Kukpi7 (Chief) Judy Wilson of the Neskonlith Band had words of praise for the consultation between her people and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure on an ongoing highway project. (Black Press file photo)

Collaboration on Shuswap highway project receives national award

Neskonlith Chief Judy Wilson says expansion will open new economic opportunities for the band

Collaborative efforts between the Neskonlith Indian Band and the province in relation to highway upgrade projects that run through two areas of Neskonlith land have not gone unnoticed.

The projects and related engagement between the Nekonlith and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure are being celebrated with a Marketing Canada Award by the Economic Developers Association of Canada. The national awards recognize excellence in in marketing and community initiatives in economic development.

Neskonlith Chief Judy Wilson expressed her appreciation for the ministry’s willingness to collaborate on the design of the highway with the Neskonlith community. She said the highway expansion will open up new economic opportunities for the band and help the economy across the region. She also sees it as crucial for improving the safety of Neskonlith community members while also preserving the culturally and environmentally sensitive territory it runs through.

A Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure representative confirmed the award applies to the four-laning projects which run through Neskonlith IR #2 west of Chase, and IR #3 near Salmon Arm. The award recognizes what was achieved by consulting with Neskonlith on early conceptual designs of the project, but the ministry representative said they continue to collaborate with Neskonlith on other aspects of the four-laning projects.

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Rob Fleming, B.C.’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, echoed Wilson’s satisfaction with the engagement process on the highway project. He said it resulted in an innovative outcome despite encountering some technical challenges.

According to a statement from the ministry, the provincial and federal governments followed a process based on Neskonlith’s traditional ways of making decisions. The Neskonlith chief and council made it clear from the start of the project that they wanted to integrate traditional culture and language, and ensure decisions came from members of their community. To that end, local elders were consulted and research was done into Secwépemc tradition and law. Whenever possible, words, phrases and processes from the Secwépemc language were included in project materials.

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The statement from the ministry noted the EDAC award is a testament to the power of First Nations and governments rethinking how they work together.

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