Case Studies

On these pages you can read the experiences of other First Nations in dealing with Land Referrals. Each case study show-cased on this page represents a unique approach to referrals management both politically and strategically.

'Namgis Nation: The importance of accommodation

Kwakiutl Indian Band: Accommodation & the future

Ktunaxa Nation: A look at an information management system

Hupacasath First Nation: An exemplary online application

Nisga'a Nation: Consultation management

Okanagan Indian Band: Efficient approach to referrals

Sliammon First Nation: A fee for service approach to referrals

Tsawwassen First Nation : Referrals in an urban setting

  Copyright © 2002 - Sliammon First Nation & Ecotrust Canada

'Namgis Nation

By Emma Posluns

With information from Doug Aberley, Treaty Coordinator

The home community of the ‘Namgis Nation is located on Cormorant Island which is two kilometers from Northern Vancouver Island. The traditional territory of the ‘Namgis covers a much larger 2,800 square kilometer area, which offers many resources for potential development including minerals, forests, energy, and marine resources. The Nation receives up to two hundred “Crown” land referrals each year, and does its best to answer to most of them.

The Treaty and Natural Resources Office answer referrals. Staff work simultaneously on treaty negotiation, planning, economic development and land referrals, thus they can judge each referral in relation to broader land use planning and economic development goals of the Nation. Using this approach, the ‘Namgis utilize the talents of a cultural resource officer, two land planners, a GIS technician, three fisheries staff, and a forester. Different types of referrals are routed to these individuals using a paper tracking system. When asked whether or not an electronic tracking system would be more efficient, Doug Aberley, the Treaty Coordinator for the ‘Namgis Nation, said that he is “not convinced that technology is always the way to go”. He insists that “old-fashioned” paper systems can be very efficient and organized; it just depends on the office.

When it comes to accommodation of the ‘Namgis in proposed projects, it is not always good to do things the “old fashioned way”. The ‘Namgis have a firm policy to attempt to gain an equity share of all sustainable economic development projects proposed to be undertaken in their territory. For example, when meeting with Polaris Minerals about a proposed gravel extraction development, the Namgis negotiated a 12% ownership stake in the project. This move dramatically changed the way the ‘Namgis processed referrals related to the project. In the past, the Nation may not have had the resources and capacity to handle referrals the way they wanted to, however today they have the ability to complete as detailed a review of project referrals as they deem necessary.

The ‘Namgis have also advanced when it comes to participating in environmental impact assessments for projects located in their territory. Traditionally, outside interests control environmental impact assessments (EIA). The EIAs typically cover a narrow ‘footprint’ directly occupied by proposed project activity. By gaining an equity share of economic development projects, the ‘Namgis can take a better approach to the EIA process. For example, Brookfield Power and the ‘Namgis First Nation currently are partners in a joint-venture to develop two run-of-the-river hydro projects. In both cases, all the watersheds within which the projects are located are being assessed for potential environmental and social impacts. The terms of reference for assessment work are jointly developed by the ‘Namgis and their business partner. Accommodation of ‘Namgis in this project has lead to a strong partnership, a strong referral/environmental assessment process, and 50+ megawatts of new green power for the area.

Individual nations should make their own decisions concerning land use instead of creating unanimous responses put together by multiple nations. Currently, British Columbia is pushing for groups of First Nations to coordinate the process of responding to referrals. The ‘Namgis do not support this ‘streamlining’ approach to allowing centralized referral bureaucracies to be formed. If a First Nation can develop the internal capacity to handling “Crown” land referrals, then this talent can be used for many other beneficial activities!

The ‘Namgis Treaty and Natural Resources Department has come a long way since they started answering “Crown” land referrals three years ago. Based on strong direction from Council, each staff member who participates in the referral process seeks to extend the political and economic power of the ‘Namgis First Nation within its territory. As well, they have realized the importance of involving the wider ‘Namgis community by making all levels of the referrals process as transparent as possible.

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.

Ktunaxa Nation

By Emma Posluns

With information from Jose Galdamez, GIS Coordinator &
Ray Warden, Manager Lands Stewardship

For thousands of years members of the Ktunaxa Nation have migrated around the Kootenay region of southeastern British Columbia. Seasonal changes in vegetation and animals took them to Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alberta. Today, most of their bands are in British Columbia.

The Ktunaxa Nation receives between forty and fifty referrals per month. They range from small to large projects, which mostly concern land use. In their traditional territory there are five coalmines, many of which are expanding their boundaries. Forestry and coal bed methane gas companies are also seriously interested in the area and will be expanding in the future.

These activities produce a steady influx of Crown Land Referrals. To track these, the nation has a simple three-step process. First, information is gathered and given a file number, then registered in the records. A map is made of the information, and the ministry from which the referral came is noted. Second, the referral is routed to the Lands and Resources office where the level of potential impact is determined. Impact is euther low, medium or high. The rating system establishes where the referral will be sent next. The third step, is called “Determining the Pathway”. High impact referrals may be sent to department directors, informed biologists, or to the community. Examples of high impact projects are modifications of waterways, hydroelectric dams, and other non-renewable resource uses.

Tracking the entire referrals process is an important part of the Ktunaxa Nation’s strategy when dealing with the government. The Nation is developing a management system that will include policies, procedures and software to track paperwork, emails, documents, letters, etc. The system will be an information management tool that the Nation will use for referrals, treaty negotiations, and many other processes in various sectors of the Nation. Once the system is in place, the Ktunaxa Nation’s goal is to share their experience of using this scheme with other nations who want to develop similar information management tools. They will also be able to share what they learn about software packages and software program evaluations.

It is important to see technology, such as this software, as a tool instead of the answer to all problems. Jose Galdamez, GIS coordinator for the Nation, says many people “see technology as a solution. Technology only helps to manage better”. He believes that instead of relying on technology, First Nations should focus more on creating a strategic plan for responding to the government. Instead of reacting to referrals and organizing an office around these requests, First Nations should be proactive, and create a Land Use Plan. A Land Use Plan will provide “more of a strategic deal with the [government], on a higher level” says Galdamez.

When responding to Crown Land Referrals strategically, the Nation needs to see the big picture, and be able to plan for future benefits to their nation. Manager of Lands Stewardship, Ray Warden, explains that when proponents realize that “referrals are not a portal to consultation”, they learn they must have a mutual relationship with the nation in order to develop in the area. Such a mutually beneficial relationship generally ensures the Ktunaxa Nation will have adequate environmental protection, current and future jobs and economic participation. Warden suggests signing Accommodation Agreements with the proponent, and providing the agreement with constant maintenance.

Hupacasath First Nation

By Emma Posluns

With information from Brandy Lauder, Natural Resource Manager