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Squiala First Nation: small community creates big results through planning

Photo caption 1: Squiala First Nation band manager Tammy Bartz and a community member in front of the band office in 2006.
Photo caption 2: Squiala First Nation band manager Tammy Bartz was instrumental in implementing the community's projects.
Photo caption 3: Squiala First Nation's new administrative building also houses the community's school, gym and fitness centre.

(NC) Squiala First Nation has been compared to the little train that could. Though the Band has just 153 members, they have made some remarkable accomplishments through comprehensive community planning (CCP). In just six years, the community completed most of the major projects outlined in their plan.

The community identified cultural revitalization as a priority through their planning process, so their first big project was the construction of a new longhouse which was completed it in 2011. They also implemented a language program after successfully applying for a grant from the First People's Heritage, Language and Cultural Council.

Another major goal was the construction of new community facilities including a band office, school, gym and fitness center. During the CCP process, community members revealed they wanted to have the band office and other facilities in a single building located in the heart of the community. "Putting everything in one building has helped to build a sense of community," says band manager Tammy Bartz.

Despite all the development, the community didn't lose sight of its number one priority -- the health of the community. With the construction of the new community facilities, there was room to expand, so Squiala First Nation trained and hired a health nurse, and contracted out counseling services to a local company. Now the members have access to first-rate counseling services, which has made a noticeable difference in the health of the community. Tammy believes that a healthy community is key to successful planning. "If you don't have a healthy community it doesn't matter what you do," she says.

Squiala First Nation also set to work accessing funding sources to support their community projects and used the community plan to back up their proposals. Through a grant from the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program, they were able to refit three Elders homes with hand and stair rails, stair lifts and new showers. They also determined there was a need to address education and training. This was accomplished in a variety of ways. First, through a partnership with surrounding First Nations, they were able to offer a course on traditional medicines free of charge to band members. Second, with some of their tax revenues, they were able to help several members get their drivers' licenses, removing a significant barrier to employment. They also included training requirements in their contract with the developer of Eagle Landing, a large commercial development on reserve which includes a Wal-Mart, Shell gas station, movie theatre and a number of small businesses. As a result, some of their members have received on the job training in construction.

Looking back, Chief David Jimmie is proud of all that his community has accomplished and credits community planning as being a significant factor in his community's success. He is excited about the future and is looking forward to re-engaging the membership for a second round of community planning.

The little community that could has come a long way. When Squiala started their first round of planning the reserve lands were vacant and Tammy was their only employee. Now with 15 employees, several new facilities and several members in post-secondary education, they are headed towards a bright and prosperous future.

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