(Source of article: http://prpeak.com/articles/2013/03/20/news/doc5148fa16e93db658228067.txt)
A small first nation with traditional territory in the Powell River area has made large strides in economic development.
Klahoose First Nation has 371 band members, with youth comprising 60 to 70 per cent of the population. Its main community is on the east shore of Cortes Island, but its traditional territory includes the Toba Valley, site of two run-of-river projects, with two more on the way.
Chief James Delorme was recently acclaimed for a second term. He became chief in October 2011 when he won a by-election to fill the position vacated by Ken Brown, who resigned six months after he was elected to his third term. The band’s election is on April 13 and there are 10 candidates in the running for three council positions. During the nomination meeting on March 2, no one else was nominated for the chief position.
Delorme, 41, is Cree. His father is from the Cowessess First Nation, which is near Broadview, a small town in Saskatchewan. Delorme transferred to the Klahoose and has been a part of the community for over 18 years. Three of his children are Klahoose band members and he is fluent in the Klahoose language. “It fit with me, that I could transfer and be a Klahoose member, as long as they accepted me, and I knew I could serve the people well, just as a community member,” he said.
While other band members asked him to run after Brown resigned, Delorme said it was his personal decision. “I knew that if I did get elected, here was my chance to serve the community, which I love and care for very much, and also help with my children. I felt, with my values, I could be a contributor.”
The fact that he was acclaimed gives him the confidence that he has been doing the right job over the last year and a half. “There are always trials and tribulations, but the points that I find are most important are the ones that tell me I’m doing a good job and that there are a lot more positive than negative. Those are the things I like to focus in on.”Delorme is also president of Qathen Xwegus Management Corporation, Klahoose’s economic development company. It oversees a number of projects that are moving the community along a path of self-sufficiency.
One of the largest is its partnership in Alterra Power Corporation’s run-of-river projects in Toba. The band signed a resource development agreement with Alterra last year for the Upper Toba run-of-river project, which will add two more hydroelectric plants to the area where the existing Toba-Montrose facilities have been operating. While dollar amounts on agreements are confidential, they often include revenue sharing provisions; employment, training and contracting opportunities; environmental considerations; and protection of cultural and heritage resources.
Klahoose is set to start construction on Upper Toba and the project, which will last two to three years, will provide employment, training, infrastructure in the valley and support for other projects, as well as a revenue stream, Delorme said. “What that’s leading to is that the Klahoose First Nation wants to be independent from the government at some point,” he said. “We need to have finances to support our people. We need to be able to support them, not just for the next 10 years, but generations to come. This is why Klahoose has always been at the forefront of economic development.”
Another main area of economic development is forestry. A tree farm licence, TFL 10, was converted to one of the largest community forest agreements in BC in 2009, covering 230,000 hectares around Toba. “We’re trying to get our members involved in the logging, get them trained, have them part of the program so that they can be interested in a career. Those are huge successes for us.”
Klahoose has purchased a small dimensional sawmill and has started producing value-added wood products, employing five band members. “We are using our wood lot for fibre to keep the sawmill running and we are working with the University of BC forestry program to develop sustainable wood products for market.”
Klahoose has also forged a partnership with the Cortes Island community to work on a forest plan for an application for a community forest licence on Cortes.
The band is building four new homes at T’ok (Squirrel Cove) based on own-source revenue. “Homes are usually built from Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation support, but these new residences will be band-owned.”
Additionally, the band is close to development of a marina in Squirrel Cove Bay and is about to get involved with eco-tourism in its territory. It is also pursuing aquaculture licences.
With a strong interest in the cultural values of its nation, Klahoose is planning to build a cultural gathering place for ceremonial practices. It also has plans to work on an extended health package for its members. “Chief and council recognize that our people are seriously under-supported for health support and programs to the entire nation. We would like to work on a model that can serve other nations as well.”
Since Delorme has been chief, the band has created a system of providing some financial support to members through a distribution. “We created a legacy fund, a trust fund, for our younger members who are underage. Any distribution monies that come from Klahoose go directly into that trust fund, which is an interest-bearing fund, and can be collected by individual members when they turn 19.”
The money can be used for anything band members want, from education to buying a house. “It’s there for them. If I wasn’t chief from here on in, that would be the glowing success for me.”
Although it’s not an easy task, Delorme said, he loves being chief. “I love serving our people and getting to know our people better. Over the last year and a half, it’s just been one opportunity after the other to realize who the Klahoose people are and the collective ideas of our nation, for the better good of our people.”
Klahoose’s main office is in Powell River, Delorme pointed out, which is Tla’amin (Sliammon) First Nation’s territory. “We have a deep respect for our neighbours,” he said. “We’re bridging the gap and we have healthy relationships with our neighbours. Sliammon has been wonderful to Klahoose.”