The communities of the Ktunaxa Nation and special guests gathered at St. Eugene Mission Resort on Sunday, June 24, for an event celebrating the Nation’s ownership of St. Eugene, and its transformation from a residential school into the deluxe resort it is today.
The St. Eugene Owners Celebration Pow Wow, hosted by the Resort and by ?Aq’am (St. Mary’s Band), was attended by members of the surrounding communities and by representatives of ?akis´qnuk First Nation, Tobacco Plains Indian Band and the Lower Kootenay Band. Guests from Shuswap Indian Band, the Kootenay Tribe of Idaho (Bonner’s Ferry) and the Sampson Cree First Nation.
After a grand entrance at the Pavilion at the resort, the assembled heard remarks by Ktunaxa Chiefs and councillors from the other bands. Sophie Pierre, and former chief of St. Mary’s, summed up the spirit of the occasion with words from a Ktunaxa elder which had inspired the local First Nations to set about the transformation of the old residential school, with all its weight of history, into the economy and tourism hotspot it is today — a centerpiece of Ktunaxa Culture.
“ If we are taught that we have lost something, it is up to us to pick it up,” Pierre said. “If you refuse to pick it up, that’s when you have lost it.
“It has meant a great deal for us to [take back the past] — for the Ktunaxa, the Shuswap Indian Band, and for all people who live [of traditional Ktunaxa territory], to make a positive future for all of us.”
The St. Eugene Mission operated as a residential school from 1912 to 1970. During this time, over 5,000 children from across British Columbia and Alberta attended the school. After the facility was closed in 1970, it came into disrepair.
The St. Eugene Golf Course opened in 2000 followed by the Casino of the Rockies in 2002 and the St. Eugene Hotel in 2003. In 2004, two partners were brought on board, Samson Cree Nation from Alberta and Rama First Nation from Ontario. Representatives from Rama were unable to attend Saturday’s Pow Wow.
One year ago, on June 20, 2017, complete ownership of the St. Eugene Golf Resort and Casino was assumed by the four Ktunaxa communities ʔakisq̓nuk First Nation, ʔaq̓am, ʔakink̓umǂasnuqǂiʔit (Tobacco Plains), yaqan nukiy (Lower Kootenay) and Kyaknuq+i?it – the Shuswap Indian Band, who together make up St. Eugene Mission Holdings Limited (SHL).
Saturday’s Pow Wow featured dance events in several categories, several different drum groups, Speaking Earth tours, traditional games, and dinner.