ARCHIVED - Westbank, British Columbia: A Self-Governing First Nation
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In 2003, the Westbank First Nation signed a historic self-government agreement giving them the tools to make decisions over land, resources, culture and much more. See how this First Nations government is building a better quality of life for its members.
In the heart of British Columbia's Okanagan Valley, across from Kelowna is Westbank First Nation.
In 2003, the Okanagan peoples of Westbank reaffirmed their dream of becoming a true nation with the signing of their self-government agreement. Now, everywhere, the signs reflect the reality that Westbank is a First Nations government.
The band has the right to govern its own affairs, and the responsibility to make decisions affecting the well-being of the community, while being held accountable to its electorate.
More than 20 laws are already on the books, covering such things as matrimonial and property rights, language and culture, resource management and the environment, land management and taxation. That's vitally important to the 600-plus band members, and to the more than 8,000 non-Aboriginal persons with residential leases on Westbank lands.
The First Nation Government has set up a non-Aboriginal advisory council to make sure everyone living on Westbank lands has a say in the community, and is treated fairly and respectfully. The result is a friendly relationship between Band and non-Band members, who believe the First Nations Government is following a very progressive approach to law making...Westbank's laws and taxation base support much of the progress and prosperity the community enjoys.
A modern water treatment utility ensures safe, clean water for Westbank residents, paid for by the community's tax dollars and utilities fees...it's a system capable of handling the community's growth for more than a generation.
Residential construction is booming in this community...beautiful modern homes continue to dot the landscape. Big box stores are being added to the more than 100 businesses already thriving in Westbank's bustling economy. Many have come about through direct partnership arrangements between Westbank's First Nation Government and the private sector. This direct, on-the-ground relationship, without the need for lengthy approval processes makes for more efficient and cost-effective results...and that's a major benefit to both partners.
But there's more to Westbank than business-
It observes its traditions as Okanagan peoples.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the respect shown to its Elders, the generation that made the Westbank of today possible,... and the children, the generation who will create the Westbank of tomorrow.
Senisyusten (sen-sis-yoosten) - "the place where you come to become anything you want to be." No better description for a school. Nor for Westbank First Nation...where you can see the future, today.
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