Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it (Tobacco Plains Indian Band) is moving forward with an RV campground and gas station project that Chief Heidi Gravelle says will provide sustainable economic growth and increased autonomy for her people.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Tuesday (Aug. 30) at the site of the future Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it Travel Centre off Hwy. 93, roughly halfway between the Grasmere General Store and the Montana border.
“It’s in a prime location so that it’s still on reserve, but it’s hitting the flow of traffic going south and north,” Gravelle said.
The centre will include 38 RV sites, a gas station, and a convenience store for groceries and essential items that would otherwise require travel to procure.
Gravelle said it’s something their members have been asking for for quite some time.
“It’s just going to provide that little bit of extra quality of life for our people, and, again, it’s going to instil that pride back into our community as well.”
She said sustainable economic growth is about more than just revenue, but, thinking holistically, touches on aspects of life like the mental, emotional, social and physical, and economics is a part of that.
“What we find typically in Canada is such a huge reliance on Indigenous Services Canada and whatever funding can be funnelled through,” she said.
Providing economic growth will help people and their organization see that they don’t have to rely on that, she said.
“We have the opportunity to plan and be self-sustainable, which follows down that road that Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it will be a self-determining First Nation.”
Construction for the centre will be done by Silverado Industries. The expected finish date is late May, 2023.
The cost is hovering around $11 million. The gas station funding is coming from Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it source revenue, and the RV campground portion is being funded by TC Energy, who will be using the campsites for the first two years as they work on a pipeline being built in the region.
“After that, it’s completely ours,” Gravelle said.
Money spent at the centre will be going back into the community, she said.
“We’re all family in our First Nation. It’s investing in everybody, and again, that opportunity to just have more autonomy.
“This is really leading into the era where we say what we want, and we do how we want to get to that.”
Another big outcome they would like to see with time is a cultural centre, so visitors can get the full experience, she said, and understand whose land they’re on, understand who the people are, the historical timeline, and can view artisan items.
“I hope that this is going to be the opportunity where we are employing our people, and our people are going to be the face of that site,” she said.
“Going forward it’s just going to provide more opportunity for our people here on reserve, and enticing for members to move home as well.
“We want us embedded in there, so that people can learn. And that’s the only way people are going learn.”