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Lower Kootenay Band invites all to open house

The Lower Kootenay Band wants to change the way some locals see the band, so it is hosting an open house on April 25...
Lower Kootenay Band Chief Jason Louie near the original band office (left) which was built in the 1950s.

The Lower Kootenay Band wants to change the way some locals see the band, so it is hosting an open house on April 25 from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.

“We want to showcase what the band has to offer,” said Chief Jason Louie. “Unfortunately, there have been a lot of stereotypes over the years. ... We are a legitimate government and our goal is to strive for excellence.”

The open house will allow visitors to learn more by networking and enjoying a Power Point presentation about the history of the band. Demonstrations of traditional games will also be featured, and members of the RCMP and Canadian Border Services Agency will attend.

The open house will be held at the complex on Simon Road, where the band’s offices and gymnasium are housed in a facility that was constructed in 1991, replacing 1950s band office on Highway 21.

“Any band members here would say that was the place you could come and you’d hear laughter in the building,” said Louie. “That is something we’re working toward today.”

Since Louie was elected chief over a year ago, he has encouraged the band council and staff to work more closely together; last year, they attended a retreat where the facilitator discussed meditation, conflict resolution and goal setting.

One of those goals is to establish partnerships with others organizations in the Creston Valley, and the LKB already works closely with the Regional District of Central Kootenay and its east waste subcommittee, Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Kootenay Lake Partnership, and is helping to develop a floodplain management plan.

“We want to build bridges, not walls,” Louie said. “We’re going to continue walking down that path.”

The band’s financial policies are currently in the process of being certified by the First Nations Financial Management Board, and the band is also in the process of writing a constitution to govern its 210 members.

“Basically, a big family is what our band is,” said Louie.

He noted that there are only a few elders left, but “the ones we do have we really cherish, and incorporate their knowledge into our views.”

At the same time as the band is working to solidify its government, it is also trying to develop a more vibrant economy.

“Yaqan Nukiy had an economy within its own community, within its own people,” said development services director Curtis Wullum. “Now we’re in a position to try to work to rebuild the government using traditional and contemporary values, and try to find a way to fit in with the other governments in the area.”

“We want to build an economy in the valley, so the kids don’t have to leave,” said Louie.

To that end, the band has had four trainees working with contractors who have recently renovated and repaired a number of LKB homes — among other projects, 12 homes have new roofs, six have new floors, 10 have new front windows and five have new decks.

It couldn’t have been done without the co-operation of the band’s council and staff.

“I’m really proud of the council and staff for the commitment they’ve made to do things differently,” said Louie.

But Louie said one of the biggest signs of change came during last year’s Creston Valley Blossom Festival, when Creston Mayor Ron Toyota, of Asian descent, and Louie, of First Nations descent, rode in the same vehicle in the parade.

“It was a huge symbol of progress, not just for the band, but for the town, as well,” he said.