The Village of Gitsegukla is doing something different this time around.
A new term is beginning with something never seen before in the community- a swearing in ceremony.
The ceremony took place Wednesday evening with the a not-so-happy welcoming from Hereditary chiefs, reminiscing of the feelings of being forgotten or not included.
Chief Willie Blackwater and his newly elected council want to put an end to that.
The band council is pushing for a new start- and with the new start all members of the council took an oath of office, which was notarized and serves as an official contract on how the council should conduct themselves and their decisions while in office.
Blackwater explained that with the community being placed under third-party management after learning they were in a $5.3 million deficit due to lack of accountability within their financial system, members started to lose faith in the council.
Blackwater was first elected in 2015, and since then there have been many changes. This re-election marks one of them. No longer with the council have two year terms, but will now move to 4 year terms, allowing the council to take on bigger projects.
Other changes are happening throughout the community. The community had been in decline for 15 years and Blackwater said that was enough.
They took a couple steps in order to get things back on track in the books. To do this they had to first join the First Nations Major Projects Coalition, which with the community to put good governance in place and teach communities how to manage their money.
The village became the only community in BC, and one of 5 communities throughout Canada, to be part of the Default Management Prevention Pilot Project, which helps communities get out of Third Party Management.
Then came the policy changes. The team created a number of policies that help manage human resources, employment, housing and of course, finance.
They then dissolved the education board and health board to funnel all authorities under the band, adding more transparency and accountability.
Community members were unsure of these changes and feeling marginalized. Blackwater explains that the reason they are feeling these ways is because they are unrecognized and under appreciated.
That is why they decided to have a swearing in ceremony. Now community members have a standard to hold people accountable for. Not only did the council take the oath, but every single person working in the office, as well as through the education and health departments.
After dinner, the community gave out certificates of recognition for first responders, volunteer firefighters, and NAIG athletes, to let people know that they and their contributions are important to the community.
They followed with celebrations, including a fashion show showcasing the work of Valerie Morgan.
The community has just entered Phase 3 of a Comprehensive Community Planning (CCP) program, which looks in to what the priorities of the community are and where they want to focus growth.
So far the community has highlighted 22 goals that they would like to accomplish, first concentrating on a gas bar/convenience store, development of a new subdivision for additional housing and assessing all equipment for emergency responders and firefighters in order to acquire the necessary items and infrastructure to allow the community to respond better in the future.
As of Aboriginal Day the village has moved from Third Party to co-management and will now use the tools they have learned in the last few years to regain full control of management, which they hope can be accomplished by the end of the this term.