More than 10 years of planning culminated with the signing of a 99-year lease agreement between the Cariboo Regional District (CRD) and a group of local First Nations relating to a parcel of land near 108 Mile Lake on Oct. 14.
Close to 50 people were in attendance under a white tent next to the 108 Mile Rest Area off Highway 97, near the proposed site of a Northern Secwepemc First Nation’s museum and cultural centre.
With the construction of the complex, the Northern Secwepemc Cultural Society (NSCS) – which represents the Canim Lake Band, Stswecem’c Xgat’tem, Soda Creek Indian Band, Williams Lake Indian Band and Esketemc First Nation – hopes to preserve and share historical information and objects of educational and cultural value.
Canim Lake Band Chief Mike Archie participated in a drumming ceremony and addressed the crowd before the signing.
“It’s time to do the building and have a place to see what our history has to offer” he said, adding the site is “a powerful place.”
CRD chair Al Richmond also spoke before the signing. Richmond emphasized partnership, co-operation and bringing communities and their histories together with the 108 Heritage Site nearby.
“Projects of this nature show what can truly be accomplished when all levels of government, societies and residents work together in collaboration. This is what building communities together is truly about.”
Irene Gilbert, NSCS president, was one of the signatories.
“The signing marks the culmination of many years of hard work by numerous band members as well as many dedicated and talented professional consultants. Our society wishes to thank those people and all the chiefs and band councillors who have supported our project throughout our long journey to this point. We look forward to the next steps and are hoping that we will be operating our cultural centre and museum by the spring of 2017.”
The building site was acquired through donations from TELUS, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and through a lease of the land with the CRD.
Years of topographic surveys, archaeological and environmental impact assessments, feasibility studies, architectural schematic design and business plan development preceded the signing.
The CRD, Northern Development Initiative Trust, Heritage Canada, Western Economic Development Canada, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and the Cariboo Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition donated significant funding for the work to date and more than $125,000 has been contributed by the five participating NSCS bands.
Applications for funding the construction of the complex will be made in the near future, while the five Northern Secwepemc bands are expected to subsidize the centre’s operations.
Construction is expected to begin in 2016 and a tentative opening has been scheduled for May 2017.