While the Splatsin Community Centre is impressive, most significant during Saturday’s grand opening was the turnout.
Most of the 600 people in attendance were non-native. Not only were they there to recognize a major milestone among the local First Nation, but an achievement that will have social and economic benefits for the entire region.
The ceremony was a vast departure from decades past when non-native and First Nation communities generally didn’t interact much. It was clear that the Splatsin and their neighbours in Enderby and the surrounding area are moving towards reconciliation and co-operation.
“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, during a speech to the crowd.
While it would be easy to focus on the economic development the centre will generate, Enderby Mayor Greg McCune insists the facility can be a focal point for dialogue and addressing critical issues for all residents.
“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,” he said.
Splatsin and non-native shared a meal together and they regaled in Secwepemc (Shuswap) stories and cultural traditions. They laughed, they cheered, they clapped. They became one community during the open house.
But the next step is for all involved, and particularly rank and file citizens, to embrace that spirit during their daily activities.
Wayne Christian, Splatsin chief, is optimistic about the new facility and its influence in the future.
“It’s a foundation not only for our people but for the region as a whole,” he said.