P.O. Box 553
The project was sparked initially by an invitation in 2003 from the Board of Directors of the 100 Mile House & District Historical Society and its offer to lease a two-acre parcel of its land bordering the 108 Mile Lake in the South Cariboo, and because that site found favour with the Bands, all of the preliminary work relating to the project was, until May 2013, focused on that site.
In July 2006, the Northern Secwepemc Cultural Society (NSCS) was incorporated as a charitable not for profit society with its membership comprising two representatives from each of the five Northern Secwepemc Bands as well as two from the Historical Society. Shortly afterwards, its bylaws were amended to leave the 10 Band representatives as the only voting members, while the Historical Society’s two representatives became non-voting members.
The new Society succeeded in raising a substantial amount of grant money from the Northern Development Initiative Trust, Western Economic Diversification Canada and the Department of Canadian Heritage which, when added to the financial contributions of the five member Bands, financed a thorough study into the feasibility of proceeding with the project, conducted by the Vancouver architectural firm of Busby Perkins + Will between May 2007 and July 2009.
Receipt of the Busby Perkins’ final report almost precisely coincided with the financial crash of 2008, and in the economic climate that followed, its architectural proposals seemed far too ambitious and far too expensive to pursue. As a result the Society thereupon scaled down the scope of the project substantially.
Starting in 2009, the Society, with generous financial support from its five constituent Bands and from the Cariboo-Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition, assembled another parcel of land in order to provide parking and septic disposal for the proposed Centre. The next three years saw a pause in the progress of the project on account of the world financial situation, but by 2013 the situation in Canada had improved substantially, and Federal Government funding once again became available, enabling progress towards the Society’s ultimate goal to start moving ahead at a steady pace.
In May 2013, the Historical Society had laid down conditions for a lease of its land that were considered to be impossibly onerous, and the Society abandoned its hope of building on the 108 Heritage Site.
Most fortunately, however, the separate 1.05 hectare parcel of land in close proximity to the 108 Mile Lake that had already been assembled in order to meet the parking and septic disposal requirements of the government authorities, was confirmed to be of sufficient size also to accommodate a modest-sized building of the kind the Society has been contemplating since 2009, and negotiations commenced with the Cariboo Regional District to transfer title to that body in return for a 99-year lease at the nominal annual fee of one dollar.
The advantages of both sites include the fact that neither is on the reserve lands of any one particular Band, and they are approximately equidistant from the reserves of all five Bands. In addition, the Historical Society’s existing heritage buildings and the neighbouring B.C. Government Rest Area already attract thousands of visitors each year during the period from mid-May to mid-September.
In the summer of 2013, the Society commissioned McFarland Marceau Architects Ltd. to produce a schematic design, provisional construction costing and an imaging package which was submitted to the NSCS in December 2013, enthusiastically approved by its members, and then submitted to the five constituent Band Councils which received it with equal enthusiasm.
In July 2014, the Society approved a Business Plan that was prepared by Cadence Strategies and financed by a grant from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada That same year a positive Environmental Site Assessment was carried out by North West Environmental Group Ltd., and the 99-year lease agreement with the Cariboo Regional District was executed.
In 2015, the Society was able to commission McFarland Marceau Architects Ltd. to prepare a Design Development Report which was submitted to the Society in April 2016 and approved by the membership soon afterwards.
In 2017, the combination of financial contributions by its member Bands and a grant from the BC Rural Dividend Program enabled the Society to commission McFarland Marceau Architects Ltd. to prepare the Construction Documents required for the Society to go to tender, as well as an updated budget. That report was received in February 2018.
In the meantime the Society had applied for a second grant from the BC Rural Dividend Program in order to make a start to the process of identifying the stories, artifacts and programs that its member Bands wish to exhibit in the Society’s new Centre. With financial contributions from its five member Bands, that application was successful, and in mid-2018 the renowned exhibit design consulting firm of D. Jensen & Associates started the work of producing a Roadmap for the exhibit design process. The David Jensen team held two series of meetings with each of the Society’s constituent Bands in 2018, and delivered its draft final report at separate meetings with each of the five Bands in April 2019.
At that point the Society was ready to go in search of the outside funding that would be required for the actual construction of the proposed facility, and in support of its efforts. the Fundraising Brochure that can be accessed from our Home Page, was created in August 2019. In brief and easily readable format, it tells the story of our journey from 2003 until that time.
The balance of 2019 was occupied by making the necessary preparations to launch a fundraising campaign, and in 2020 several applications were submitted to various federal departments. One that was successful, funded the next phase of David Jensen & Associates’ work following up on its 2019 Roadmap report, and led to his acclaimed Design Development Report for the Canim Lake Band in early 2022. The same funding envelope financed similar work that started in June 2022 with the Sts’ecem’c Xget’tem First Nation, and culminated in another outstanding report in April 2023.
In early 2021, however, the Society learned that its other applications to fund the actual construction of its proposed facility, had failed to receive approval, and as had so often been the case in the past, the Society was forced to pause and consider other options. Most fortunately, the newly established federal department of Crown-Indigenous Relations was introducing a new funding program under the title of the Cultural Spaces in Indigenous Communities, and in early 2022 we learned the astounding news that our project had been approved for $4 million in order to cover the preparation of the site and the construction of the building that our architects had designed previously.
In the meantime, we had secured a $300,000 grant from the Northern Development Initiative Trust, and while we still required an additional amount to enable our exhibit design consultants to create the actual exhibits and programs, we were enabled in the early spring of 2022 to engage Alfred Horie Construction Co. Ltd. as construction manager, and to get underway with all the steps that will lead to the construction of our cultural centre in 2024.
Nothing has come easily during the almost 20 years we have worked on this project, and by April 2023 escalating costs of construction had left us significantly short once again of the funds we required to complete the building. However, the unflagging support of Crown-Indigenous Relations Canada and a substantial grant from Heritage Canada’s Cultural Spaces Program have enabled us to proceed in the expectation that the funding will permit us to complete the building by early 2024. We are incredibly grateful to all the many organizations that have funded this project from the start, and will continue to recognize their contributions as we move forward.
In late May 2023, we are happy to report that Cadence Strategies has completed its update of our 2014 Business Plan, a simple groundbreaking ceremony was held in early May, the excavation has started on the site, and everything appears to be on track to have the major components of our long-awaited cultural centre building completed by early 2024.
This account has passed over the exciting work that led to the construction of a beautiful cedar bridge connecting the site of the proposed Centre and the B.C. Government Rest Area at the 108 Mile Lake. A full account of this can be found elsewhere on this website on the page entitled The Bridge, and includes an expression of our sincere thanks to those many local businesses that so generously contributed to its cost.