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Lheidli T'enneh open economic development office
It’s been 100 years and six months according to Chief Dominic Frederick, but the Lheidli T’enneh have officially returned to their traditional territory, now downtown Prince George, and opened an economic development office to help nation members take advantage of coming opportunities.
Frederick, who delivered a heartfelt and serious message peppered with his usual dry humour, welcomed those who attended the grand opening of the office during an official ceremony Thursday afternoon.
“Today we are here to talk about the future,” he said. “It will be a bright future for our children, grandchildren and future generations. We could soon be in one of the most important periods in our economic history.”
Frederick pointed out billions of dollars in development is happening in the north in the next two decades, from the Site C dam to oil and gas and LNG developments. He said the Lheidli T’enneh plan to enjoy this period of development with new jobs for youth, contractors and community members.
“We are here to say the Lheidli T’enneh are open for business,” Frederick said. As the crowd applauded he said,”Wait. I’m not done yet. We waited 100 years and six months for this.”
The office, located on George St. in the city’s District Energy building, he said, is proof positive the nation is ready to move forward and be part of the opportunities that present themselves.
The office will help facilitate communications between the First Nations and those who wish to learn more about them and share development possibilities.
A dialogue, Frederick said, was already opened between the Lheidli T’eneh and Enbridge many years ago, when that company first approached them for their thoughts on the Northern Gateway pipeline.
Frederick thanked Enbridge for supporting the opening of the Lheidli T’enneh’s economic development office.
“Enbridge contributed funds,” he said. “They approached us the first time many years ago about the pipeline.
“Without financial support this would not be possible.”
The city contributed to the project by providing the office space rent free for four months.
He added his hope is the office will be part of the renewal and re-energization of the downtown area. In July, he pointed out, about 5,000 Aboriginal elders will meet for the 37th annual B.C. Elders Gathering, and the office will play a part of hosting the attendees. He said it would also help the Lheidli T’eneh fulfill it’s part as host aboriginal nation during the Canada Winter Games.
Mayor Shari Green, who attended the event along with members of city council, said she looked forward to collaborating with the Lheidli T’enneh on future projects, saying they shared economic development goals.
Regional District of Fraser Fort George Chair Art Kaehn said he is also looking forward to shared projects and welcomed the office to the neighbourhood, which he pointed out is strategically placed, with city hall a few blocks away and the regional district office even closer.