By Deb Steel
Six-year-old Eden knew her mom was suddenly very sad. It was supposed to be a good day. They had ventured out to visit Isobel Lake in Lac du Bois Grasslands, a BC Park near Kamloops.
But mom, Natika Bock, was suddenly crying. Eden couldn’t really grasp the meaning of the graffiti in bold red scrawled across the sign in front of them, right at the entrance to the busy park. But she knew there was a bad word on it.
“It was heartbreaking and I cried all the way to the lake,” said Bock. Her young daughter is Huu-ay-aht, from Vancouver Island, and Bock is part Mohawk.
“To read that made me feel like garbage,” Bock told Windspeaker.com, adding she had a hard time telling Eden why. Eden didn’t know why they swore.
“I want to protect her as long as I can from this world. I don’t want her to worry or feel like I did. Naïve, I know, but I didn’t know what to do.
“How do I explain that some people hate Indigenous people?”
A friend with connections to the park reported the graffiti, but apparently it had been first reported at least a week before. Bock said she took the photo Saturday, June 30, during a very busy Canada Day long weekend, and people had been travelling by the offensive message all week and all weekend too.
“It’s not in a super remote area,” said Bock. “It’s at the main entrance.”
They need to take it down, Bock said. The other part of the sign read that park officials frequent the area, and one was parked beside her when she took the photo of the graffiti-covered sign
Parks has said the sign will be replaced next week, Bock said.
“I don’t know why they are waiting."
UPDATE July 5:
Scott Fraser, minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, has issued the following statement on the recent defacing of signs in the Kamloops area:
“The Government of British Columbia denounces and condemns in the strongest possible terms the racist vandalism of Secwépemc Nation signs, outside a mushroom picking area near the Lac du Bois Grasslands Protected Area.
“This ignorant, cowardly and reprehensible act is contrary to the values of our government and the people of British Columbia and Canada.
“As part of wildfire recovery efforts following the 2017 Elephant Hill wildfire, government is partnering with the Secwépemc Nation to help protect and restore burnt areas. We support the First Nation’s stewardship role as ancestral caretakers of the land, and the Secwépemc approach to encourage responsible, safe and low-impact mushroom harvesting. Our partnership on Elephant Hill is a demonstration of our commitment to reconciliation, and the success we can achieve by working together.
“Our government is focused on a new relationship with Indigenous peoples — one built on partnership, respect and recognition of rights.
“We are committed to fighting racism and bigotry in all its forms, and upholding the commitments and principles of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“Racism and bigotry will not be tolerated, and is not reflective of who we are. Hatred will only win if we remain silent. We must work together to build a better future for all British Columbians.”
UPDATE July 26
Crime Stoppers is looking for information related to incidents that involved a handful of vandalized mushroom-picking advisory signs.
Signs erected by the Skeetchestn, High Bar, Whispering Pines and Bonaparte bands were recently defaced with racist graffiti in large red spray-painted letters. They were found on Lac Du Bois Road in the Cache Creek area and on Loon Lake Road near Clinton.
Another marked up sign was located near the Ashcroft Airport last weekend, according to Crime Stoppers. The sign had the words “white power” written over top the phrase “Secwépemc Territory.”
All the signs have since been removed and replaced.
As part of wildfire recovery efforts following the 2017 Elephant Hill wildfire, the B.C. government has partnered with the Secwépemc Nation to help protect and restore burnt areas. The bands are responsible for issuing permits to pickers.
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.