The effective management of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc (TteS) property tax system provides a snapshot of the possibilities when First Nations successfully implement their tax jurisdiction. As the pioneers of taxation authority, TteS has been able to move forward with clear results such as employment, strengthening community and building infrastructure through property tax implementation.
Tax dollars collected go back into the community to improve services including fire protection, policing services in conjunction with the rural detachment, garbage, recycling, snow removal and City of Kamloops user fees for those properties connected to the city’s sewer. As well, some property tax dollars go toward strategic planning initiatives and cultural incentives such as the Secwepemc museum, heritage park and the pow wow arbour.
The Arbour
While TteS has many accomplishments, the visual crowning glory is undoubtedly the arbour. This magnificent structure seats 2,500 people and is home to one of the largest celebrations of Indigenous culture and heritage in Western Canada: the Kamloopa Pow Wow. Thousands of visitors witness the storytelling, song and dance in traditional regalia in this annual celebration. However, the pow wow holds special significance for Tk’emlúpsemc (Kamloops people). It celebrates their heritage, builds community, and teaches children traditions and values.
The first official Kamloopa Pow Wow in the arbour opened on the site in conjunction as part of the 1993 Canada Games. Canada Games athletes, dignitaries, tourists, locals, other First Nations and TteS community members joined together to celebrate the achievement. For many, it was the first public demonstration of their right to proudly celebrate their culture and heritage in a long time.
The Arbour and Taxation
At that time, the community was already into their second year of collecting tax revenue. While building the arbour was an organizational and construction feat, proper maintenance ensures it stands for many generations. Ongoing dedication from TteS and property tax revenue make this possible. Currently property tax dollars contribute each year to the maintainence and improvement of the arbour and grounds.
Since construction, it is estimated TteS has spent well over $1 million on improvements to the water and sewage systems, landscaping and out buildings, such as washrooms and vendor space. These improvements would not have been possible without property tax. Revenues earned in the community, stay in the community.
The Kamloopa Pow Wow has grown into a major annual event that draws visitors from nearby communities and around the globe. TteS continues to strengthen ties with local businesses and advocates for community fiscal independence. Consequently, the arbour rarely sits idle.
Community members and local residents utilize the spacious grounds for graduations, weddings, funerals, memorials, movies, and trade events, such as RV and boat shows. These continue to generate revenue for TteS and the arbour is now a trusted local venue.
The pride expressed for the arbour goes beyond admiration for a job well-done. It also serves as a reminder of the importance of community and the strength of the Tk’emlúpsemc heritage. The demands of today’s world include managing land and assets properly. Just as their ancestors before them, the Tk’emlúpsemc of today will continue to find innovative ways to persevere and prosper. It is in their best interests to direct property tax dollars where they are needed for a thriving community and future.
Through solid governance, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc will continue to build education, infrastructure and community services for all. Tax revenue is an important vehicle that provides what they need to ensure the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being of the citizens and community as a whole.