Despite challenges, Simpcw First Nation sees positive future for Simpcw youth

An active Simpcw language and culture program in both Neqweqwelsten school and in the community of Chu Chua

Following a recent community planning session at Simpcw First Nation (SFN), members of the Simpcw Council expressed optimism that the youth of their community will have opportunities for improved living conditions, cultural renewal and economic success. In recent years, the Simpcw leadership has pursued policies and projects to lay the groundwork for substantial improvements in the quality of life for Simpcw families.  The long term goal of the SFN is to promote development of independent, contributing Simpcw people through education and employment. These initiatives include:

Protocol agreements with neighboring municipalities and regional development agencies in the Robson and North Thompson Valleys, with a goal to provide mutual support for common development areas;

Impact benefit agreements with corporations doing major natural resource development projects in Simpcw territory, to ensure that Simpcw First Nation obtains jobs, revenues, and contracting opportunities;

Forestry tenures that create business and employment opportunities for Simpcw members and also for non-aboriginal contractors and workers in Simpcw territory;

Establishment of a community trust fund to support community improvement projects;

An active Simpcw language and culture program in both Neqweqwelsten school and in the community of Chu Chua;

A proactive strategy of researching, documenting and mapping Simpcw traditional resource values throughout Simpcw territory to confirm historical Simpcw aboriginal use and occupancy;

An active land acquisition strategy of purchasing land throughout Simpcw territory in locations that have economic or cultural value to Simpcw First Nation.

Speaking about the recent “Idle No More” movement, Chief Rita Matthew said: “Although we appreciate the fact that Idle No More has drawn national attention to historical injustices and the modern-day struggles of many First Nations communities, the Simpcw view is that we take responsibility in our own traditional territory for improving the prospects of our community through sound financial management, building strong business and community relationships with our non-aboriginal neighbours, and pressing the provincial and federal governments for a balanced, sustainable  approach to economic growth, one that creates businesses and jobs while protecting the natural environment for the benefit of future generations.” Chief Matthew went on to point out that Bill C-45, the recent federal omnibus bill, is a threat to sustainable economic development and also to First Nations rights and aboriginal title because it removes regulations that protect clean water, fish and wildlife habitat and environmental values important to the quality of life of future generations. “Our response to Bill C-45 will be to play an even more active role in ensuring that companies and government agencies respect the long-term integrity of the natural ecosystems in the areas in Simpcw territory where economic development projects are carried out.”

Simpcw First Nation People have evidence of occupancy in the North Thompson and Robson Valley region since at least the end of the last Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago. Their traditional territory includes the North Thompson drainage basin from McClure northward, as well as the Robson Valley area from McBride to Jasper. The western boundary of Simpcw territory borders on the Bowron Lakes in the north and takes in part of the Bonaparte Plateau in the south, while the eastern boundary includes parts of the Columbia and Peace River drainage systems. Originally, the Simpcw had active villages and a network of trails throughout this vast territory. During the 19th century, however, many Simpcw villages were virtually wiped out by epidemics of smallpox, measles and influenza. The survivors re-grouped at Chu Chua, the main Simpcw reserve community of today, but Simpcw people continue to travel throughout their territory and continue using their traditional resources through a seasonal round of hunting, fishing and gathering activities.

In its modern-day context, Simpcw First Nation has an efficient government system consisting of a Chief and Council, Band School, Education Authority and a Health Board, as well as the Simpcw Resources Group, a group of band-owned companies that has active partnerships in forestry, power line construction and environmental management.

Among the over 600 Indian Bands in Canada, Simpcw  First Nation is one of the highest ranked in terms of effective financial management. Any surplus revenues gained by Simpcw through its business ventures is re-invested in the local economy, and the Simpcw workforce, ranging between 60 and 100 workers (depending on seasonal fluctuations) supports local non-aboriginal businesses through purchases of goods and services.

 

Submitted by Simpcw First Nation