Today, June 6, marks the beginning of what is hoped will be a new relationship between First Nations and local governments.
On Sept. 28 of last year, the Shuswap Local and Secwepemc Governments Communications Agreement was born. Representatives from the Adams Lake, Neskonlith, Little Shuswap Lake and Splatsin First Nations gathered at the Adams Lake Conference Centre with reps from the Columbia Shuswap Regional District and Salmon Arm, Enderby, Chase and Sicamous councils to formalize a communications agreement.
Today will be the first of annual meetings laid out in that agreement, which encourages all parties to come together, both formally and informally, to speak on issues of importance to Secwepemc people and other local communities. The yearly formal gathering is of elected officials from communities that signed the agreement.
Today’s meeting will be hosted by the City of Salmon Arm at the Prestige Harbourfront Resort.
The agreement also puts into writing a sense of trust, mutual respect and recognition of legitimacy between First Nations and other local governments. It mandates openness, transparency and “no surprises” in communication between these governments going forward.
Kukpi7 (Chief) Cliff Arnouse of the Adams Lake Band says he is pleased to be attending.
“They’ve asked me to come – it’s very important for all the local communities,” he says. “It’s good to communicate, to talk, to meet and greet and eat. It is mostly just to find out who they are, let them know who we are, some of our goals, some of our principles.”
Arnouse said it’s beneficial for all of those involved to be able to provide a united front to other governments.
“It’s all good to have these local governments and Secwepemc communities talk about our local interests, trying to work together with different joint initiatives, to provide a local voice…”
Salmon Arm Mayor Alan Harrison said he, too, is happy about the meeting.
“It’s a lot about relationship building,” he says, about establishing regular and meaningful communications.
He also emphasized working together, whether looking at provincial or federal funds, land issues, wildfire mitigation, homelessness or economic development.
Harrison also acknowledged the work of former Mayor Nancy Cooper who signed the communications protocol on behalf of the city.
Kukpi7 Judy Wilson of the Neskonlith Band won’t be attending as she is out of town but members of the band council will be at the meeting.