Heiltsuk Nation: Building Momentum and Sharing their Success
Heiltsuk Taking Action to Advance Governance Rights
On February 17 2011, in conjunction with the National Centre for First Nations Governance (NCFNG), the Heiltsuk Nation presented to over 100 participants during the Aboriginal Financial Officers Association of Canada’s national conference titled Nation Building—Keys to Success for the Next Decade. This workshop not the first collaborative effort between NCFNG and the Heiltsuk Nation; it was the result of an ongoing relationship of over four years.
In December 2007, the NCFNG began working with the Heiltsuk Nation by conducting a Governance Capacity Assessment (GCA) to evaluate the Nation’s capacity based on indigenous principles of effective governance. The final report, submitted in December 2008, identified the many strengths of the Nation and outlined 11 recommendations to build on those strengths. The GCA and its recommendations were initially set aside for several months. However, as the Nation’s leaders have sought solutions around issues of land use planning and economic development, they realized that the report’s recommendations could provide valuable guidance.
Over the past year, the Heiltsuk Nation has been extremely active in advancing their inherent rights. Many of the tangible outcomes that have recently emerged are directly related to the GCA recommendations. Heiltsuk has recently established an Aboriginal Rights and Title department and developed a shared approach to guide the work of each of the economic development resource departments. Additionally, they have created an organizational strategic plan in the first half of 2011 to link all departments and services within the Heiltsuk Tribal Council and support the long-term vision of the people.
These are significant outcomes as they ensure that all of the council’s actions and initiatives are contributing to the community’s strategic vision as defined by the Heiltsuk people themselves.
The GCA has proven to be an important document: the 11 recommendations provide guidance and a shared vision for Heiltsuk’s leadership. But the process of developing the GCA was also valuable in that it highlighted input from community members through in-depth information interviews as well as survey responses from more than 200 individuals. This resource has provided the members of the Heiltsuk Tribal Council with a strong understanding of the concerns of their people, enabling them to develop meaningful and relevant solutions that will help the Nation achieve its long-term vision.