The doors were barely open and the new community centre was already creating a new chapter in the lives of the Splatsin and their neighbours.
About 600 people, mostly non-native, attended the official opening of the band’s new $15- million facility Saturday.
“This place will be here long after I’m gone, long after my grandchildren are gone and long after their children are gone. It will still be here for the people,” said Chief Wayne Christian.
“It’s a foundation not only for our people but for the region as a whole.”
While recognizing future generations, Christian took time to pay tribute to the band’s elders.
“It’s important to honour all of those who came before us. We say to them, ‘Here we are, your grandchildren.’”
The centre covers 33,581 square feet over three floors.
Numerous speakers touched on the need for reconciliation.
“The facility will empower the people. We need to work together in unity,” said Shane Gottfriedson, B.C. regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations.
“We need to stop violence in our community. We need to come together like we are right here, right now.”
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, with the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, was impressed with the presence of the building.
“A dream, a vision, that’s carried in the heart of a single person remains a dream but when it’s carried in the hearts of people, it becomes a reality,” he said.
“This building will prove to be a focal point — bring people together.”
Those in attendance were urged to use the community centre as a catalyst for dialogue between First Nations and non-natives.
“We have to make sure no one goes hungry and everyone has a safe bed. This will not just be a special building, it will be the heart of our community,” said Greg McCune, Enderby mayor.
Also present was Greg Kyllo, Shuswap MLA.
“It’s so much more than a building. It’s an opportunity for band members and the community to come together and look at the future,” he said.
“There’s a lot of love in the room. It feels good to be here.”
The building is based on the traditional Splatsin pit house.
“The spirit always saw us. At no time could we go behind a closed door,” said Randy William, a band councillor, of the pit house’s open design.
“You always had to do your best. It gave our society strength.”
The centre features a basketball court and a running track, and the goal is to host events ranging from banquets and conventions to indoor car and boat shows. It can accommodate 2,000 people.
“It’s awesome, it’s about bringing people together,” said Christian.