Chief Clayton Pountney handed out a set of house keys for the first time in over 15 years in the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation.
Last week, the community located near Prince George, unveiled the first of six new rental homes for its members.
“This is a big day, we have been in the planning stages for a couple of years now – previous chief and council – to make this happen,” said Pountney. “We have taken the plans, floor plans to a level the community is happy with.
“It’s been over 15 years since we have had any new housing in the community.”
Pountney said it took a lot of planning to get the homes built.
“The community wanted to see positive things happen, they wanted to see things move forward,” said Pountney.
“This is our mandate, this is what we have to do.”
Education coming around
Another step forward for the Lheidli T’enneh Nation falls into the area of education.
This fall, the community signed an agreement with the University of Northern British Columbia to waive tuition for their band members.
The agreement also sets up supports for members who didn’t meet the academic requirements but show potential.
“We noticed a lot of our kids were falling through the cracks, we had to start at the source and another piece of that source is post-secondary. We didn’t have many kids going,” said Pountney.
“It all ties into each other, we have to have kids graduate and we have to them move onto post-secondary to help drive essentially our future.”
UNBC President Daniel Weeks says the agreement is a step in reconciling the negative impacts of residential schools.
“It stems out of the truth and reconciliation recommendations. Justice Sinclair really challenged Canadians, and Canadian post-secondary, university and colleges to take a leadership role in reconciliation and the importance of education in achieving reconciliation,” said Weeks.
Catalyst for other universities
Weeks hopes this agreement can be a catalyst for other universities to take action.
“I hope that UNBC can expand this program throughout the province. I hope that my colleagues, presidents of other universities and colleges in Canada join us,” said Weeks. “Maybe we can make this program right across the nation. That would be fantastic.”
Pountney believes the steps with housing education and community building will help members find success.
“So if they waive the tuition fees and we help on our end that the roof is paid for on their end and them groceries they will succeed. We try to remove as many barriers as we can for success,” said Pountney.
Currently, band leadership is in discussions with industries operating in Lheidli Territory. The goal is to open more doors for their nation to thrive economically.
“Moving forward for our nation means pretty much all fronts. We are a mini-government. We have our lands to look after, we have stewardship piece that we haven’t been a part of with industry,” said Pountney.
“We are working those bugs out right now.”