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Qwii-qwiq-sap: ‘Standing Tree to Standing Home’

Standing tree… to Standing home

Co-managed by Tla-o-qui-aht, Hesquiaht, Ahousaht, Yuutu?it?aht and Toquaht First Nations, together with Ecotrust Canada and the Clayoquot Forest Communities Program, Qwii-qwiq-sap focused on building the conservation economy by empowering communities to define and create their own circles of wealth. Through the thoughtful integration of forest management, community design, value-added production, alternative technology development, construction and training, the initiative demonstrated how we can achieve the ideal of getting direct local benefits from regional resource extraction and use.

The Circle of Wealth

The five participating Nations were trying to solve the riddle of how to create jobs, social wealth and environmental health from resources in their territories. Resources that historically have been harvested to benefit far-away interests first.

As the Ahousaht people explain the circle of wealth concept, “Step One is thoughtfully designing our forest practice so we can grow what we need. Step Two is harvesting timbers with our own building needs in mind. Step Three is designing our homes so they address our climate and cultural needs and so they make use of the products we know we can produce on the land. And Step Four is training our own people to manage the full cycle of activity, from forestry to construction so we gain ground at every level.”

Based on this principle, Qwii-qwiq-sap proposed a very different approach. The initiative would design homes with a view to weather, culture and energy efficiency. Architects and designers would incorporate materials and products that are locally available. The Nations would deploy their sawmills and artisans to produce value-added products to meet design specs. Timber harvesting would be targeted to produce logs for local housing. And on-site training programs would be introduced to ensure that local residents were able to compete successfully for the full range of associated employment opportunities.

Guiding principles

The Qwii-qwiq-sap initiative was one piece of a larger program being implemented by Ecotrust Canada and the Clayoquot Forest Communities Program to achieve a conservation economy. All our work was premised on the need to diversify the local economy, actively involve and engage local peoples, and use local labour, and local materials, for local needs. The guiding principles were to:

  • Take a subsistence approach to developing long-term opportunity;
  • Create and support the circle of wealth, allowing businesses and benefits to stayin the region and move towards resilience;
  • Support new business development;
  • Ensure that the demographics of ownership/benefit reflect the local population;
  • Facilitate collaboration between First Nations and non-natives;
  • Build shared infrastructure and collaborative institutions wherever possible.

Transformation in practice

Qwii-qwiq-sap was indicative of a unique kind of social innovation embedded in the cultural traditions of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations. Based on old and tested principles such as ‘take only what you need’ and ‘allow community values to dictate development’, the work aimed to:

  • Maximize the value to the community of the timber harvested from their forest;
  • Design practical, more energy efficient buildings for the wet rural west coast;
  • Design homes that use local materials and that are green, affordable and culturally appropriate;
  • Start an education and training program that focuses on the ‘tree to home’ concept and builds the skills needed for the region to be resilient;
  • Promote training of local people in construction, providing jobs and income;
  • Increase capacity and technology to support value added wood products to be used in local homes and identify other market opportunities in the long-term;
  • Build an integrated policy framework to practically support adjacent resource use;
  • Design viable business planning for forest management approaches that will support local use of products;
  • Increase awareness of sustainable living to achieve results in waste reduction, water conservation, composting, etc;
  • Apply for funding and coordinate partnership building for short and long term sustainability of the project, assisting communities invest in themselves.

A Blueprint

Supporting all aspects of the circle of wealth was key to the success of this project. This included helping to design forest management plans that see local markets integrated as a major driver in the business plan rather than as an afterthought; plans that would see local mills providing as much material as possible into local projects in a competitive manner and a pool of local people who are skilled tradesmen, sawmillers, and forestry workers to actually do the work. To this end, Ecotrust Canada will continue to:

  • Help the Ahousaht mill produce materials for local buildings;
  • Assist completion of showcase homes built from local materials and labour;
  • Partner with ISIS Sauder School of Business UBC, UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, and Canada Mortgage & Housing Corp in the ‘Green and Culturally Appropriate Housing Design Project’, started in 2011;
  • Partner with FPInnovations to provide technical assistance to the milling businesses operated by Iisaak Forest Resources and Ahousaht First Nation, and with other First Nations’ long-term value added market opportunities, including opportunities to introduce a wood traceability project;
  • Support the Raincoast Sustainable Living Program to deliver well-researched, locally relevant, and practical information about sustainable living to communities, to increase understanding of environmental issues and provide tangible actions to make a difference;
  • Develop and distribute a report detailing the linkages and methodologies;
  • Work with people in place to create a model to be used as a blueprint in similar communities.


Working at the intersection of conservation and economic development to provide innovation and services to communities, we understand the importance of partnering with experts in industry, environment, and community wisdom. In relation to the Qwii-qwiq-sap initiative specifically, we currently have valuable partnerships with:

  • Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations: Ahousaht, Tla-o-qui-aht, Toquaht, Yuutu?it?aht,Hesquiaht
  • Nuu-chah-nulth Employment and Training Program (NETP)
  • Natural Resources Canada, Forest Communities Program
  • Ahp-cii-uk Community Society
  • UBC School of Architecture & Landscape Architecture
  • Clayoquot Biosphere Trust
  • North Island College
  • Vancouver Island University
  • Raincoast Education Society
  • ISIS, Sauder School of Business, UBC
  • FPInnovations


We thank Natural Resources Canada, Forest Communities Program for their support.

BRIEFING: Qwii-qwiq-sap, Standing Tree to Standing Home (2011)