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Re-imagining Indigenous housing as integrated cultural, ecological, and economic systems

As the Indigenous population continues to grow at a rate faster than any other population in Canada, the demand for housing far exceeds the ability of Indigenous governments to build new or appropriate homes. Quite simply, the status quo of residential construction is failing Indigenous communities. At the same time, industrial economies of scale have led to an ironically inefficient situation, in which many Indigenous communities whose territories are “forest-rich” are themselves “frame-poor” despite wholesale logging within their territories. Overcoming this situation requires social and economic innovation, which builds upon and strengthens territorial connections and cultural-ecological values.

Why Ecotrust Canada?

Ecotrust Canada has a 25-year history of partnering with communities and Indigenous nations to find practical and innovative solutions that reflect the diverse economic visions of those groups.

Home-Lands is a new initiative that has roots in a 2008 partnership with Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations communities. Home-Lands recently established strategic partnerships with the Huu-ay-aht First Nations on central Vancouver Island, and the Tsilhqot’in National Government in the Central Interior of BC.

Committed to Indigenous self-determination, Home-Lands is an innovative platform for change that mobilizes local skills, expertise, Indigenous knowledge systems, and territorial assets to create vibrant, healthy housing eco-systems.

The strategy

Home-Lands has identified three strategic areas of support that offer our partners and other Indigenous groups opportunities to transform housing eco-systems in meaningful and impactful ways:

  • Enabling an Indigenous forestry paradigm
  • Social innovation for housing and the community economy
  • Innovations in Indigenous land tenure

Through these focus areas Home-Lands seeks to support Indigenous partners in realizing and strengthening diverse economic practices that directly contribute to well-being in their communities.

Such practices are not necessarily driven by increased efficiency, productivity, or growth, but rather by social organizational principles of solidarity and reciprocity.

To achieve this requires an understanding of, and approach to, Indigenous economic futures that attempts, in practical ways, to reconcile social value creation with financial sustainability.

Outcomes

  • Increased value-added, socio-cultural, and direct use benefits for Indigenous communities from forest resources within their territories.
  • The strengthening of healthy, culturally informed, sustainable housing ecosystems and strategies in Indigenous communities.
  • Greater understanding and advancement of alternative land tenure, property, and ‘ownership’ structures for Indigenous communities.

The team

Anthony Persaud, Associate Director
Nathan Randall, Project Manager
Sonal Deshmukh, Community Planning Coordinator
Pamela Perreault, Strategic Advisor

Key learnings

  1. Supporting the linkage between homes/housing and land/forest management is fundamental to the sustainable development of Indigenous economies and communities.
  2. Indigenous nations can find strength and opportunity in the diverse economic and institutional processes and structures that have and continue to sustain cultural-ecological well-being within their communities and territories.
  3. Transformations in Indigenous housing and socio-economic well-being require fundamental challenges to institutional structures that have weakened the relationships that Indigenous people have with each other and their homelands.