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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Prophet River First Nation and the City of Fort St. John signed a memorandum of understanding outlining plans for an urban reserve for members of the nation living in the city.

Several years in the making, the MOU signals movement forwards on the land that Prophet River First Nation already owns in Fort St. John and plans to develop.

“I’m excited about the economic future for our members that reside here, but also the ones that will be moving here in the future,” Chief Valerie Askoty said.

The MOU serves to recognize the positions of the city and the nation and clarify common ground and agreement —which is, in this case, that the nation will create an urban reserve on its land within the city.

After signing the document on Wednesday evening, Askoty said, there are several next steps but they will eventually include building on the land.

“We’re looking at having offices, apartments,” she said. “There’s so many things we can think of.”

Housing will be a priority for the reserve.

“There are quite a few members that reside here,” Askoty said. She lived in Fort St. John for 20 years and knows the hardship well.

“One of the struggles we always had was someone having a place to call home… having our own urban reserve here, we will now have a place to call home. That is exciting, for members to have that step forward in that direction,” she said.

Nation members who either already live in Fort St. John (of which there are about 60) or plan to in the future come from all different kinds of lives — from young families with parents working in the industry around the city, to elders, to young adults attending Northern Lights College.

Fort St. John’s Mayor Lori Ackerman was also glad to see the MOU signed. The agreement is the second of it’s kind for the city and current council and was based on the blueprint set out by the MOUs signed with the Doig River First Nation for a similar project.

Ackerman agreed that the signing was exciting and spoke not only to new possibilities for Prophet River First Nation but of a larger trend.

“[The two MOUs] really do show that there’s a real willingness for the First Nations to reestablish here and to invest in our community,” she said.

Ackerman also commended the efforts of the PRFN’s chief and council.

“When you look at the leadership that the Prophet Chief.. [has] shown in purchasing the land and wanting to build for their communities inside our community—it’s pretty significant,” she said.

The land owned by Prophet River First Nation and intended for the urban reserve is on the eastern side of the city, near Robert Ogilvie Elementary School, Ackerman said.

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Grace Giesbrecht

Grace Giesbrecht is a news reporter for who recently graduated from Trinity Western University with a bachelor of arts in Media + Communications. She was born and raised just outside of Fort St. John. She began reporting for her university’s student newspaper and interned with Ottawa Life Magazine where she developed a passion for asking questions, telling stories, and the written word. In her free time, you can find her drinking coffee, snowboarding, or reading novels.