This week, members of our staff were invited to attend a Ground Breaking Ceremony in the Village of Kluskus, BC, to celebrate the start of the construction of much needed and awaited for domestic water system improvements. We spoke with Freda Leong, Manager of First Nations Infrastructure, who attended the event and was given a special individual honour by the hosts.
There was an opening prayer by an Elder to welcome us all to the Village. This was followed by an opening speech by Councilor Ella Stillas, who spoke about what this work means to the community. It is a recognition that they deserve clean, safe, reliable drinking water, and that they will finally have water that they feel safe drinking and having their family members drink. Ella also wanted to thank everyone for helping to make this happen.
This was followed by Candace Cook (Reseau CMI) and I talking about when both of our teams got involved on the project. She spoke about the taste, odour, and water quality concerns. I shared throughs on the design process and how we looked for alternate water sources and finally found wells that provided safe and reliable water. We then played a message from Indigenous Services Canada on a speaker, as they could not be there in person.
The Elders then did a blessing and smudging of the water well. We could not be smudged because of COVID-19 restrictions, so we had traditional medicine sprinkled at our feet. That was followed by the Blanket Ceremony. Although we did not know that was happening, it was such an honour for us.
I received my blanket first and I thanked the community for allowing us into their community circle and expressed that it was like coming home each time I came to the community and it is all because of the people. I am so very honoured and it makes me teary to think about it. They also handed blankets and medicine to Candace, Mike Owen, Blake Blok (FNHA), Nigel Gobelle (BTN Construction), and Andy Fletcher (Peter Bros). They wanted to make sure that we were all welcomed into their community circle, protected, and kept safe.
Lastly, we did the ground breaking with a very special golden shovel provided by BTN Construction.
Considering COVID-19 restrictions, we did well to keep our physical distance without sacrificing any of the emotional connections. We all laughed and shared a few tears, and we may have made some grown men have some emotional moments too!
We wish to especially thank Brenda Thomas, who organized the event and served as the Master of Ceremonies, as well as Chief Liliane Squinas for attending the event.