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Stein Valley

Date of Submission: 13/04/2018
Criteria: (iii)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Parks Canada Agency
State, Province or Region:
British Columbia
Coordinates: 10 U 597193 E 5569871 N
Ref.: 6341

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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


The Stein Valley is an intact, well-documented associative cultural landscape of great significance to the Nlaka’pamux. This protected wilderness area contains spectacular scenery and outstanding cultural and spiritual values. Transitioning from the dry interior to the wetter Coastal Mountains, the valley encompasses diverse ecological zones, including open pine forests, cedar groves, alpine tundra, and glaciers. This varied environment sustains many species of plants and animals important to the Nlaka’pamux, including medicinal plants, mushrooms, cedars, trout and deer. The Stein Valley continues to be an important place for hunting, fishing, gathering, and spiritual pursuits, and ancient trails are used and maintained throughout the valley. Many culturally significant places are present, including named places, spiritual and sacred sites, traditional use areas, groves of culturally modified cedars, archaeological sites, a rare arborglyph, and pictograph sites, including one of the largest and most significant panels in the province of British Columbia. The many tangible and intangible attributes of the Stein Valley cultural landscape attest to the ongoing traditional and spiritual significance of this valley for the Nlaka’pamux.

The Nlaka’pamux have always been very protective of this valley, which remained relatively unknown to outsiders well into the 20th century. When roads and industrial logging were proposed for the Stein Valley in the 1970s, Lytton First Nation led a 25 year battle against development, together with neighbouring Nlaka’pamux and other Indigenous communities and joined by environmental groups. This culminated in the 1995 creation of the 107,191 ha Stein Valley Nlaka’pamux Heritage Park, co-managed by the Lytton First Nation and BC Parks. Today the Stein Valley is shared with all those who respect its cultural and natural values, and recreational access is restricted to low-impact self-propelled activities. Most importantly, the Stein Valley continues to be used by the Nlaka’pamux in traditional and spiritual ways.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Stein Valley is central to the Nlaka’pamux way of life. This spectacular landscape ranges from open pine forests to verdant subalpine meadows and ice-capped peaks. In the lower valley, the Stein Valley cascades through an impressive cliff-lined canyon. The rich environment of this valley has sustained and nurtured the Nlaka’pamux for millennia—providing them with many of their traditional foods, medicines, and materials. Most important, the Stein Valley embodies the sacred aspects of Nlaka’pamux life—a place where the Nlaka’pamux go to gain knowledge and spiritual power. Tangible evidence of this sacred nature lies in the many well-preserved pictographs found on cliffs and boulders along the ancient trail, revealing sacred places where spiritual powers are gained through visions and rituals. A wealth of Nlaka’pamux traditional knowledge, in the forms of Creation stories, oral histories, and ethnobotany, are a testament to the intangible attributes that embody the significance of the landscape. Numerous named places tell of long ago events involving transformers and their ancestors, and the valley still resonates with hhA.hha. (sacred powers). The Nlaka’pamux continue to use, maintain, and protect this vital cultural landscape. It remains their most sacred place for teaching our traditions and for gaining spiritual knowledge.

Crierion (iii): The Stein Valley bears exceptional testimony to a living cultural tradition representative of Indigenous land-use in the western North American plateau. An extensive trail network, named places, archaeological sites, resource gathering locations, pictographs, and ongoing traditional and spiritual use by the Nlaka’pamux attest to its long-term significance.

Criterion (vi): The valley is tangibly associated with living traditions and beliefs that evocatively illustrate an Indigenous people’s relationship to a cultural landscape, and features prominently in numerous spataqulh (Creation stories) and spEElahhem (oral narratives).

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The features and attributes of the Stein Valley truthfully and credibly express the proposed Outstanding Universal Value of the property. Tangible heritage features (trails, archaeological sites, culturally modified cedars, pictographs) are genuine, unaltered and unimpaired manifestations of Indigenous land-use and spirituality. Intangible heritage features associated with the landscape (place names, Creation stories, oral narratives, ongoing traditional practices) are truthful representations of Nlaka’pamux traditions. This genuine cultural significance is corroborated by the living knowledge of Nlaka’pamux elders as well as more than 125 years of historical documentation. The Stein Valley features prominently in more than 100 documented spataqulh (Creation stories) and spEElahhem (oral narratives), and these are supplemented by numerous archival, historic, ethnographic and archaeological reports and studies. The authenticity and credibility of the features associated with the proposed Outstanding Universal Value is without question.

The property is a complete and intact watershed of sufficient size (107,191 ha) to ensure complete representation of the features that convey its significance. All tangible elements necessary to express the proposed OUV of the property are present, including a wide variety of archaeological sites and resource areas, the most significant pictographs in the region, and a full range of landscape features associated with intangible heritage elements. The property is a roadless wilderness area that is neither threatened nor impaired by commercial or industrial development. Recreational use is carefully managed and monitored to minimize the risk of potential adverse effects.

Comparison with other similar properties

Appropriate comparative properties to the Stein Valley are associative cultural landscapes that are (a) inscribed on the World Heritage list, and (b) included in Canada’s current Tentative List. Three inscribed properties (Tongariro, Uluru-Kata Tjuta, and Papahānaumokuākea) and two sites on Canada’s TL (Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi, Pimachiowin Aki) are particularly relevant.

World Heritage Cultural Landscapes 1992-2002 (World Heritage Paper #6) identifies 14 significant characteristics of cultural landscapes, eight of which are applicable to the associative category: aesthetic quality, continuity of lifeway/land-use, significant to a people, mountains and/or water integral to landscape, encompassed by a protected area, local population plays a significant role in management, a sacred dimension is present, and survival of the social group is a significant theme.

Like the three inscribed properties listed above, the Stein Valley rates highly in all eight categories, and on this basis it demonstrates value. However, the Stein Valley is also distinguished from these sites for these reasons: a) no equivalent cultural landscapes are currently inscribed in North America, b) it is the most outstanding and representative Indigenous associative cultural landscape in the geo-cultural region (western cordillera/plateau), c) it is a landscape associated with an exceptional array of intangible heritage (place names, Creation stories, oral narratives, ongoing spiritual and traditional practices), d) the intangible heritage is directly associated with tangible features of the landscape, including exceptional natural features and pictographs, e) the pictographs are a tangible manifestation of outstanding Indigenous spiritual traditions of the region, including prophecies, vision questing and puberty rituals, and f) there is an exceptional ongoing relationship of the Nlaka’pamux to the Stein Valley, including a full co-management role.

Two sites on Canada’s Tentative List for World Heritage - Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi and Pimachiowin Aki - are outstanding associative cultural landscapes within their geo-cultural regions. Likewise, the Stein Valley is an outstanding example in its own region.