BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Kerry Chelsea—Vice President
Alana Dixon—Director at Large
P.O. Box 553
108 Mile Ranch, B.C.
LEASE AGREEMENT – October 14, 2014
On the bright sunny morning of October 14th, a simple ceremony was conducted on the site of the proposed cultural centre and museum.
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Our opportunity to express our thanks very publicly to numerous individuals and groups that have supported our Society throughout the past almost 11 years, all of whom have helped us reach the important milestone we are celebrating today.
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The aim of the Northern Secwepemc Cultural Society (NSCS) and of its predecessor Informal Working Group was from the outset to construct a cultural centre and museum somewhere within the traditional territories of its five constituent Bands.
The project was sparked initially by an invitation in 2003 from the Board of Directors of the 100 Mile House & District Historical Society and its offer to lease a two-acre parcel of its land bordering the 108 Mile Lake in the South Cariboo, and because that site found favour with the Bands, all of the preliminary work relating to the project was, until May 2013, focused on that site.
To that end an Informal Working Group was formed in early 2004 comprising representatives of the Historical Society and three of the five Bands. During the following two years, the Group obtained financial contributions from the three Bands as well as a small grant from the Cariboo Regional District, enabling the Group to carry out a topographic survey of the site by Cariboo Geographics Ltd. as well as an archaeological impact assessment by Terra Archaeology Limited that uncovered evidence of the Canim Lake Band’s occupation as a summer fishing site stretching back 2,000 years.
In July 2006, the Northern Secwepemc Cultural Society (NSCS) was incorporated as a charitable not for profit society with its membership comprising two representatives from each of the five Northern Secwepemc Bands as well as two from the Historical Society. Shortly afterwards, its bylaws were amended to leave the 10 Band representatives as the only voting members, while the Historical Society’s two representatives became non-voting members.
The new Society succeeded in raising a substantial amount of grant money from the Northern Development Initiative Trust, Western Economic Diversification Canada and the Department of Canadian Heritage which, when added to the financial contributions of the five member Bands, financed a thorough study into the feasibility of proceeding with the project, conducted by the Vancouver architectural firm of Busby Perkins + Will between May 2007 and July 2009.
Receipt of the Busby Perkins’ final report almost precisely coincided with the financial crash of 2008, and in the economic climate that followed, its architectural proposals seemed far too ambitious and far too expensive to pursue. As a result the Society thereupon scaled down the scope of the project substantially.
Starting in 2009, the Society, with generous financial support from its five constituent Bands and from the Cariboo-Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition, assembled another parcel of land in order to provide parking and septic disposal for the proposed Centre. The next three years saw a pause in the progress of the project on account of the world financial situation, but by 2013 the situation in Canada had improved substantially, and Federal Government funding once again became available, enabling progress towards the Society’s ultimate goal to start moving ahead at a steady pace.
In May 2013, the Historical Society had laid down conditions for a lease of its land that were considered to be impossibly onerous, and the Society abandoned its hope of building on the 108 Heritage Site.
Most fortunately, however, the separate 1.05 hectare parcel of land in close proximity to the 108 Mile Lake that had already been assembled in order to meet the parking and septic disposal requirements of the government authorities, was confirmed to be of sufficient size also to accommodate a modest-sized building of the kind the Society has been contemplating since 2009, and negotiations commenced with the Cariboo Regional District to transfer title to that body in return for a 99-year lease at the nominal annual fee of one dollar.
The advantages of both sites include the fact that neither is on the reserve lands of any one particular Band, and they are approximately equidistant from the reserves of all five Bands. In addition, the Historical Society’s existing heritage buildings and the neighbouring B.C. Government Rest Area already attract thousands of visitors each year during the period from mid-May to mid-September.
In the summer of 2013, the Society commissioned McFarland Marceau Architects Ltd. to produce a schematic design, provisional construction costing and an imaging package which was submitted to the NSCS in December 2013, enthusiastically approved by its members, and then submitted to the five constituent Band Councils which received it with equal enthusiasm.
In July 2014, the Society approved a Business Plan that was prepared by Cadence Strategies and financed by a grant from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada That same year a positive Environmental Site Assessment was carried out by North West Environmental Group Ltd., and the 99-year lease agreement with the Cariboo Regional District was executed.
In 2015, the Society was able to commission McFarland Marceau Architects Ltd. to prepare a Design Development Report which was submitted to the Society in April 2016 and approved by the membership soon afterwards.
In 2017, the combination of financial contributions by its member Bands and a grant from the BC Rural Dividend Program enabled the Society to commission McFarland Marceau Architects Ltd. to prepare the Construction Documents required for the Society to go to tender, as well as an updated budget. That report was received in February 2018.
In the meantime the Society had applied for a second grant from the BC Rural Dividend Program in order to make a start to the process of identifying the stories, artifacts and programs that its member Bands wish to exhibit in the Society’s new Centre. With financial contributions from its five member Bands, that application was successful, and in mid-2018 the renowned exhibit design consulting firm of D. Jensen & Associates started the work of producing a Roadmap for the exhibit design process. The David Jensen team held two series of meetings with each of the Society’s constituent Bands in 2018, and delivered its draft final report at separate meetings with each of the five Bands in April 2019.
At that point the Society was ready to go in search of the outside funding that would be required for the actual construction of the proposed facility, and in support of its efforts. the Fundraising Brochure that can be accessed from our Home Page, was created in August 2019. In brief and easily readable format, it tells the story of our journey from 2003 until that time.
The balance of 2019 was occupied by making the necessary preparations to launch a fundraising campaign, and in 2020 several applications were submitted to various federal departments. One that was successful, funded the next phase of David Jensen & Associates’ work following up on its 2019 Roadmap report, and led to his acclaimed Design Development Report for the Canim Lake Band in early 2022. The same funding envelope financed similar work that was planned to start in June 2022 with the Sts’ecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, and is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.
In early 2021, however, the Society learned that its other applications to fund the actual construction of its proposed facility, had failed to receive approval, and as had so often been the case in the past, the Society was forced to pause and consider other options. Most fortunately, the newly established federal department of Crown-Indigenous Relations was introducing a new funding program under the title of the Cultural Spaces in Indigenous Communities, and in early 2022 we learned the astounding news that our project had been approved for $4 million in order to cover the preparation of the site and the construction of the building that our architects had designed previously.
In the meantime, we had secured a $300,000 grant from the Northern Development Initiative Trust, and while we still required an additional amount to enable our exhibit design consultants to create the actual exhibits and programs, we were enabled in the early spring of 2022 to engage Alfred Horie Construction Co. Ltd. as construction manager, and to get underway with all the steps that will lead to the construction of our cultural centre in 2024.
In early June 2022, we can state that our expectation is that, in collaboration with our construction manager, we will produce a Class A estimate of the projected cost of the work that is envisaged over the next two years, engage Cadence Strategies to update the business plan it helped us to create in 2014, carry out the site preparation and development, and construct the building that will house the exhibits and programs the Society’s member Bands have decided they wish to share with the public.
This account has passed over the exciting work that led to the construction of a beautiful cedar bridge connecting the site of the proposed Centre and the B.C. Government Rest Area at the 108 Mile Lake. A full account of this can be found elsewhere on this website on the page entitled The Bridge, and includes an expression of our sincere thanks to those many local businesses that so generously contributed to its cost.