Everything is one? Relationships between First Nations and salmon farming companies. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Lars Huemer, BI Norwegian Business School, Norway
Many First Nations along the Canadian west coast have relied on seafood and the catch of wild salmon to sustain their communities. Salmon farming could represent a commercial alternative to the traditional way of living, but this business has not been an obvious choice for First Nations, and interacting with corporations can be challenging for Indigenous peoples (see, for example, Peredo and Anderson, 2006). Conflict is common regarding goals, the use of resources, and the distribution of benefits (Gedicks, 2001; Calbucura, 2003). Opposition to salmon farming has been particularly strong in British Columbia (B.C.), with common criticism from First Nation communities and
external stakeholders alike. To illustrate, First Nation members-including hereditary chiefs-recently called for the eviction of multinational-owned fish farms. Salmon farmers were labeled “poison”—an environmental problem that harms wild fish, disrupts natural migration routes, and spreads disease-thereby threatening Indigenous people and their culture (Nikiforuk, 2016). Other First Nations have started to accept salmon farming, and have developed partnerships with corporations. According to B.C. Salmon Farmers association, there are 19 economic and social partnerships with First Nations; close to 80% of the salmon raised in B.C. is done in partnership with First Nations. The industry provides jobs in remote coastal areas, making it possible for First Nations employees to care for their families and stay in their traditional communities (BC Salmon Farmers Association, 2016). This study focuses on two First Nations and their formalized relationships with two salmon farmers. Ahousaht has worked with the global fish farming giant Cermaq for a number of years, and Tla-o-qui-aht has a more recent partner agreement with Creative Salmon, a small, local salmon farming company. Of interest is how these First Nations and their corporate partners have interacted in order to develop their relationships. An Ahousaht member stressed that “the West” and its corporations usually miss the idea that “everything is one; People and Ocean.” But can this sense of unity and shared destiny be developed between First Nations and corporations? This is an interesting issue, since the meeting between corporations and Indigenous peoples concerns questions of how to make a living, how to make living itself meaningful, and may even challenge the conditions under which one makes a living (cf. Bebbington, 1999). In particular, this chapter relates to the concept of community-based enterprise (CBE) as one way of dealing with First Nation resource development. A CBE, according to Peredo and Chrisman (2006), aims to contribute to both local economic and social development, and is built on the collective skills and resources of the community. Of interest in this chapter is whether the pursuit of a common community good can be facilitated through corporate relationships. The following section presents the design and methods of the study. This is followed by the main section, which is a description of the focal relationships. An analysis of Indigenous perspectives on salmon farming and whether relationships with corporations may influence the development of CBEs is presented thereafter.