“He said ‘I’m 86 years old and I can’t look after the land anymore,’ and I want to give it to your people,” Belleau said. “He said ‘it was always your land, I’m giving it back to the people. I thought ‘wow’.”
In a surprise move a Cariboo rancher has donated his land to Esk’etemc (Alkali Lake) First Nation after being a neighbour of the community for more than 50 years.
Kenneth Linde, 86, bought the land in 1961 and is giving 50 per cent of 640 acres, the woodlot and the water rights to Esk’etemc. Grand Chief Ed John described Linde’s gesture as a “remarkable act of reconciliation.”
“It’s significant because now there’s dialogue in this country about reconciliation and rather than talking about it he is doing something about it,” John said.
Chief Charlene Belleau announced Linde’s gift during a declaration of Esk’etemc title and rights ceremony and celebration held Monday, May 8 in the community at the Sxoxomic Gymnasium.
Belleau said Linde had called the band office asking her to meet him at his ranch and surprised her with his offer. As he stood there draped in a blanket presented to him by the community, the community honoured him with a song, hugs and handshakes.
“Look after the waters on the land,” Linde told the crowd.
Hundreds of people attended the celebration, which began with a traditional pipe ceremony. Many were dressed in regalia and holding ceremonial staffs or feathers.
The celebration and ceremony showed how the community is tying itself back to the land in a significant way, Grand Chief Ed John said.
“The churches and governments for a long time tried to disconnect us from our land, languages and culture,” John said.
“Today I see the effort of the people here to reorganize themselves and rethink according to their teachings and values, connecting back to each other as families, community and connecting back to their songs and drums and more importantly to the land.”