This is the last piece outlining my platform for re-election to Huu-ay-aht First Nations Council. In this piece, I’ll outline my thoughts on and approach to the exploration of an LNG facility on Sarita Bay in partnership with Steelhead LNG, but also how I think Huu-ay-aht would best access economic opportunities by focusing on developing positive relationships and cultivating a good reputation in the wider world.  Thanks for reading!

Exploration of Liquefied Natural Gas

In mid-2014, Huu-ay-aht entered into an agreement with a BC company, Steelhead LNG, to explore the idea of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility in the southern area of Sarita Bay. The reason Huu-ay-aht even considered the idea was for the reason that Steelhead took the right approach. Before they did any field work, before they started working in earnest with the province, Steelhead sat down with our government and asked us if we wanted to be involved. I cannot stress enough how different this practice has been in comparison to other LNG, and even other resource projects, in other parts of British Columbia. Not only that, this company did so before the Williams Decision, otherwise known as the Tsilhqot’in Case, which stated that companies who wish to develop major resource projects must seek out and consult with First Nations before they begin work. So, despite any misgivings people might have about the LNG industry in general, I can say that Steelhead LNG has done well in approaching Huu-ay-aht at the front end of the project. It is for this reason, that I supported the prospect – supported exploring the opportunity.

Since then, we have done much to ensure that our government, our administration, our hereditary leaders and our people have an up-front understanding the nature of the natural gas industry, how LNG differs from other energy sources, and how we might move ahead on the project. It all culminated in a moderately positive vote at our November 2014 People’s Assembly to continue exploring the project in the next stage where more detailed feasibility studies would be done. These studies would look at all manner of topics in relation to the project: economic and employment, health and safety, cultural and archaeological, as well as access to traditional resources and all manner of environmental impacts – fish, wildlife, migratory birds, rivers & streams, air quality, greenhouse gas, oceans, seismic and more. I supported the notion of moving into the second phase of detailed studies, because I felt as though we needed to know more before we could earnestly support or oppose this major project.

We Need to Know More

I believe that this project, as with any major economic development project, will have a deep and long-lasting impact on our lands and people. Whether it is ultimately a negative or a positive impact will depend on a lot of things, many of which we do not yet know. We may believe, but we do not yet know; and good decisions are not made on feelings alone, they are made on careful consideration of all available information, knowledge and wisdom. Until those studies are complete, I do not believe any government can rightly approve or deny this project. I am cautiously optimistic, and given my education background in economic development that should be expected, but I am also all too aware of the potential for this project to adversely affect many envi-ronmental and cultural aspects of life in our territory. I will be one of the first to admit that we do not (yet) know enough to make a decision, but I believe that we can impress everyone in how we go about ensuring we make an informed one.

Traditional Values in the Modern World

We all rely on free trade to create value in the global economy. This actually makes a lot of sense from the perspective of hish-uk (ma) tsawak, or the idea that everything is one. From my understanding, hish-uk tsawak is the notion that all things are interconnected, interdependent and have reciprocal relationships. This works in the natural world, and this works in the human world, too – in this instance, the world of economics. Global trade today means we are generally free to interact and trade with any other people or company in the world. What we need to understand is that all countries are interdependent with one-another, and that’s the way it’s always been. In a world of free trade, it has become quite clear that no Nation can truly stand alone; not Canada, not the United States, not even China. We all have things to trade, things that we have and things that we want.  It’s up to us to understand what we have to offer and how we can connect to the global economy and benefit.

Good Relationships and Good Reputations

How we conduct ourselves as a government, as a people, as a Nation, during the investigation of this potential project that will matter very much for our future economic opportunities. This is a global in-dustry, one that BC and Canada is trying very hard to break into successfully. In real terms, the world is watching us. We have done the right thing in exploring this project in a deliberate and rational manner. How we have conducted ourselves so far has opened doors for us in places we might not have imagined in years prior. Huu-ay-aht has been successful in winning its independence in a political sense, all we need to do now is show the world, and the business people who make investments, that we have the maturity to honestly and calmly explore any economic opportunity without resorting to petty politics or divisive rhetoric.

Regardless of whether we choose to move ahead with LNG, I think it’s upon us to show the world that we have chosen to be a part of the world, we have chosen to build and create and to do it the hard way, the old-fashioned way, the only way it has ever really been done right. We have the wisdom of ages gone past, the knowledge of the land and our resources, and we have the promise we have made to our children. We are up to the task, we have the passion and the will to once again take our place in the world. We just need to remind the world who we are and what we’re capable of doing. I hope to be a part of that. Chuu.

Klecko, klecko.

The following is the first in a series outlining my platform for re-election to Huu-ay-aht First Nations Council. The topic of this piece is how I believe our economic initiatives should relate to and connect to our traditional governance practices. Future topics will cover my positions, ideas and comments regarding good governance, major projects like LNG exploration, and my understanding of what it means to be Huu-ay-aht today. Thanks for reading! – J.

Unlocking the Value of Our Lands and People for All Huu-ay-aht


In the time before contact with European explorers and traders, the Huu-ay-aht economy was based on harvesting natural resources from our lands and waters. They were controlled by our hereditary leaders based on traditional practices of conservation. Those resources were collectively managed for the good of all Huu-ay-aht. While food and material for clothing, housing, fuel and transportation were relatively plentiful over the long term, variations due to weather, intertribal conflict and other concerns often created serious shortfalls in vital resources. These challenges had to be managed on a larger scale, creating the need for mutually-beneficial trade agreements with other Nations up and down the coasts of the Island and the Mainland.

When contact was made with European explorers and traders, our people had been living in our territories for thousands of years. We numbered in the multiples of thousands because we had relatively stable and plentiful resources and we enjoyed relative peace and stability. One would imagine Huu-ay-aht leaders were not unlike leaders today. They wanted to ensure their people were safe, healthy and had a bright future. Unfortunately, a deficit of empathy and a surplus of ambition made those explorers and traders into colonizers who cared little for our traditional politics, economics and society. Indigenous peoples everywhere lost their lands and resources. Huu-ay-aht leaders lost their lands and their control of the resources that fed, clothed and housed our people for generations upon generations. The wealth of our people was harvested by others and taken out of our territory. Weakened by disease and overwhelmed by the might of the European powers, indigenous peoples like us lost their lands, and they very nearly lost their identity.

We did not lose our identity, however, and our leaders came together to do what they could to get back what was lost and taken away. Whether through negotiation, court cases or business de-velopment, Huu-ay-aht leaders worked together to pursue a better life for all Huu-ay-aht. We won back control and influence over our resources. We finally received a share of the wealth that had been taken off our lands without our benefit for generations. And with the treaty, we won back control over our own lives, our own lands and our own resources.

Now that we are self-governing, now that we are in control of our individual and collective destinies, it is up to us to ensure that we move into the future in a way that makes us safer, healthier, smarter and stronger. The challenge before us is daunting and serious, we need to improve: (1) the opportunities available to our people to make their individual lives better in the ways they see fit; and (2) in concrete terms, improve the actual conditions in which our people collectively live. In other words, we must do what we can do ensure that a Huu-ay-aht child born today has all the same opportunities for success in life, and that our people can count on the foundations of a dignified existence.

The Ha’wiih Must Be Respected

In the past, our hereditary leaders – the Ha’wiih – were in control over all the resources under their domain. If a fisherman brought in a load of fish, he would first have to visit his ha’wilth for it to be distributed fairly amongst the people. This was a foundation of our way of life, it helped maintain harmony and control individual ambitions. Today, we don’t largely barter individual commodities like fish or timber, but rather convert it all to currency for ease of accounting. The idea of reconciling our traditional economic practices with the means and methods of today is one that should be central to our thoughts and actions. We have done several things to bridge our rich past and our bright future…

First, we have businesses that we operate to help generate revenue for the Nation to use in programs and services to help our people. Second, we reinvest the wealth generated by our businesses to create job opportunities for our people to make a living. Third, we retain overall strategic direction of our economic activities while maintaining a separation between political motives and business operations. Fourth, that overall strategic operation of our businesses directly involves the duly-appointed representative of the Ha’wiih Council in government as a matter of law. And finally, we have used the moneys received from our businesses’ profit-sharing to bolster the budget of our traditional leaders.

That final point is critical. In the past, the Ha’wiih Council – our hereditary leaders – were only resourced as a mere committee of government. In true fact, they are a full branch of the Huu-ay-aht government and just as important as the Elected Government, the Tribunal and the People’s Assembly. We need to do what we can to ensure that they are not only involved, but have the capacity to be meaningfully involved on their terms.

In this past budget, I introduced a measure to link the profit received from our businesses directly to the budget of our Ha’wiih Council to more adequately reflect their stature in our community. With a significantly increased budget, our hereditary leaders will be able to conduct their affairs with the dignity and support they deserve. I will work to continue and expand this practice and hope to see a renewed vibrancy in our understanding and practice of the traditional roles and responsibilities of our Ha’wiih. I cannot claim to understand the full nuance of our hereditary leaders’ authorities, responsibilities and protocols, but I can do what I can to ensure they have the resources to rediscover, reassert and restore the greater house of Huu-ay-aht in all our hearts and minds.


Klecko, klecko!