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Posted: September 16, 2013

Canal Flats / Ktunaxa celebrate together


The Village of Canal Flats and the Ktunaxa Nation celebrated together Saturday, Sept. 14.

Under a blazing late summer sun, about 60 people, including a slew of dignitaries, celebrated the grand opening of the new village hall, Columbia Discovery Centre and Ktunaxa Interpretive Centre and Gardens.

“This is an exciting day for the village of Canal Flats,” declared Mayor Ute Juras.

CFlatsGOdancersBefore Juras, Coun. Paul Marcil and Melanie Sam, Ktunaxa Interpretive Centre and Gardens manager cut the ribbon, Aqisknuk elder Bea Stevens provided an opening prayer, followed by Bill Doroschuk with another.

The Sookenai Singers/drummers and dancers then heralded the speeches, beginning with Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks.

“It is a great addition to the community. It will provide historical information of Canal Flats and also the Ktunaxa Creation Story,” said the former District of Sparwood mayor.

CFlatsGOdancers2Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald praised all involved for establishing the new village centre.

“This is one more step of the village becoming a self-governing entity,” he said. “What takes place here, with your council, is a community coming together. Local government is always the closest to the people,” added the former Town of Golden mayor. “This is a beautiful, beautiful building.”

Event emcee Melanie Sam, speaking on behalf of Ktunaxa Nation Council chair Kathryn Teneese, said the day was “a culmination of hard work and dedication. Is has been all about relationship building,” she said, singling out Gwen Phillips and Ray Warden for their work, and thanked Maxine East-Hope, the original owner of the building.

Mayor Ute Juras, left, Coun. Paul Marcil and Ktunaxa Interpretive Centre and Garden manager Melanie Sam cut the ribbon Sept. 14.
Mayor Ute Juras, left, Coun. Paul Marcil and Ktunaxa Interpretive Centre and Garden manager Melanie Sam cut the ribbon Sept. 14.

Speaking on behalf of her position as a Columbia Basin Trust board member, Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Electoral Area F director Wendy Booth said, “This project is very close to my heart.”

She echoed praise of the project being a partnership.

“Partnerships have been vital to the project’s success. This will be a central hub for the community,” Booth said.

RDEK board chair and Electoral Area C director Rob Gay said, “I’d like to really congratulate the mayor and council and the Ktunaxa Nation.”

City of Kimberley Mayor Ron McRae, speaking as a board member of the Southern Interior Development Initiative Trust (SIDIT), which provided $36,000 to the project, said, “What you see here today is part of what SIDIT is about. We believe the Columbia Discovery Centre will benefit the community in a variety of ways.”

A tenant in the centre is the Headwaters Arts Society, created in 2011. The society is renting space from the village for the sum of $1 for five years.

“We want to foster an inclusive environment” for arts in the community, said society president Dodie Marcil.

Mayor Juras, opening her speech in “Ktunaxa with German accent,” said she was elated with the culmination of so much work, and quickly thanked former mayor Emile Morin for his earlier efforts.

“This was your brain child,” she said to him.

She then turned to Maxine East-Hope and asked, “I do hope you like what we did with the place?”

Juras quickly outlined the lengthy process followed to get the village to this point, including thanks to the 391043 Alberta Ltd. for donating the house.

After the house was moved to its location in February 2011, ideas about exactly what to use the space for began to evolve.

“We wanted more than just a place to house our village headquarters,” she said.

Helping the village financially were Columbia Basin Trust, SIDIT and the Southern Interior Beetle Action Coalition, with funds used to renovate the building.

Juras pointed out the project was much more than just establishing a village centre; it was an opportunity to extend a hand of friendship to First Nations neighbours.

“It is a symbol of trying to right a horrible wrong,” she said. “I am so proud of how far we have come. We are on a path to reconciliation and friendship.”

Juras also singled out Coun. Paul Marcil for all his work in making the centre a reality.

“You should be very proud of what you accomplished here,” she said.

Marcil thanked the contractors, trades and renovators who worked on the project – with all involved coming from the village, Columbia Valley and Cranbrook.

CFlatsGOunveil“This will be a building that will be the heart of our village. This is a special building we can all be proud of.”

Councillors Gilbert Delorme and Dean Midyette unveiled plaques on the back deck of the centre before the ribbon was cut.

Following the grand opening ceremony, Aq’am Councillor Joe Pierre Jr. presented his always engaging and entertaining telling of the Ktunaxa Creation Story, while village members and guests mingled inside.

CFlatsGOpeningOutside, a Ktunaxa meat drying and pit cooking demonstration infused a tantalizing scent to the ceremonies.

Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

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