Voices for the Wilderness

a sound document of the first Stein Festival, held in the alpine meadows of the Stein watershed near Lytton, B.C., produced in collaboration with Norbert Ruebsaat.

Voices for the Wilderness (1986)

A slide tape presentation commemorating the first Stein Valley Alpine Cultural Festival (1985)

Produced by
Norbert Ruebsaat and Hildegard Westerkamp

Photographs by
Joe Foy, Ken Lay, Jessoa Lightfoot, Pat Morrow, Norbert Ruebsaat, Bob Siemeniuk, David Thompson.

Technical Assistance by Sandi Rogers

Background image "Prayer for Stein" by Joe Davis

Voices for the Wilderness is a sound slide presentation of the Voices for the Wilderness Cultural Festival held Labour Day Weekend, 1985, in the high country of the Stein Watershed.

400-plus people hiked up to timberline to camp together for three days of feasting, singing, story-telling, speech-making, circle and pipe ceremonies and political strategy sessions to draw attention to the logging threat on this, the last remaining wilderness watershed in the region.

The weekend was a very special experience for all who participated because it released combinations of spiritual and political, personal and communal, civilized and wild energies that are normally all but inaccessible to urban dwellers and that were unique to this location.

Voices for the Wilderness documents some of this dynamic, and is intended as a record of the event for those who participated, and as an introduction to the issue and its emotions for those who didn't. The sound track brings together songs, chanting, speeches, drumming, fireside conversations, music and environmental sound to give an acoustic portrait of the weekend. It mixes these with spoken testimony from the B.C. Wilderness Advisory Committee Hearings held in Lytton in February, 1986, to further clarify the issue of Native aboriginal land claims and environmental rights.

Thanks to the Lillooet Tribal Council for organizing and hosting this unique event, and to all participants of the Wilderness Festival for helping make this document possible. Special thanks go to Joe David, The Yalakom Drummers, Napoleon Kruger, Hilda Austin, Dan Rubin, and all others who brought their songs and music to the festival, as well as to Chief Perry, Grant Copeland, Tom Crawley, Adrian Dorse, Ruby Dunstan, John McCandless, Michael McGonigle, Jessoa Lightfoot, Will Paulik, and all others who spoke and shared their thoughts.

The Stein Valley is the last unlogged, unmined, undammed wilderness watershed within a day's reach of Vancouver, B.C. It flows into the Fraser River at Lytton, B.C. after traversing a range of ecosystems from high alpine to coast forest to interior dry belt. It is the spiritual and ancestoral home of the Lytton and Mount Curry Indians, who have an unfulfilled aboriginal land claim on the valley, and it contains countless rock paintings, petroglyphs, burial and food-gathering sites. It is the home of numerous wildlife species, from grizzly bear to salmon.

B.C. Forest Products, a major logging corporation, currently holds a timber cutting licence in the area and is putting pressure on the B.C. Provincial Government to subsidize logging operations in the Stein's upper reaches. This would involve building a road through the lower part of the valley, where most of the historical and archeological sites are located, and it would destroy these forever. It would also destroy the last remaining habitats for wildlife which has sought refuge in the Stein as the adjoining valleys are gutted by logging and mining.

Despite a recommendation by the B.C. government's own Wilderness Advisory Committee that no logging should proceed in the Stein Valley without a formal agreement with the Lytton Indian Band, the government announced recently it was going ahead with the logging anyway.

Both the government and B.C. Forest Products base their arguments on jobs for the region (even though a recent ministry of forest document says that only 18 jobs would be lost if the Stein River valley was not logged), but the real question is one of authority: who should be allowed first access to and use of B.C.'s last remaining pockets of undisturbed wilderness landÑresource extraction companies, or future generations of children, both Native and White, for whom the experience of wilderness is a priceless heritage.

Hildegard Westerkamp and Norbert Ruebsaat