Friendship agreement was finally celebrated after two-years on Oct. 19

District of Invermere and Shuswap Band working and growing together

By Chadd Cawson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

It was a time to come together at Kinsmen Beach on October 19. The District of Invermere (DOI) and Shuswap Band had signed a Friendship Agreement on Oct. 13, 2020, as a commitment for both communities to work and thrive together. But a celebration was delayed because of the COVID pandemic and the hustle and bustle of life, until last week.

“We have been waiting for two years to finally celebrate our partnership and it finally came to fruition. It was wonderful to see so many folks come out to celebrate with us,” said Shuswap Band Chief Barb Cote.

Mayor Al Miller added, “With the pandemic, we haven’t really been able to celebrate, but now we are out and meeting and moving, so we really want to let people know what we are doing and be right out in the open with it. We’ve tried to communicate what we’re doing, and this celebration hopefully really kickstarted it.”

The commitment between DOI and Shuswap Band dates to 2018.

“Shuswap Band and the DOI made a big commitment to work together, and to learn more about each other, and to create a strong relationship,” said Miller. “In order to move both communities forward economically, socially and environmentally, we’ve been working on this every month. It’s been a good solid facilitation that’s been happening with our two organizations. We’ve learned a lot about each other.”

A partnership such as this does not only bring communities and projects together, but people.

“My favorite part of our journey together is getting to know Invermere mayor, Al Miller and council, and being with a team who worked so well together,” said Cote. “Everyone is so dedicated to this partnership and finding other opportunities that benefit not only our communities, but the public at large.”

One of the projects underway that is sure to benefit all, is an active transportation trail that will connect both Invermere and the Shuswap Band’s economic area. Mayor Miller shared the goal to have a bridge across the Columbia River for people who are active, whether it be walking, cycling, E-bikes, or even scooters. Eventually the trail will lead all the way up to Radium.

“We’ve really taken this seriously and are working hard to get this done. I am really looking forward to continuing working on this with the Shuswap Band next term and hopefully to really move this project forward,” said Miller. “Work for some of this trail system that will be on the Athalmer lands for this project, will begin next summer. As we receive and collect grant monies, we can put shovels in the ground and get to work.”

Of course, a project of this undertaking will take some time, with no timeline in sight. Those who were in attendance for last Wednesday’s celebration were able to enjoy beautiful weather, cake, and ice cream, and also to ask questions and see a true example of teamwork.

“For those that came out to celebrate with us, I hope that they learned that First Nations communities and municipalities can work together to make a future that will benefit our youth and those yet unborn,” said Cote. “Our main focus is working towards the active transportation trail that not only joins our two communities together but encourages us to be physically active which leads to mental wellness.”

Chadd Cawson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer