Hupacasath First Nation: Roadmap to a sustainable economy . . . . . . . . Judith Sayers (Kekinusuqs) and Ana Maria Peredo, University of Victoria,
There is a complex and fractured relationship between the Canadian Government and Canada’s First Nations. Historically, through a process of land dispossession undertaken by the British Crown, First Nations people were located on small
pieces of land called “reserves”. The Indian Act of 1876, which has been amended many times, still governs Canada’s relationship with First Nations. The explicit purpose of the original Act, and of government policy behind it, was for many years to eradicate First Nations culture and assimilate their peoples in to colonizers’ culture (Harrison and Parrott, 2016). The process of colonization took away the livelihoods of First Peoples on the prairies, mountains, rivers, and oceans, attempting to turn them into farmers in the process. Laws were imposed that impeded development, and First Peoples went from being resource wealthy to dependent on government funding, with severe restrictions on the use of their own resources. In the view of the First Nations, Canadian Governments became wealthy by exploiting First Nations’ resources, leaving First Nations poor, with high unemployment and substandard social conditions. Those conditions continue to prevail in the current period (Sawchuk, 2015). It is in this context that, in 1995, the leadership of Hupacasath First Nation (HFN) directed its attention to the goal of economic independence:
Hupacasath First Nation Peoples (HFNP) are part of the larger Nuu-chah-nulth Nation on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia (BC), located in the Alberni Valley. Their unceded traditional territory extends to 232,000 hectares, richly endowed with land, waters, and resources that had supported their way of life. Currently, their 350 members live on five reserves that occupy 232 hectares: 0.1% of their traditional lands. In 2001, the HFN launched a process aimed at reversing the forces that prevented their benefiting from the resources on their own lands. They began by setting out a roadmap toward sustainable community development.