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Reconnecting to the land to create healthy housing eco-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 homes. Current housing shortages fall anywhere between 35,000 to 85,000 homes with a predicted backlog growing to 130,000 homes over the next decade. At the same time, many Indigenous communities have lost vital connections to their territories and resources due to overdevelopment, alienation, and loss of access. As Indigenous nations continue to assert their economic sovereignty and jurisdiction over homelands, the need for innovative approaches to building healthy and sustainable housing eco-systems will only intensify.

“Maintaining our well-being depends on creating the shelter we need to be able to live within our natural environment.”

— David Flood, General Manager, Wahkohtowin

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.

Indigenous Home-Lands is a new initiative that has roots in a 2008 partnership with Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation communities. The project entitled: “Qwii-qwiq-sap: Standing Tree to Standing Home” originated as a community forestry program that sought to respond to the need for housing across the Nuu-chah-nulth Nations.
Committed to Indigenous empowerment, Home-Lands is an innovative platform for change that mobilizes local skills, expertise, Indigenous knowledge systems, and territorial assets.

The strategy

Central to Home-Lands’ emerging mission is the concept of the ‘housing eco-system’ – a system with three pillars critical to Indigenous self-determination and community revitalization: Homelands, People, and Governance.

Ecotrust Canada has established strategic partnerships with the Huu-ay-aht First Nation on central Vancouver Island, and the Tsilhqot’in National Government in the Central Interior of BC. Through these partnerships, Home-Lands will support communities in achieving culturally appropriate housing that is environmentally and financially sustainable. Home-Lands is currently collecting data from partner communities to build the comprehensive information base necessary to understand and manage the Indigenous housing eco-system. With this information, Ecotrust Canada’s Home-Lands Initiative can begin to work with its Indigenous partners to revitalize the cultural economies and Indigenous land governance systems, which are needed to support the transition to self-determined housing.


  • The creation of healthy, culturally informed, sustainable housing ecosystems in Indigenous communities.
  • The emergence of an independent, Indigenous-led social enterprise that promotes solution-building through collaboration, and implements culturally-based socio-economic models for housing development on traditional homelands.
  • New employment opportunities for Indigenous peoples within the housing sector on traditional territories.

The team

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

Key learnings

  1. Community engagement on issues such as the state and future of people’s homes and housing conditions, are fundamental to community well-being; however, these sensitive topics requires collaborative, deliberate and patient work.
  2. There is no such thing as an “Indigenous Issue” without acknowledgment and critique of the greater Canadian society’s role in the creation of the issue.
  3. Supporting the linkage between homes/housing and land management (particularly the forest sector) is fundamental to the sustainable development of Indigenous economies and communities.
  4. Avoid developing projects and programs based on funding trends when the goals and values of the program and/or organization are misaligned.