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Doig River First Nation looking to host open houses about Dawson Creek urban reserve

Similar to Naache Commons in Fort St. John, the proposed urban reserve would add to the business capacity of the city, and bolster the nation’s independence.
The site of the future urban reserve in Dawson Creek.

Doig River First Nation is continuing development of an urban reserve in Dawson Creek. Chief Trevor Makadahay and Band Manager Shona Nelson appeared as a delegation during the City of Dawson Creek's March 25 council meeting to answer questions about the project. 

Makadahay said the urban reserve is an opportunity to build relationships with the Dawson Creek community, and noted they're looking to host open houses and world cafes for the general public to provide information and foster understanding of their plans. 

10.4 acres have been set aside in Dawson Creek for the urban reserve. A trading post or gas station were previously noted as potential uses for the land, with the nation open to seeing what business needs or services the community might have. 

Doig River First Nation was nomadic, but have lived in the South Peace since time immemorial to the present day. 

"There's a lot of history of our people in Dawson, and we're basically coming home again," said Makadahay, noting they're aiming create commercial projects and ventures based on a best-use study. 

"I think we're here for the long-haul and we want to be part of Dawson as well, and in the region. And we've built a lot of relationships with industry, and municipalities, and I think we're excited, actually," he added. "Everyone's really excited, it's a good opportunity for us to become good neighbours." 

Doig River is currently working with Urban Systems to develop a best use study and business case, including environmental site assessments, explained Nelson. A community engagement plan is also being worked on. 

"Generating our own source revenue either through industry agreements or arrangements like work on the territory or revenue sharing agreements with the province, or a third stream for us is commercial investment, that's been Doig's goal, is to be, you know, financially independent from federal government funding," said Nelson, noting they have an obligation to their membership to invest prudently.  

"The work that we've done at Doig to build our financial capacity, and the ability to make and purchase land, and make investments, and go through this process; because it's on our dime, it's not funded by anybody, for additions-to-reserve, is I think, a good step to demonstrate Doig's willingness to reintroduce ourselves to the community of Dawson Creek," she added. 

Additions-to-reserve (ATR) is a process where First Nations can add land to their existing land base, and can be acquired through lands owed through specific claims or legal obligation, but also through a desire for community growth. Doig River purchased the land at market value, and continue to pay property taxes on it. 

Dober said council is also excited about the urban reserve, expressing his appreciation for Makadahay's and Nelson's willingness to educate others. Makadahay, Nelson, and Band councillors met with the city last fall to discuss the urban reserve. 

"We really appreciate that and appreciate the relationship we've built so far," said Dober. "Doig is, you know, definitely a leader in a lot of things. So, we're excited about you coming to our community and we look forward to working with you as well." 

Indigenous Services Canada, a department of the federal government, has sent a letter to the City of Dawson Creek, requesting the city provide a letter confirming support of the proposed reserve creation and that discussions between the parties on a service agreement are underway.

"Dawson Creek's support is very important to moving this forward," said Nelson. "Obviously, you cannot have an urban reserve without water and sewer, and other services that the municipality provides."

The urban reserve is expected to be modelled after Naache Commons, an urban reserve created by Doig River in partnership with the City of Fort St. John through a Memorandum of Understanding.

An MOU will be created between Doig River and the City of Dawson Creek, in addition to Municipal Services Agreement for the purchase of city services in-lieu of taxes. 

City council did approve a motion to have staff send a letter that they support the proposed reserve and are working with Doig River on a services agreement. 

You can read Indigenous Service Canada's letter below: 

Letter From Indigenous Services Canada by Tom Summer on Scribd