Williams Lake City Council heard several proposed names for the RC Cotton Site Bridge from the Williams Lake Indian Band’s cultural co-ordinator David Archie at their Tuesday, Feb. 25 meeting.
The presentation began with a brief introduction by the WLIB’s CAO Aaron Mannella, who said Chief Willie Sellars sends his regret he was unable to attend, as he is currently visiting the Prime Minister’s Office in Ottawa. Archie, Mannella said, is a former chief himself and a dedicated civil servant who is a new addition to the WLIB team.
Archie began by thanking council for hearing his presentation and acknowledging the presence of several WLIB matriarchs who, along with other elders and knowledge keepers, came up with the names he was presenting. While selecting these names he said they kept in mind the connection of families with one another and the land.
“Looking at a bridge, the whole possibility of what an actual bridge is, you need two strong sides, two strong foundations, to join together to create a bridge,” Archie said. “I think that is the epitome of what the City of Williams Lake has been doing for so long and the leadership and sacrifice of our matriarchs and leaders have (done) to get us to this point today.”
Archie said the proposed names include Knepentwecw, which translates into “we come together,” Nekw7usem which means “one tribe or one family (unity)” and Chief Felix Bob after the first elected chief of the WLIB.
Knepentwecw, Archie said, is particularly powerful as it evokes the idea of two groups, the WLIB and Williams Lake, coming together as one. In that vein, Nekw7usem, or unity, is another strong contender in his eyes.
The final name, Chief Felix Bob, was selected when the elders were looking back on the band’s history to the time of transition for their people when they adapted to the changing times with the election of the first non-hereditary chief.
The WLIB, Archie said, is looking forward to the next steps of taking part in the bridge’s official naming ceremony and beyond to future partnerships and projects with the City of Williams Lake.
Cobb thanked him and the others in attendance for the presentation, joking he found it interesting they came up with three such strong names and left it to Council to pick their favourite. This was a sentiment shared by the rest of the City Councillors, who all feel they have a tough decision ahead of them.
Coun. Marnie Brenner thanked them for the presentation and acknowledging both sides and the strong leadership required to make such partnerships work. Looking at the options, Brenner says she likes the idea of possibly combining two into something like “The Chief Felix Bob Nekw7usem Bridge”.
“I’m excited, I think this is a really unique opportunity to build the future for our community as a whole in this valley,” Coun. Scott Nelson said.
Nelson hopes this bridge will be just the start of the City securing more grants to continue to develop local trail systems straight to the Fraser River. He finds all three names fantastic and thanked the WLIB for being a part of this process and building such a strong partnership with the City. Previously, Mayor Walt Cobb had said he thought giving the bridge a Secwepemc name was a great idea, as the City had previously discussed doing the same with street names. However, as Williams lake is not adding many new streets at the moment and the fact changing existing street names would require changing the postal code, he felt this was a perfect opportunity.
Cobb said all of the proposed names are good that has important meaning behind them. Personally, Cobb is in favour of naming it after Chief Felix Bob to draw parallels to Herb Gardner Park who was the first Mayor of Williams Lake. As a group, however, he said that Council will make the decision in committee.
The bridge’s soft opening takes place Friday, Feb. 28 at Scout Island from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.