Memorial Project Celebrates First Nations History and Creates Future Opportunities for Tourism

Cook

2012- Visitors to the Spences Bridge area in the Nicola Valley come to enjoy many things, from the First Nations history spanning thousands of years, to world-class steelhead fishing, river rafting and hiking.  With the completion of the Interior Allied Tribes Memorial Project by the Cook’s Ferry Indian Band in 2010, the community has gained a focal point that both honours the area’s culture and presents new opportunities for tourism.

The Cook’s Ferry Indian Band, a member community of the Nlaka’pamux Nation, constructed the Memorial to honour the work of the Interior Allied Tribes of BC between 1908 and 1922.  The project also fits with the Band’s long-term goal of developing the area’s tourism industry.   Located at Nkemcin, on the Kumsheen Indian Reserve where the Nicola and Thompson Rivers merge, the memorial is an open-air structure with elements of a pit house and serves as an interpretative and cultural centre.  Construction incorporated traditional design features as well as professional lighting and audio systems, and infra-red heating – an ideal setting for events ranging from theatre presentations to meetings and workshops.

Funding for the project was provided by Cook’s Ferry Indian Band itself and a number of public and private sector resources.  Northern Development provided funding through the Pine Beetle Recovery Account, a reflection of tourism diversification and the pine beetle affected wood used in the memorial’s roof.

Concurrent with this project, the Cook's Ferry Indian Band was working on a five-year tourism development plan to determine how the community to benefit from the economic opportunities associated with increased tourism to the area.  Already travellers are stopping to look at the impressive structure while others plan their stop around specific events.

"Before, this was an area that tourists went through. Now it is an attractive destination point where they can spend some time have a meaningful visitor experience."

David Walkem, Chief, Cook's Ferry Indian Band

"Through the information and events presented at the facility, our direct community, especially our youth, are becoming more aware of their history and the role their ancestors played in the development of this province."

David Walkem, Chief, Cook's Ferry Indian Band

Positive Economic Impacts in Spences Bridge

The architectural design of this project has been optimized for hosting a wide range of events, including meetings and workshops, public events, presentations and cultural activities and entertainment. As such, it is acting as a keystone dual track tourism facility - supporting existing adventure tourism such as rafting and dude ranches, but also helping establish more tourism businesses as identified in an extensive 2002 Aboriginal Eco-Tourism Study. Dual track tourism was identified as the sector to pursue based on its success with indigenous communities and other distinct cultures, its engagement of landscape, wilderness and culture, and its proven success elsewhere around the world.

The long term goal of the Cook's Ferry Indian Band is to develop the area as a cultural and recreational area in a manner that is culturally responsible and economically achievable, with this site serving as the anchor for the band's tourism businesses.

This facility is easily accessible and is servicing major tourism markets located in the lower mainland and the Thompson-Okanagan and is located along one of BC's major transportation highways. The tourism activity that is being supported by this project includes rafting and eco-tour businesses, which are capable of generating hundreds of thousands of dollars per year and providing full-time employment opportunities for band members and local residents.

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