New power makes Douglas First Nation feel connected
Last updated 9/23/2012 at 4:47pm
VANCOUVER, BC—The Lower St’at’mx First Nations have a world of opportunity at hand as they become part of energy developments that make new opportunities available. Douglas First Nation partnered with Cloudworks Energy to help bring hydro-electric power into Douglas First Nation for the first time in history. This benefits Douglas and other In-SHUCK-ch member-communities of the St’at’mx Nation.
There are less than a dozen villages left in the St’at’mx Nation, and four of those are known as In-SHUCK-ch, but the people of these villages and town-sites have occupied the deep valleys from Mt. Currie to Harrison Lake since time immemorial. A woman named Cinnamon from Mount Currie talked one afternoon on a mountain-top while looking down at one of the lakes, Seton Lake, east of Anderson Lake. She said her grandmother recalled the view from that mountain-top at night, that it sparkled like thousands of stars congregated around a dark void. Cities of people once surrounded these lakes, and the sparkling ‘stars’ were summer campfires. The pit houses were countless and the artifacts remain everywhere to be seen.
The St’at’mx Nation was reduced to 11 reserves, and this year hydro power will be available for the first time in history to Douglas First Nation Indian Reserves. These communities can envision the future with new optimism. Families can grow in the villages, other families can return, and business and employment opportunity will become an everyday reality.
Douglas First Nation is in the power business now. They generate electrical energy from five (of six) run-of-river hydro stations. The last one will be finished this year. They are partners with Cloudworks and have members with the latest construction skills working for Kiewit and Sons, general contractor on the Douglas First Nation/Cloudworks Energy series of run-of-river hydro projects. Nick Andrews is in liaison with Douglas First Nation for Cloudworks Energy, “It’s a great accomplishment and great thing for the communities.” Cloudworks Energy started negotiations in 1999 toward this end. “You can see benefits already. Communities have new infrastructure and capacity for developments like new housing. They have growing communication infrastructure. They have electricity to grow with and they are starting to feel more connected,” literally and figuratively.
Other benefits to the power projects partnership include jobs in maintenance of the facilities. “Cloudworks is employing people in Douglas communities to help in the environmental monitoring and operations of the projects. This means a commitment to training in areas such as mill-writing, environmental data collection, and construction. Having people from the community working with us to bring sustainable economic development to their community is a great thing.”
Andrews alludes to the construction phase being a big boom in jobs that is gradually winding down, and the run-down of construction phases are passing by. The current construction program will be completed in 2010. This means Cloudworks will be moving on to new projects and they are one of the companies interested in the BC HYDRO call-for-power reportedly coming before spring. Meanwhile In-SHUCK-ch communities have built a great relationship with BC Transmission Corporation and Clare Marshal, Manager of Aboriginal Relations at BCTC is on a business development drive. One example of BCTC’s Aboriginal business development initiative comes about from dialogue with the In-SHUCK-ch communities near Pemberton.
BC Transmission Corporation lines cross traditional territory of the In-SHUCK-ch, in fact, high-voltage BC HYDRO electrical capacity is generated in a site called Seton Portage with another reserve of the St’at’mx. BCTC entered a dialogue with In-SHUCK-ch leadership. Following dialogue Timberline Natural Resource Group joined the communities to train a team of vegetation managers for BCTC operations. The result was establishment of In-SHUCK-ch Development Corporation that works “to ensure electricity is transmitted uninterrupted while making rights-of-way and roads safer.”
Meanwhile Cloudworks continues to work in partnership with First Nations to bring much-needed green energy solutions to communities. “From here we work on projects in Chehalis and others with Douglas, and hopefully others up the valley in Sk’t’ina and Shew’tk’wa. “Sustainable development is our guidepost. We are prudent in the use of infrastructure in remote areas. Our expertise is available for other opportunities.” One look around the province shows many places where Cloudworks can put its investments to work—one opportunity is the Highway 37 Transmission Line Proposal in Northwest B.C.. Other opportunities beckon on Vancouver Island, following the success of Hupacaseth and now Tla-o-qui-aht building run-of-river and making it their economic advantage.
Andrews notes, “In BC, people want their energy from clean and natural sources, and we believe that they will seize opportunities to switch from gas and diesel. So we believe the demand for good energy projects will continue. Working closely with First Nations is a vital part of creating projects which balance provincial goals with those of local communities.”