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Nicola Valley First Nations, Province sign agreement to bolster regional prosperity, advance economic partnership

Press Release

March 20, 2019

MERRITT – The five Nicola Valley First Nations and the Province of British Columbia are committing to work together on regional economic development as the Nations advance their plans for the old Merritt visitor centre lands at Gateway 286.

Premier John Horgan and the Nicola Chiefs affirmed this commitment by signing a protocol agreement on March 20, 2019, in Coldwater, focused on supporting economic opportunities.

“Working with the Province and our neighbouring Nations gives us unity and strength to work towards improving prosperity for our region,” said Chief Aaron Sumexheltza, Lower Nicola Indian Band. “This is another step towards implementing positive economic change for all of our members and Nicola Valley residents.”

In recent years, the Nicola First Nations have worked together and with the Province on specific economic and environmental issues, including a March 2018 memorandum of understanding to collaboratively manage the Nicola Watershed.

“The government-to-government agreement with the Nicola Chiefs is a result of their hard work and commitment to foster economic growth and opportunities for their communities, and the entire region,” said Premier Horgan. “Our government will continue to work in partnership with First Nations to create prosperity in every part of the province, and make life better for everyone in B.C. — now and into the future.”

The protocol is another example of how B.C. is working with and supporting First Nations in new ways to support economic growth in the Nicola Valley. In the Province’s Budget 2019, it was announced that starting in April 2019, almost $100 million per year in gaming revenue will be shared with First Nations. This means every First Nation community in the province is estimated to be eligible for revenue in the range of about $250,000 to $2 million annually to support community priorities determined by the First Nations themselves.

The Nations’ application to acquire the lands necessary for the Gateway 286 project is currently moving through a decision-making process by the Province that will include an assessment and technical review, as well as consultation with neighbouring First Nations and stakeholder engagement. The process will be prioritized through the protocol. Should the acquisition and transfer of the lands to the Nicola First Nations for the Gateway 286 project proceed, the Province is committed to supporting the successful development of the project, which will benefit the region as a whole.


Chief Lee Spahan, Coldwater Indian Band —

“It is an honour to be working with the other four Bands. It has been a long journey to get here. We are happy to finally see some traction and I feel this will help turn things around in our valley. We are happy that the Province is supporting us in this endeavour.”

Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation —

“Sharing in long-term revenues and supporting the Nations’ goals for other economic development opportunities, such as their aspirations for the Gateway project, will help build strong and prosperous First Nations communities in the Nicola Valley, benefiting members of the Nations and the region as a whole.”

Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development —

“Shared prosperity is a cornerstone to building and maintaining strong and stable economies in First Nations and rural communities. We look forward to continued collaboration with the Chiefs and First Nations in the Nicola Valley on ways to grow the local economy and how we can, together, take steps towards reconciliation.”

Quick Facts:

  • The five Nicola Valley First Nations are the Coldwater Indian Band, Lower Nicola Indian Band, Nooaitch Indian Band, Shackan Indian Band and Upper Nicola Indian Band.
  • The property at the Gateway 286 exit is at the junction of highways 5 and 97C, just outside of Merritt. This is the former site of the Merritt visitor centre.

Learn More:

Nicola Valley Economic Development Protocol:

Tania Venn
Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation
250 208-6183
Chief Aaron Sumexheltza
Lower Nicola Indian Band
250 315-7563


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