Three local governments work towards the acquisition of the ‘Kenpesq’t Community Forest

By Chadd Cawson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

It was a historic and special moment for the Shuswap Band, the Town of Golden and Area A, as Columbia Shuswap Regional District was celebrated on November 21 at the Shuswap Band office near Invermere. Through the signing of a memorandum to achieve better understanding, these three local governments reaffirmed their desire to come together and better understand one another, while working towards the acquisition of the ‘Kenpesq’t Community Forest’ within the Golden timber supply area.

“This memorandum signifies a change in relationship with the Town of Golden and the Regional District,” said Shuswap Band councillor, Mark Thomas. “Historically, differences based on our cultures and economics have been negative. This partnership symbolizes a recognition of those differences and a commitment to understand each other in a positive light.”

Golden has been working on the development of a community forest over the past 20 years. Before the signing took place the ceremony opened with a prayer, followed by the Shuswap Band drumming ceremony. 

“The ceremony we held at the Shuswap Band office was a great day,” said Thomas. “The event started with us meeting and greeting one another, followed by a ceremonial honour song, the memorandum signing, and lunch. Everyone left the meeting feeling positive and uplifted about the future together.  Personally, I felt as though we had accomplished something that day, and held a different reverence for one another.”

Thomas said all three local governments are eager to take the steps necessary to garner the support required to move to the next stage. Part of that process will be identifying a source of tenure which ultimately comes from the Government of B.C. Thomas added this venture is one where all three partners will learn together through both success and failure, but those lessons will bring something much greater, a bond through the same experience and a greater understanding of one another, moving forward.

“The Shuswap Band feels strongly about asserting our rights and title on our ancestral homelands and this venture is a way of exercising that right,” said Thomas. “Shuswap Band will always put stewardship before economics and realize that there are needs that only a strong economy can provide; ecologically, governmentally, and socially. The Band intends to be the Stewards we are intended to be through economic development, using core values from Coyotes teachings and Secwepemc law to conduct business in our caretaker area, and building lasting relationships with our neighbors.”