Heiltsuk Economic Development Corporation
In 2009 the Heiltsuk First Nation utilized a substantial portion of its Coast Funds economic development fund allocation to support strategic planning for its Economic Development Corporation (HEDC), the transfer of its existing Tribal Council entities to the HEDC, and for the development of new business opportunities.
“Heiltsuk told us that the community wanted to consolidate its business activities in a functional, efficient economic development corporation,” says Coast Funds’ Director of Economic Development Projects, Neil Philcox. They had prepared a high level vision of where they wanted to go and what kind of activities they were interested in. The next step was to actually get the HEDC up and running. That’s where we came in.”
With its allocation, HEDC was not only able to engage in strategic planning but to hire a qualified chief executive to oversee the plan. CEO Jim Richardson, whose heritage is Mi’kmaq, is now pursuing further allocation funding from Coast Funds to get some of the businesses that have been identified as desirable up and running.
“Another thing Coast Funds has been able to do to help was to bring additional resources to Heiltsuk with a pilot project with MITACS.” MITACS is a federally and provincially funded research network that brings together academia, industry and the public sector through research and training initiatives to develop cutting edge tools vital to the knowledge-based economy.
“We were able to tap into the human resources, skills and financial resources MITACs has to offer and link them up to HEDC’s priorities and needs,” says Philcox. “It was a really important way for Coast Funds to add value to projects like this. We now expect to be able to apply MITACS as a resource to other First Nations communities as well.” To read more about how the program is working on the ground at Heiltsuk, read page 5 of HEDC’s May newsletter.
In the July newsletter, which included an interview with Coast Funds CEO David Mannix, Richardson notes: "Coast Opportunity Funds is a critical partner for HEDC, particularly with getting the company established and an operating entity. Coast Funds was one of our early supporters and we look forward to continuing to work with them and deliver concrete results with their support."
Metlakatla Traditional Canoe
The Metlakatla First Nation’s business activities include marine transportation. For a number of years the Metlakatla Development Corporation has conducted canoe tours for passengers on cruise ships docking in Prince Rupert.
But the existing canoe (pictured above) was too small and was showing signs of its age. It also is not a traditional coastal canoe, and did not properly represent Metlakatla’s Tsimshian culture and heritage.
Metlakatla had also studied the market and knew there was capacity to expand its operation. So, in May 2009, Metlakatla applied a portion of its Coast Funds economic development fund allocation to the design and construction of the world’s largest North Coast First Nation traditional-style Tsimshian canoe, and to prepare the necessary infrastructure for canoe tour operation. The canoe is a replica, built with modern materials, but is in a traditional design and decorated with Tsimshian art.
“It really fitted in with Coast Funds’ mandate,” says Director of Economic Development Projects Neil Philcox, “because it not only is about sustainable economic development and investing in a growing business, but the project also has these other value elements to it, bringing back this style of canoe to the coast and to Tsimshian territory. That was very important to Metlakatla. For the Metlakatla, this has not been about just using their Coast Funds allocation for any business, but for the right business, done the right way.”
The capacity of the canoe, which was launched on April 10, 2010, has more than doubled, from twenty to forty-five occupants, creating more employment in the business. “The canoe is also of course linked to Metlakatla’s broader tourism strategy, with opportunities for related activities like participating in traditional meals. Now there is even interest being shown in using the canoe in films and documentaries,
because it is unique.”
No pun intended, says Philcox, “but this is like a flagship project for Metlakatla. It is a model for implementation of their economic development goals for a stable tourism business based out of Prince Rupert.”
The Coastal Guardian Watchmen Network
And the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department
The Coastal Guardian Watchmen Network (CGWN), created in 2005, is a remarkable initiative that Coast Opportunity Funds has supported in 2009—2010 through the Great Bear Initiative Society, an alliance of coastal First Nations on British Columbia’s north and central coast and Haida Gwaii.
In 2009, the Great Bear Initiative Society applied for a regional allocation from Coast Funds to provide for two years’ of financial support to develop the CGWN into a stable and effective entity supporting Guardian-Watchmen programs throughout the Coast. “The Guardians,” explains Scott Rehmus, CEO of Coast Funds’ conservation fund, are like rangers—they are the eyes and ears of the First Nations in their territories, observing and monitoring what is going on with natural resources and their use.”
The First Nations Guardians, who receive training through a program run by Northwest Community College, gather information about the impacts of human activity, such as tourism, logging, and commercial fishing. They also gather scientific data. The information is collated in the CGWN’s database and helps to inform resource management decisions for the territory. Through a framework set up by the CGWN, individual communities are also able to engage in dialogue, compare notes, cooperate on projects and learn from each other.
“It is a very traditional knowledge-based system, adapted to twenty-first century technology and processes,” says Rehmus. “Knowledge is power. With the information the Guardians are gathering, the First Nations are able to control the management of their lands, waters and resources more effectively, with better conservation and economic outcomes.” That, adds Rehmus, is 100 percent what Coast Funds is about: “This is bedrock stuff—an initiative that goes not only to long term conservation efforts, but to the heart of social, cultural and economic wellbeing of the First Nations communities.”
In 2009, the Heiltsuk First Nation, a member of the Great Bear Initiative Society, decided to use part of its conservation fund allocation to create the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department. “Heiltsuk jumped in with both feet,” says Rehmus. “They developed a plan, hired managers and with the assurance of having their Coast Funds allocation behind them, got their core operations under way.”
Prior to that, while there had been a longstanding desire for integrated management of this kind, it was impossible to establish long term, consistent funding for an office and staff. "Coast Funds conservation fund allocations are proving invaluable in this respect," says Rehmus, "because the funding is permanent, there are no strings attached to it, and it's not a program where the First Nation has to apply for the money with no guarantee they will get it. Coast Funds money is their money, so long as the project meets the criteria, and these integrated management offices are perfect. By taking control of resource management in a more effective way, they can take control of the agenda and expect better long term outcomes for the territory and for their community."