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Local Reserve looks to build opportunities

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The Town of Swan River (TSR) and Sapotaweyak Cree Nation (SCN) came together once again last Wednesday (Aug. 16) at the Elbert Chartrand Friendship Centre where they signed a Municipal Development Services Agreement (MDSA) on the parcel of land purchased from the Town two years prior.
On Oct. 19, 2015, SCN purchased the property on which the former Valley Hotel sat at 703 Main Street in Swan River. In the following year the group demolished the building and leveled the ground and it now awaits the transition to Reserve land so that SCN can start another strategic economic development plan to benefit the community.
The event began with a prayer from SCN elder Gloria Kematch and an opening honour song by Mike Campeau and his son. But, the day was overshadowed by the recent losses SCN has been facing.
“It’s hard to celebrate today as a lot of things have been passing through our community and some of our elders have been passing on,” said SCN Chief Nelson Genaille, “But, at the same time, time does continue and we must do the same.
“With the purchasing of these lands we are striving for business opportunities to help our community members. This new business is going to create employment and put food on the table for a family.”
While Genaille was tight lipped at the ceremony about what the plans are for the lot, saying, “we have a business in mind for this new development but they have to wait and see”, he told the Winnipeg Free Press they are considering a gas bar or a two story office complex.
“We hope that by the time we get back from Treaty 4 celebrations (in mid-September) we will be able to put a shovel in the ground,” said Genaille. “Am I very optimistic? I have to be as our elders show us to be.”
The agreement between the Reserve and the Town states that the reserve will pay a service fee that is equivalent to normal property taxes for the location, a benefit to the Town as they would not receive this revenue if the lot were to sit vacant in their possession.
“Our council has the deepest respect for your council and the working relationship we have shows in the success that has happened with Club Sapp,” said TSR Mayor Glen McKenzie. “We look forward to the new venture that’s happening in our town and to many more fruitful relationships that benefit both communities.”
A copy of the signed documents will be forwarded to the province for the next steps in the process, which will then involve federal input to finally convert the land to reserve status, allowing the development to proceed.
“Once this parcel becomes reserve land, Swan River will become the only municipality in Manitoba to have two urban reserves located within their boundaries,” said Treaty Land Entitlement Committee Executive Director Chris Henderson.
“This is an excellent model of relationship building between a First Nation government and a Municipal government in Manitoba. Instead of just talking the talk you are actually walking the walk.”
This will be the second MDSA between SCN and TSR. The first was signed in 2012 for SCN’s first urban reserve in Swan River, which is now home to Club Sapp gaming centre.
“It’s been a good profitable business and it provides for our community,” said Genaille. “It’s important to us that when we do business we give back to the community.”
Genaille added that it is also important that they help their community members at the same time. Most recently, they were able to pay off a family’s bill at a local funeral home using proceeds earned from the gaming centre.
“It’s a token of appreciation for the people of Swan River contributing to our business,” said Genaille. “And, for a family who is not able to afford a funeral it’s a big, big welcome relief.
“The Town of Swan River has given us the opportunity to do these things (for our people).”