One year ago, the five local First Nation Communities and the Province signed the Nicola Watershed Pilot Memorandum of Understanding.
The Nicola Watershed Pilot is an agreement between the Province and the Nicola Chiefs to explore opportunities to engage governments and stakeholders in the management of water in the Nicola watershed, which in recent years has experienced complex water management issues related to changes in water quality, water quantity and the health of aquatic ecosystems.
When the agreement was signed last March Upper Nicola's Harvey McLeod spoke to Q101 about why he believes the agreement is the first step towards a truly collaborative approach to addressing said issues.
"I see this partnership as having a huge impact on our relationship with the Province, but more importantly, for ourselves as Indigenous peoples as we become one with our land again. And how will I know the road we're building is going to lead us down a better path? What are the milestones that we can look to? For the long-term, it's full co-operation, full involvement, full inclusion in decision-making on how we regulate, and how we take care of the water together. There will be an understanding on both sides,” said McLeod.
The primary focus of the Nicola Watershed Pilot is addressing priority water issues.
Last week the project held an open house with Provincial Ministers, the five Chiefs and the general public engaging in discussion related to a variety of water issues faced in the Nicola Valley.
Lower Nicola Band Chief Aaron Sumexheltza spoke to Q101 about what has taken place since they signed on the dotted line a year ago and what the next steps for the project are.
“Since then the Province and the five bands have been working really hard on formalizing the relationship between the government and the first nations,” said Chief Sumexhelta. “Looking at how this pilot is going to actually move forward with specifics in this province. We still have work to do, but we’ve built a stronger relationship with the province and over the coming months we will be having more dialogue. And really figuring out what issues we want to tackle first that are off concern to all of use here in the Nicola Valley.”
Chief Sumexheltza also spoke to how the whole community must come together to face the issues surrounding water in the Nicola Valley.
“I think through engagement of communities and citizens from here in Merritt and local first nations, I think if we continue to have dialogue with people that actually live here, we’ll be able to come up solutions that will move us in the right direction with our water,” said Chief Sumexheltza. “Whether you’re a first nations person or not, whether you’re a rancher, farmer or just live in town, water is important to all of us. If we want to move forward in a good way, we all need to be able to contribute and voice our concerns so we can make decisions for the benefit of all of us.”
On Twitter: @Q101Merritt