Indigenous Funding Model Proves To Be Highly Successful According To New Report.

Indigenous Funding Model Proves To Be Highly Successful According To New Report. Source: Unsplash

Indigenous Funding Model Proves To Be Highly Successful According To New Report. Source: Unsplash

Despite the development of new materials over the past century, timber remains one of the most valuable resources in our world. For everyone, trees have maintained their importance as a material, symbol, and natural wonder. Nobody knows this more than the Indigenous peoples of Haida Gwaii, as the Western Red Cedar has been and continues to be an important resource in their culture.

Unfortunately, since Europeans first colonized British Columbia, they have done everything they can to extract every piece of timber from the land. This has come at an extreme environmental cost, as well as social and cultural. The Haida people have overwhelmingly borne the brunt of this damage.

However, it would appear that things are changing for the better, as a new report shows that since decision-making has been put back in the hands of the Haida, renewal is possible for these people and their land. Coast Funds has been responsible for the management of initially C$120 million and has seen a significant return on investment for their people, their environment, and their local economies. 

While timber extraction from Haida Gwaii has been going on for nearly 200 years, it was in the 1940s that a serious expansion began in earnest. At the outbreak of the second world war, the Canadian government demanded more resources to be dedicated to the war effort, at whatever cost. This resulted in the decimation of salmon populations in the area and the Haida Gwaii black bear, a subspecies of the black bear that is the largest in the world.

Beginning in the 1970s, indigenous populations began to fight back. Blocking the moving of trucks with logs, sabotaging industrial logging operations, and engaging in peaceful protests all contributed to the 2006 Great Bear Rainforest Agreements. Since then, 3.1 million hectares of land have been designated as protected. As of 2022, a total of C$296 million in additional funding has been allocated to help create a renewable economy in Haida Gwaii. The investments made have significantly increased the amount of conservation work being done on Haida Gwaii. 389 habitat restoration and research initiatives have been created that benefit 75 different species in the region.

The main benefit of this is that they don’t have to rely on outside sources for scientific research anymore; they can do it themselves. And with the available equipment and spaces, they can run their own programs without relying on outsiders’ monetary support. As well as the environmental benefits, the economic impact cannot be understated. 123 different indigenous-run businesses have been created in the 15 years since the program was started, which have created 1,200 different jobs. These jobs have been pulling indigenous peoples out of resource extraction industries and putting them in places focused on renewing their land.

The guardianship programs are a prime example, with the locals being the eyes and ears the federal government can’t reach. 18 guardian programs have been created to keep watch of 7 million hectares of land. This funding model is the first of its kind, as prior funding models were short-term grants leaving piecemeal for the nations reliant upon them. With Coast Funds’ model, the capital has already been raised to be accessed by those who need it. 

In the future, putting money and power into the hands of the people who know their land better than anyone else is critical. Ultimately, the principles that have led Haida people through so much are leading this new environmental, communal, and economic renewal mechanism.

The extractive economies at large in our globalized world are to blame in regard to the destruction of our environment and the violation of the basic dignity and human rights of so many people. By investing in the people whose culture places harmony with nature at the highest, we can see the benefits ourselves at large. 

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