In an effort to be inclusive of the community’s Kootenay culture, the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) has been evaluating how best to showcase historical translations on some of the signage being replaced throughout the Columbia Valley.
RDEK’s Columbia Valley community economic development officer (EDO) Ryan Watmough is in the process of reviewing the logistics of replacing some existing signage on highways and rest areas in the East Kootenay region with new signage that’s been enhanced to include traditional languages and cultures, as well as the addition of some new signage to raise awareness about culturally important places.
His goal, along with the board’s, would be to include content on the Columbia Valley Signage Project that appears in English, French, Ktunaxa and Secwepemc that clearly defines the RDEK’s presence to travellers who enter and exit the Columbia Valley while being culturally inclusive.
“We’re still looking for input from the community,” said Watmough.
There are currently service agreements pending with the Akisqnuk First Nation and the Shuswap Indian Band that would allow Indigenous communities to provide input about their nation’s language and culture directly, so that it can be funneled back to the project team.
While the Columbia Valley Signage Project is still in the process of being defined, Watmough is optimistic about being inclusive and hopes nation’s will be willing to collect feedback from Indigenous communities about their traditional cultures and languages to highlight some of the significant landmarks to visitors in the Columbia Valley.
Some possibilities that have been identified for signage include featuring the Akisqnuk First Nation’s creation story at the Sagebrush Trail.
However, the community engagement model will be determined by each nation so that it allows Indigenous communities to participate in the feedback mechanism. He hopes to learn what opportunities or weaknesses exist for the Columbia Valley Signage Project through the engagement period.
In addition, there are ongoing discussions about economic development opportunities in the Columbia Valley.
From an economic perspective, Watmough and team will be hoping to learn more about the direction each participant wants to be known for, whether it’s food security and production, wood technology or supporting the information technology sector.
“We want to have a strategy that supports our existing businesses, and attracts business growth in areas that support our community,” said Watmough.