Shuswap Band members were welcomed back to see what their council has been doing since coming into power in November.
It has been a whirlwind period for councillors Tim Eugene and Rosalita Pascal, and for Chief Barb Cote. Prior to the election in November, the First Nations Transparency Act forced former Chief Paul Sam and his ex-wife Alice Sam to admit they had each been paid more than $200,000 a year.
Many band members were outraged that the band had experienced a lack of housing and educational resources on the reserve while Mr. Sam was receiving large paycheques for over 30 years.
The new council held a variety of events in May to show community members that the Shuswap Band of new is no longer the one that made major headlines across the country in November.
It was a total success, Ms. Cote said. Things look very bright for the Shuswap people.
Throughout all of the councils events, one of the major messages was of economic progress. Ms. Cote said the band is going to be in a surplus at the end of the year, despite adding seven new staff members.
The funding from the government has not changed, but we are able to add more people on a pay scale that is equitable, Ms. Cote said. We are able to provide membership quite a bit more services with the growing team we have.
The Band Council held an open house in its office on May 21st, when members could peruse the new administrative headquarters (located at the Kinbasket Development Corporation office in the mall across from Kicking Horse Coffee) and talk to representatives from many organizations in the Columbia Valley that have established partnerships with council.
Presenters came from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, the Conservation Officer Service, College of the Rockies, the Ministry of Transportation and many other organizations.
The open house was a great chance to show community members our new office, Ms. Cote said. It is bright and it is positive. You walk in to see many people working hard, and I think any band member will see it is a great change.
The Band Council also held an Elders Luncheon, in which Elders from the band and from Akisqnuk were welcome to socialize and discuss communal issues. The plan moving forward is to have a monthly Elders Luncheon.
Elders are certainly very dear to my heart, Ms. Cote said. It was fantastic. I think it was the first one we have had that I can ever remember… maybe in eight or so years.
With only three Shuswap Band members left who speak the Shuswap language, the council has begun to put extra emphasis on the importance of elders.
Because of residential schools, we lost the language, Mr. Eugene said. Some of our parents speak it, so we need to make sure it is being passed on.
Finally, council held a meeting to explain the bands current and future plans to members in a more formal setting. At the meeting, council explained phase one of the new Comprehensive Community Plan.
It is a road map for the Chief and Council to follow, developed by the community, Ms. Cote said. Housing is probably the most pressing thing that community members want fixed.
Moving forward, Ms. Cote said while there is certainly a lot of work to be done as far as expanding services available to Shuswap Band members, she is happy with what her council has achieved in the last six months.
We feel proud, Ms. Cote said. This new council is working 24/7 for the membership, and I think people are going to start noticing soon.