ARCHIVED - For the Community: The Skeetchestn Story
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In 2007, the Government of Canada finalized a negotiated settlement with the Skeetchestn First Nation for its Smith Curtis Specific Claim. Hear first hand from the Skeetchestn community members about how the benefits of settling this specific claim continue to affect their lives.
The Skeetchestn Indian Band reserve land is located in the south central region of British Columbia, about 50 kilometres northwest of Kamloops. In 1987 the band registered a specific claim with the Government of Canada concerning an historic lease of a portion of the band's land by a business group called Smith-Curtis. In 2007 the Government of Canada finalized a negotiated settlement with the Skeetchestn to honour its obligations to the band and to settle this long-standing grievance.
In 1906 the band surrendered just under 5000 acres of land. It was at the time in that part of the northern Okanagan, that there was a boom for agricultural development of lands. The nature of the claim was that the band surrendered just under 5,000 acres, and in the view of the band Canada did not take the necessary steps to secure fair market value for that lease.
DR. RONALD IGNACE
The vision of our chief back then was to have this land, have a developer come in, develop it up so that we could have water, because water is key here. And so at the end of this lease, that land and orchard, irrigable land, was to be turned back to the band. Well, that never happened.
Skeetchestn chiefs and councils that were responsible for negotiations of this claim were diligent in ensuring that they could turn back to their community with a settlement that they were prepared to accept. Fifteen years later, we settled for $4.7 million.
DR. RONALD IGNACE
We went to our band members and said, Look, the vision of our chief back then was to have our lands developed and to have an economic strategy… What we ought to do is take that vision of our chief in 1910 and take that money and put it into a perpetual trust fund, set up a perpetual trust, which we did.
As I understand it the trust is now fully being implemented. They've done education programs, they've done gardening programs, they've done health programs, they've looked at capital acquisitions on behalf of the band.
DR. RONALD IGNACE
The first disbursement that we did on it was to give community members, each household, $500 towards establishing a backyard garden...
If you look up into my property, you could see I've got apple trees. Those are the kinds of things that people never had before. They couldn't afford it. Now everybody's got fruit trees. Everybody's got big gardens.
The fund is very important, because there were many people lining up to receive it in order to get their gardens in and get all of the gardening stuff that they needed to do so.
My brother and I do an organic vegetable delivery service to people in the general area. We have about thirty customers. It's just small right now. They love it.
They just think it's great, and they rave about our vegetables all the time. we're pretty happy about that.
GORDON DENEAULT, SR.
You know, we had a lot of elders that we helped out, you know, their health benefits, including we got this bus. It was-- $20,000 of that settlement went toward this bus.
We've had elders down at Seabird Island at the First Nations festival. We've had them at the BC... First Nation gathering in Salmon Arm.
Hello. Good morning, Welcome Aboard.
GORDON DENEAULT, SR.
They're comfortable with me driving. I've been a transport driver for many years, and I get along really well with the elders. I like hauling them around. And not only that, with the younger, too, I haul them around, too.
We have helped numerous young people either get into trades or participate in college prep or just going back to school and getting their license, because we're rural. So with this trust fund we have been able to offer the driver's courses and help a lot of people get a driver's license.
The maximum is $1,000 for health benefits. Not everybody is asking for $1,000. Some people are even asking just for a gas voucher to get in to see a general doctor...
My daughter has cerebral palsy. She was diagnosed when she was really young. It's affected her walking, her balance. She's... It's affected her eyes, so she's off-balance a lot.
With Trinity what happened was...they brought in an example of what they needed for her and had a cost. And it was good, because we were able to just write the cheque directly to the business, and they provided the bike for Trinity.
With the big wheels Trin's able to keep balance on a bike, and also riding a bike works with her legs.
We have a huge percentage of young adults and youth for the ratio in our community, and within the next ten years there's going to be a lot of — a lot of young adults compared to the elders. And having this benefit now will really help strengthen them, so they'll be able to develop and grow into mature adults.
I can see the future of this community even blossoming more, where everybody's going to benefit from everything that we're doing,
They're truly using the settlement for the benefit of the whole of the community going into the future, and that was an extremely important part of settling the claim.
This community is very strong. If anybody needs help, everybody is there for them, you know. It's a great community. People are awesome.
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