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Traditional story, “How Food was Given,” guides Westbank First Nation

Photo caption 1: Westbank First Nation's Community Services office
Photo caption 2: Westbank First Nation's sənsísyustən House of Learning

(NC) When the Westbank First Nation (WFN) began developing a comprehensive community plan (CCP), they placed culture and language at the heart of their process. They chose to use the story “How Food Was Given” and traditional decision-making method, called Enowkinwixw, as a framework for their plan.

How Food Was Given tells of how the animal people, under the leadership of the Four Food Chiefs, prepared for the arrival of humans on earth. Following the lead of Chief Black Bear, the grand chief of all living things, Chief Spring Salmon, Chief Bitterroot and Chief Saskatoon Berry all agreed to give their lives for the humans. This story teaches principles of sacrifice, service and leadership, and the characters all embody further layers of wisdom and cultural knowledge.

The community based its entire CCP plan on the Four Food Chiefs. Chief Black Bear represents governance, Chief Spring Salmon represents economy, Chief Bitterroot represents land, and Chief Saskatoon Berry represents community.

"This (CCP) is a document we can all be proud of. It represents the vision of the community and revives our culture and language in a way that is practical and relevant to our people," says Chief Robert Louie.

Once its CCP was done, WFN realized it needed to continue to reflect its cultural values as it moved forward with implementing its plan. They tackled this challenge in three stages. First, the WFN website was reorganized to reflect the structure of the Four Food Chiefs story. This meant incorporating the same branding and format used in the plan, and integrating the language and cultural icons.

Second, the Chief and Council held a planning session to revise their strategic plan and align it with the Community Plan. As a result, the strategic plan uses the framework of the Four Food Chiefs to communicate Council's priorities and objectives to the members and staff.

Finally, staff used the newly revised Council Strategic Plan to reorganize the committee structure of WFN under the Four Food Chiefs. Now, when the budget and annual reports are presented to the membership, they are structured around the Four Food Chiefs.

"Root the CCP in what it means to be a member of your community,"says Westbank First Nation member Chris Derrickson.Comprehensive community planning means more than just completing projects or implementing new programs. It also requires integrating the values, principles and cultural practices, identified through the planning process, into the administrative structure of your governance and community services.

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