Kwakiutl Indian Band

By Emma Posluns
With information from Randy Black, Economic Development Manager

The Kwakiutl First Nation is made up of about 600 members, 400 of whom live in and around Fort Rupert on the northeastern tip of Vancouver Island. Their beautiful territory, spanning from just south of Port McNeill to the north end of the Island, attracts Crown Land Referrals for both economic development and resource usage. They process forestry, fishery, and tourism referrals, and can receive anywhere from 20 to 60 referrals per month.

To handle the referrals demand, the Economic Development Manager is working on increasing their capacity by training Band members in the Nation’s various economic development initiatives, including business and tourism development, forestry, fisheries, lands and resources, Crown referrals and industry consultations. Currently the manager is the only one to handle incoming Crown Land Referrals. To stay organized, he uses a filing method with colour-coded folders. The band is currently working on creating a Tradition Use Study database and GPS/Mapping System which will greatly aid the referrals process. The database will be able to store large amounts of data and query them when needed.

By having vast quantities of data about their traditional territories readily available, the Kwakiutl Nation will be prepared to be strategic in their land use. With the Traditional Use Study information the Band has what it needs to respond to referrals and to make a plan for future economic stability. In the past, business ventures in the area have not benefited the Kwakiutl; they have instead been detrimental to the local environment and culture. Today the Development Manager strives to enhance the community via development referrals.

The Nation maintains a good relationship with the proponent in order to enhance local economics and maximize accommodation from a project. The Kwakiutl have recently started working with a large mineral corporation to export sand and gravel. This is an extensive project that will affect both land and sea, as deep sea dock facilities are needed for transportation. The Band and the company have negotiated an Impact Benefit Agreement as accommodation for the use of their traditional territorial lands and resources. This agreement benefits the community currently by providing jobs, environmental mitigation and monitoring, business opportunities, and financial accommodation from the project. The income from the project benefits the community in the future by enabling the Band to invest the royalties in a trust fund which will be used to leverage their borrowing power to invest in future resource developments. For the Kwakiutl, accommodation is a very important step in the referrals process, and depends on the relationship built with the proponent, in this case a mineral company. Success can also be attributed to keeping the First Nation’s needs a top priority, and having a strategy to do so.