The Lake Cowichan First Nation is being recognized for its many achievements in recent years.
The First Nation, which is also known as Ts’uubaa-asatx, won one of three 2019 Best Practices Awards from the Aboriginal Financial Officers Association B.C., which honours indigenous communities in the province that have demonstrated “long-term excellence” in their financial, business and governance affairs.
The AFOA, which has branches across Canada, supports dedicated individuals working in the fields of Aboriginal finance, administration and governance.
The other two winners of the award this year are the Saik’uz First Nation and the Lytton First Nation.
Aaron Hamilton, Lake Cowichan First Nation’s operations manager, said it’s the first time the Ts’uubaa-asatx has won the award.
“We’re very happy and honoured,” he said.
“Winning the award provides us with some validity for the work we’ve done up to date, and gives us some exposure for potential investors in our projects so they will know who we are, and that we have some third-party attachments.”
In its nomination letter for the award, the Lake Cowichan First Nation states that about a decade ago, the late Chief Cyril Livingstone started a process in which the Ts’uubaa-asatx began to devise plans to develop the band’s economic potential.
The First Nation formed a working and cordial relationship with the local governments that surrounded its community, completely overhauled its internal governance policies regarding personnel, finance, housing and other issues, and created a land-use plan for its properties.
The letter stated that the land-use plan became a major document that Ts’uubaa-asatx utilized in discussions with the various industries that surrounded their traditional territory, and was used to begin discussions on polarizing topics, as well as to look for creative solutions that would benefit all parties.
The First Nation also established its own land code, in which it’s now officially recognized that the band has an inherent right to manage its reserve lands and resources under its own land laws, free from constraints imposed by the province and federal officials under the Indian Act.
Since then, the Lake Cowichan First Nation has constructed more than $2 million of critical infrastructure, including the extension of water and sewer lines and the construction of a waterfront walkway with a viewing pier.
It is also investing in the construction of a long-planned residential development on waterfront property on North Shore Road, opened Kaatza Adventures, a rental company that deals in kayaks, paddle boards, paddle boats and other water craft, and is developing a six-acre industrial park.
As well, the Ts’uubaa-asatx is also assessing the potential of adding another 200 acres of Crown land through negotiations with the provincial government, and has already completed a highest and best use study and are ready to proceed if the land is transferred to them.
“There is a sense of opportunity that is prevalent within the community, along with a renewed sense of pride that has also been reflected in the re-investment in their culture and traditional teachings,” the letter said.
“All of this has recently shone a light on Ts’uubaa-asatx and now they have an opportunity to be a catalyst to the regional growth opportunity throughout their traditional territory.”