As the city awaits word from the province on plans for a joint-use cultural centre in the former Stuart Wood elementary downtown, it appears the project is being held up as Tk’emlups te Secwepemc pursues legal advice.
During a community-to-community forum this week, City of Kamloops CAO David Trawin said an application seeking approval to use the building for reasons other than education has been submitted to the province.
Approval from Tk’emlups is needed and the province has forwarded the proposal to the First Nation for comments.
“We’re anxiously awaiting that,” Trawin said, noting the city has put aside money to explore designs and other community centres, while also eyeing grant funding. A grant issued to Lake Country for a joint cultural centre received 75 per cent of the project funds.
Asked about the status of the project, Tk’emlups CAO Dessa Gottfriedson told KTW the band assembled an internal working group, which met and has sought legal advice.
“From there, I guess you can say, we’re just acting on that legal advice,” she said.
Specific details would not be disclosed about said advice, but Gottfriedson said the band is trying to find common ground without jeopardizing title and rights.
The Stuart Wood property was originally given to the city by the province for educational purposes. Once that use ceased, with the school’s closure in 2016, the title reverted to the province.
Gottfriedson said the province gave away land it never owned.
“We’re very open to collaborating with the city,” Gottfriedson said. “And we just have to ensure that, when it comes to title and rights, that we’re not jeopardizing that.”
Another issue that came up at Monday’s community-to-community forum was the Stuart Wood cultural centre’s potential to compete with the Secwépemc Museum and Heritage Park.
The band has limited resources, the forum heard. Furthermore, Gottfriedson added, the museum is the official repository of the Secwépemc Nation.
Archeological discoveries, such as recent ancestral remains found during construction on West Victoria Street in downtown Kamloops, go to the museum on the reserve.
“For us, if we have a partnership with the city, those are the kinds of details we need to work out, be mindful of,” Gottfriedson told KTW. “Is that, I guess you could say, extending that repository status? Which really, TteS, we can’t speak on behalf of the whole Secwépemc nation.
“We are only one of the 17 bands. That responsibility lies with us, with our neighbouring bands. For us to potentially open up that opportunity with someone who is not Secwépemc, it might not be in our best interests to do that.”
The city plans to move its Kamloops Museum and Archives into Stuart Wood and feature the history of the city, Tk’emlups te Secwepemc, the railroads and the Hudson’s Bay Company. Also envisioned is a garden featuring indigenous plants, retail opportunities for artisans and references to the Secwépemc language.
Asked what would be different between a joint Stuart Wood cultural centre and the Secwépemc museum already in existence — and whether the two museums would duplicate one another and whether the centre could detract from the Secwépemc museum — Gottfriedson called the Secwépemc Museum and Heritage Park “authentic.”
“Ours is a showcase of our heritage by our people, where we’re at right now,” she said. “So, we have that more intimate understanding of the culture and are portraying it — I don’t want to say accurately — but we have a more invested way in how our culture is shared and how our heritage is shared.
“That’s really important to us. As you can see, TteS is wanting and willing to collaborate with the city, mostly to build that relationship, but to ensure that our heritage and our history and our culture is accurately portrayed, as well.”
Asked to evaluate how Secwépemc history is portrayed at the city museum, Gottfriedson pointed to an upcoming November exhibit on taxidermy, which she said was collaboratively executed and accurately portrays Secwépemc use of animals.
“That was a true example of collaboration,” she said.