The Penticton Indian Band is hoping to start 2015 off building on the successes of 2014.
That starts with a new bridge across the channel at Green Avenue, the result of long-term planning that came to fruition last year in a deal with the provincial government.
“We are hoping within the next couple of weeks we are going to start construction on the bridge,” said Chief Jonathan Kruger. “We are hoping to have that completed by December of 2015.
“There is a huge amount of land there that is now going to open up for prime development.”
Building the bridge is a key part of the PIB development plans, which saw many projects come to fruition last year.
“The Penticton Indian Band had a really successful year. 2014 has been very good to our community,” said Kruger.
That includes completing a dam at Eneas Lake, the first phase of the band’s plans to create a large water reserve.
“That was a $3 million project this year that was completed,” said Kruger. “It will create a huge water reserve, and we also control the largest water licence of any federal reserve in Canada.”
Kruger also enthused over the activities like the 2014 Elders’ Gathering, which saw the PIB play host to more than 3,000 elders from across the province.
“I keep being told, over and over, that it was the most successful and best in the history of Elder’s Gatherings,” said Kruger, who praised the work PIB elders did planning and preparing for the event.
“There was over 500 volunteers, it was such a huge and amazing event,” he continued, “Our elders really wanted to share our stories about us and how we are part of this land. Our community is still shining about that.”
Likewise, the Aboriginal Business Match conference, which returns in May, was a huge success.
“We now helped generate over $60 million of business deals,” said Kruger. “When we talk about the future, ABM is going to be even bigger. We are now going to be calling it ABM West and it is going to cover all of B.C., as well as Alberta First Nations and companies.
The business conference, which brings First Nations together with companies looking for partnerships, is expanding to fill both the South Okanagan Events Centre and the trade and convention centre in 2015.
“It makes us feel so proud to help empower communities and help create business deals,” said Kruger. “You have real tangible results. You see actual business deals being made.”
Another big and long-awaited event completed this year was the Kt cp’alk’ stim Fish Hatchery, a $9 million project that opened in September after more than a decade of planning.
With a capacity of producing five million salmon fry a year, plus a state-of-the-art laboratory, the hatchery is a key factor in the Okanagan Nation Alliance salmon restoration plans.
“All our buildings, with the dam, the fish hatchery and now we have the brand new health building, which is amazing, they are all state of the art,” said Kruger. “It’s got tons of natural lighting, it’s architecturally stunning, it’s got geothermal, it is very high tech, I can’t say enough about the building, it’s just amazing.”
The health building is divided in three sections, with room for a nurse practitioner and family enhancement workers as well as two doctor’s offices for visiting doctors and a dentist office with two chairs and an X-ray room.”
“Our community members can go in there and be taken care of. Our plan is to get these doctors in and help our community members, our elders, our families, the paperwork that needs to be done,” said Kruger.
“On our social development side, we even enhanced our counselling, so I am really proud to say we have more support for our families.”
The new health centre also has room for traditional healing practices and a community section with a large kitchen, where they have been running education programs like teaching young families how to do canning properly, as well as preparing food for the community.
“We brought in thousands of salmon and we processed them in our new building. It just made me feel so good to see something as beautiful as that building bringing lots of people together,” said Kruger.
Kruger said it was an amazing feeling in 2014 to see all the planning coming together, and building real structures that people can see, and feel, and walk through themselves.
“It was frustrating talking about these plans and all the hard work that has been put into these plans by enormous amounts of people,” said Kruger. “It builds pride in our community that we are doing great things. We are going to continue.”