Ktunaxa Nation

By Emma Posluns

With information from Jose Galdamez, GIS Coordinator &
Ray Warden, Manager Lands Stewardship

For thousands of years members of the Ktunaxa Nation have migrated around the Kootenay region of southeastern British Columbia. Seasonal changes in vegetation and animals took them to Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alberta. Today, most of their bands are in British Columbia.

The Ktunaxa Nation receives between forty and fifty referrals per month. They range from small to large projects, which mostly concern land use. In their traditional territory there are five coalmines, many of which are expanding their boundaries. Forestry and coal bed methane gas companies are also seriously interested in the area and will be expanding in the future.

These activities produce a steady influx of Crown Land Referrals. To track these, the nation has a simple three-step process. First, information is gathered and given a file number, then registered in the records. A map is made of the information, and the ministry from which the referral came is noted. Second, the referral is routed to the Lands and Resources office where the level of potential impact is determined. Impact is euther low, medium or high. The rating system establishes where the referral will be sent next. The third step, is called “Determining the Pathway”. High impact referrals may be sent to department directors, informed biologists, or to the community. Examples of high impact projects are modifications of waterways, hydroelectric dams, and other non-renewable resource uses.

Tracking the entire referrals process is an important part of the Ktunaxa Nation’s strategy when dealing with the government. The Nation is developing a management system that will include policies, procedures and software to track paperwork, emails, documents, letters, etc. The system will be an information management tool that the Nation will use for referrals, treaty negotiations, and many other processes in various sectors of the Nation. Once the system is in place, the Ktunaxa Nation’s goal is to share their experience of using this scheme with other nations who want to develop similar information management tools. They will also be able to share what they learn about software packages and software program evaluations.

It is important to see technology, such as this software, as a tool instead of the answer to all problems. Jose Galdamez, GIS coordinator for the Nation, says many people “see technology as a solution. Technology only helps to manage better”. He believes that instead of relying on technology, First Nations should focus more on creating a strategic plan for responding to the government. Instead of reacting to referrals and organizing an office around these requests, First Nations should be proactive, and create a Land Use Plan. A Land Use Plan will provide “more of a strategic deal with the [government], on a higher level” says Galdamez.

When responding to Crown Land Referrals strategically, the Nation needs to see the big picture, and be able to plan for future benefits to their nation. Manager of Lands Stewardship, Ray Warden, explains that when proponents realize that “referrals are not a portal to consultation”, they learn they must have a mutual relationship with the nation in order to develop in the area. Such a mutually beneficial relationship generally ensures the Ktunaxa Nation will have adequate environmental protection, current and future jobs and economic participation. Warden suggests signing Accommodation Agreements with the proponent, and providing the agreement with constant maintenance.