by Graham Anderson, Financial Strategist

For over a decade, Ecotrust Canada has been working in partnership with the ‘Namgis Nation on a wide range of projects, including asset mapping, feasibility studies, business planning, and fisheries economic development.

Having recently started at Ecotrust, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to join Brenda and Devlin on a trip to Alert Bay for a meeting with the ‘Namgis Nation about Mama’omas, their commercial fishing enterprise and licence bank.

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We arrived on a sunny Sunday afternoon and took a walk down to the docks to see if we could find any local fishermen to chat with. It was encouraging to see many active vessels, but it was hard not to notice the net lofts and other fisheries infrastructure that had fallen out of use in recent years.

As we toured the community, Brenda would point out a number of past projects where we’ve worked with the ‘Namgis. I learned about many plans and feasibility studies where we have partnered to explore business opportunities, with projects spanning hospitality, fisheries, and tourism.

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This time we were in the community to facilitate a meeting about next steps for a fishing enterprise and licence bank owned by the ‘Namgis Nation. With support from Ecotrust Canada, the ‘Namgis First Nation had outlined a Fisheries Vision and established the Mama’omas Limited Partnership to meet government licence program requirements. Mama’omas means “Circle of Marine Life,” and the company is tasked with managing the Nation’s commercial fishing licences and quota.

At the meeting, I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with the fishermen and the community members who support their work. While it was a high-stakes conversation with direct consequences for the local fishery, I was impressed with the attendees’ respectful and light-hearted approach.

One of the highlights of the trip was my visit to U’mista Cultural Centre, where I learned more about the impacts of colonialism on the community. This is where treasured masks and ceremonial objects that were stolen from ‘Namgis and other Kwakwaka’wakw Nations are now on display. The recovery of these items is a testament to the ‘Namgis dedication to honouring, celebrating, and practicing their culture.

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Another highlight was dropping by Vancity’s newest branch, which has recently been opened to fill a critical gap in providing essential financial services to the community.

Finally, on our way home we stopped in for a visit at Kuterra Land Raised Salmon Farm. I learned that when the ‘Namgis strongly opposed and prevented the expansion of open-net aquaculture on their territory, they wanted to prove that another method was possible. This innovative enterprise is now developing and commercializing land-raised salmon for the first time in Canada.

I left the community feeling inspired by the entrepreneurial, solutions-oriented approach of the ‘Namgis Nation and grateful for the opportunity to learn about so many innovative local projects.