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Penticton Indian Band community planning energized by quick-start projects

Photo caption 1: A stop sign at Penticton Indian Band features the community's traditional language.
Photo caption 2: Elaine Alec (left) and Anona Kampe were champions of the Penticton Indian Band's community planning process.

(NC) Penticton Indian Band used a tried and true method to keep members interested and engaged as they worked on their comprehensive community plan (CCP). Instead of waiting until the plan was fully completed, they decided to move ahead with a few high impact, visual, but low cost projects called “quick starts.”

It had become evident as the planning continued that there were several projects that, with the help of volunteers, could be implemented with a minimal time commitment, very little planning and few resources. These quick-start projects were acted on immediately and gave the Band's CCP momentum and credibility.

One early win was a series of billboards they set up in the community showcasing the positive teachings of their people. From start to finish, this project took only six months to complete and was spearheaded by community members. They decided on the theme "Honouring our Elders' Teachings" and the billboards were paid for by the health department which had funds to promote healthy lifestyles.

Now as members and visitors drive through the community, they are inspired by the teachings of the Elders. “The project brought the community together and our own members appear on the billboards for everyone to see," says Anona Kampe, one of the leaders of the community planning process.

Another quick-start project was a matter of safety. At a planning gathering, one Elder mentioned that when her husband had a recent medical emergency, the ambulance could not find their house because there were no road signs. Members knew the reserve landmarks and homes, so road signs were never necessary. However, outsiders didn't share this knowledge. As a result, community members expressed a desire to name the roads and install street signs.

A detailed history of each area and road was gathered from the Elders. Roads were named after plants and animals and translated into the traditional language. Then, after the community found a small pot of funding, signs in the traditional language were installed. This project took only a year to complete.

Two other quick-start projects were rooted in community activities and didn't require any funding. The first, the revitalization of culture and language, was a priority for the community. The Elders wanted to hear the language again and they wanted young people to learn it. One recommendation, made at a planning meeting, was to use the traditional language to open all community meetings. The planning team took it upon themselves to ensure that this happened. No extra resources, planning or staff were needed -- all it took was the initiative to change.

The second was the result of a recurring theme during the planning process: the desire by the community to come together for positive reasons. Too often, they were gathering in times of grief or during crises. This led to the organization of Gathering for a Purpose. Volunteers led the charge to organize a weekend event where members gathered to drum, sing, laugh, visit, pray, eat and learn. Elders taught and told stories, children played, traditional stick games were held and songs were sung. All that was required was an idea and it was implemented entirely by volunteers.

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