Nemiah Valley is home to the Xeni Gwet’in Aboriginal people, who have been fighting a relatively unknown battle to protect their land and home. Although the Xeni Gwet’in have lived in the Chilcotin mountains of British Columbia centuries before Europeans arrived in Canada, they have still not been awarded ownership to the land. The Xeni Gwet’in are one of six Chilcotin First Nations Aboriginal groups and have a total population of approximately four hundred.
Their numbers were greatly reduced after Euro-Canadian contact introduced small pox in the early nineteenth century. In addition to this devastation, the Xeni Gwet’in were forced to attend boarding or “residential schools,” where many were brutally abused and killed until 2006, when the last residential school was closed. In 1998, the Canadian government offered a public apology and offered monetary compensation to the many Native victims. Despite these horrific events, the Xeni Gwet’in’s determination has not weakened and in 1997 Former Chief and current Councilman, Roger William filed a title and rights case, claiming ownership the land.