District of Invermere Council and Shuswap Chief Barb Cote signed a joint economic development initiative agreement. Pausing for a celebratory photo were council members Gerry Taft, Kayja Becker, Mayor Al Miller, Chief Barb Cote, Ute Juras and Greg Anderson. Photo by Dauna Ditson

An act of reconciliation

Shuswap and District of Invermere collaborate through economic development initiative

Chief Barb Cote said the Shuswap Indian Band is delighted to partner with the District of Invermere (DOI) as neighbouring communities with shared interests through the Community Economic Development Initiative (CEDI), which was announced in last week’s Pioneer.

“We’re celebrating,” she said after the DOI council meeting she attended on Tuesday, May 14th. “I think this initiative that we’re going to be doing is going to be really exciting for Shuswap Indian Band to show off and teach the world at large – because we have the world coming to our Valley – who we are.”

Chris Prosser, chief administrative officer for the DOI, said the partnership is funded by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers and that both communities may be able to access economic-development funding through it.

The Shuswap-Invermere collaboration is one of two such partnerships in British Columbia that were approved this year.

“At the end of it, the hope is that we’ll have a good, strong relationship both economically (and) community-to-community wise, that we can formalize other arrangements and continue on the process for the foreseeable future and for the long term to continue on with any partnerships that we may have and recognizing that it’s part of the reconciliation process as well,” Mr. Prosser said.

Speaking of reconciliation, Chief Cote said she wants “to keep looking forward in a positive light.”

“This is just another exciting thing that is so positive for us,” she said. “Personally I’m just really proud of how hard our community is working to help the outside communities see who we are. You know, we’re trying, we’re developing our community, there’s more people working. And I think that the outside community sees us in a really good light now.”

Mayor Al Miller certainly sees Chief Cote that way.

“For many years I’ve known Chief Barb Cote and respected the work that she has done,” he said. “I think it’s pretty special that we’re going to be able to go through this whole endeavour and strengthen our two communities together. I think this will just enhance our overall future.”

DOI councillor Ute Juras said she was also enthusiastic about the partnership.

“It’s basically history making,” she said. “We’re two communities that are so close together physically so it only makes sense that we work together.”

While the partnership is specifically between the DOI and Shuswap and is meant for communities that share borders, Chief Cote wants to share the benefits widely.

“I’m excited for our two communities but also our visitors to Invermere,” she said. “I think we’re going to come up with something really special, and I think it’s going to be able to show the world who we are – not only Invermere but also the local First Nations … It isn’t just about Shuswap Indian Band. It’s about the First Nations in the Valley.”

Asked about her long-term hopes for her community, Chief Cote said: “If I had a magic feather, I’d like to see our youth learning their language, understanding their culture, being educated, post-secondary, working in something that they have a passion for, and having a community that thrives on being self-sufficient, self-governing and just getting the pride back, getting our pride.”

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