The Terrace Nisga’a Urban Local is recognized officially as the Gitlaxdax Society, opening up the opportunity for the organization to pursue grants.
The local is recognized under the Nisga’a Constitution for the purpose of providing political representation for Nisga’a citizens living in Terrace to the Nisga’a Lisims Government (NLG) through the election of two local representatives. Two other societies exist in Prince Rupert and Vancouver.
Becoming a society would identify the Terrace Nisga’a Urban Local as a corporate entity under provincial law, allowing it to apply for and administer funds and services to local Nisga’a residents. Between 1,100 to 1,700 Nisga’a are registered with the local as living in Terrace.
The three board members make up the Gitlaxdax Society, including Keith Azak and Maryanne Stanley and Lyle Adams. The society is also looking to hire a CEO.
“It’s going to be a great success, and it’s going to open up doors for us,” said Azak in briefing city council Sept. 5 on the transition.
Programs and services will transition from NLG to the new Gitlaxdax Society Oct. 31. Programming includes culture and language programs, coat and boot allowances for children and elders, education gifts which provide school supplies for students, and recreational programs like hiking, horseback riding and kickboxing classes for youth.
“Right now, our citizens, some are struggling. We have people trying to decide whether they should pay for food or housing, especially our seniors. It’s scary,” he says, noting some programs have had to be cut in the past because of a lack of funding. “We couldn’t go after dollars because we weren’t a society.”
With this new identity, the Gitlaxdax Society also hopes to assist the homeless and establish low-income housing in Terrace, with the possibility of working with the city to have an Indigenous counsellor and a place to provide services and re-establish family connections for homeless Nisga’a. The society is also planning to work with the Kermode Friendship Society on social issues in the future.
The next goal for the society is to work with Parkside Secondary or Suwilaawks Community School to build a longhouse and smokehouse, Azak says.
“It would be nice for not only our youth, but it could also attract tourism as well.”