On Thursday, Feb. 6, Chief and Council of the Simpcw First Nation joined in a celebratory signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Kevin Richter, ADM of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and Southern Interior Region Indigenous Relations staff, for the long awaited paving of the Dunn Lake Road.
In an interview last Tuesday with the Star/Journal, Simpcw First Nation’s Chief Shelly Loring commented, “Today’s MOTI-Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signing was a momentous occasion for Simpcw and the Province. The agreement has been a culmination of 40 plus years of negotiations and work by many hands. Simpcw past and present Chief and Council and Administrative employees alike are able to finally see the results of many, many years of engagement on this issue. This moment in time will not soon be forgotten. Through formal ceremony and gift exchange the agreement was solidified and witnessed by those physically present along with our ancestors.”
The signing was witnessed by several of the Simpcw Elders, youth and community members. The Ministry of Transportation performed a blanket ceremony with the current Chief and Council and included others that played a huge part in the negotiations over the years such as; Eddie Celesta, Nathan Matthew and Tom Eustache. Simpcw gifted MOTI with gifts that were handcrafted by Simpcw artisans such as; a hand drum made by Elder Sam Saul and painted by Clint Donald, a wooden paddle painted by LeeAnn Eustache, pine needle baskets made by Coreen Ironside and a beautiful hand drawn print by Cinamen Lampreau.
“With the MOA signed, we move to the next steps of design,” said the Chief, “We expect to begin immediately and upgrades are anticipated in the next year or so. We are still a ways away from the paving phase, but the MOA is a commitment of the work to be done.”
Loring also noted that recently, “Dunn Lake Road was a sheet of glare ice and Simpcw brought to MOTI’s attention that there are two full-sized school buses that drive Dunn Lake Road, twice daily, Monday to Friday. Students from our community and surrounding area attend both the public schools in Barriere. In addition, our community school, Neqweyqwelsten, has three bus runs per day. It is imperative that Dunn Lake Road has equal prioritization as other secondary roads, to ensure the safety of our children, our community members and the general public. With the upgrades, the safety and quality of life for our members will be improved.”
The MOA provides compensation to the Simpcw First Nation for past use, and current market value of the existing road right of way. As part of the compensation package, Simpcw will receive parcels of land around Dunn Lake and at Tete Jaune Cache which will eventually become reserve lands. It was noted that over the years, MOTI has provided funds to move the ball park further from the road, and worked with CP holders where lands had to be taken in preparation for sufficient right of way when construction begins. Community Benefit Funds have now been provided by MOTI in this agreement that will be used for improvements around the Chu Chua community.