REGINA -- A group of concerned citizens want to preserve the cultural and environmental significance of Kinookimaw, approximately 1,100 acres of land located West of Regina Beach.

Fourth-generation resident of the area, Jennifer Matts, said she has noticed a change in the land over the past few years.

“Unfortunately, this land is being decimated more and more each year,” said Matts. “ATV’s and motor vehicles (are) ripping up the natural grasslands. There (are) day campers and long-term campers, that are unauthorized on this land, who cut down trees for their fires, dump their sewer, dump their garbage (and) smash glass.”

Matts is also concerned with a number of unauthorized fire pits on the land, given how dry Southern Saskatchewan is right now and the impact a grassfire could have on the flora and fauna.

“This land is home to multitude of species. Also, Kinookimaw is on the migratory path of many waterbirds,” said Matts.

Matts said Indigenous burial grounds are also located in Kinookimaw, and the spot holds a lot of importance for Indigenous people in the area.

“There are many Indigenous medicines that are still out here that Indigenous peoples come and pick, such as sage and berries, so there's a lot of cultural and environmental significance to this land,” she said.

Kinookimaw has a complex history. In the late 1800’s, it was designated a fishing station for seven First Nations: Pasqua, George Gordons, Kawacatoose, Muskoweken, Daystar, Muscowpetung and Piapot. In 1918, the Federal Government obtained a surrender of the land back to the crown. Then, in the 1970’s, the seven First Nations created an entity called the ‘Kinookimaw Beach Association’ (KBA) to negotiate possession of the unsold lands.

“Canada has provided Kinookimaw Beach Association... with a head lease that expires in 2056,” said Matthew P. Peigan, KBA president and chief of Pasqua First Nation.

Chief Peigan said there has always been a problem with people trespassing on Kinookimaw. He said they had security, but those funds ran out, so now they are working to add more ‘no trespassing’ signs.

In the meantime, Chief Pegian is asking the public to be respectful of the land.

“Anyone that goes to Kinookimaw Beach, they need prior approval to either camp there, to go with their all-terrain vehicles, to go snowmobiling, to go camping,” he said. “We’re just asking for that respect.”

Matts and Daniels are also asking the public to be respectful of the land, as they continue to educate people on Kinookimaw’s significance. They’ve also created a Facebook group, titled ‘Friends of Kinookimaw,’ to hear any suggestions others may have.

“I think a lot of ATV’s and motor vehicles and unauthorized campers don't even realize that that's not permitted out here, and the damage that they're doing,” Matts said. “It’s vital that we try and protect this land.”