 11 at 7 p.m. at the Whistler Conference Centre.