WFN chief Christopher Derickson speaks to media at grand reopening of Sənsisyustən House of Learning in September 2019. (Contributed by WFN)

WFN chief Christopher Derickson speaks to media at grand reopening of Sənsisyustən House of Learning in September 2019. (Contributed by WFN)

Westbank First Nation captures economic development award

Ntityix Development Corporation was handed the Aboriginal Economic Development Corporation Award

By Sam Laskaris, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,

​The Ntityix Development Corporation has been publicly recognized with a national award.

Officials with the corporate division of Westbank First Nation, located in the Okanagan region of British Columbia, were presented with the Aboriginal Economic Development Corporation Award.

The recognition occurred during the Business Recovery Forum, staged online by the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) on Sept. 16.

Besides two shopping centre partnerships and a retail gift store, Ntityix’s other ventures include managing 59,000 hectares of forest tenure and a construction division for the First Nation, responsible for most of the residential housing needs and buildings in the community.

The Ntityix Development Corporation was previously called the Westbank Indian Band Development Company when it was established in 1973.

It has undergone a name change since then as has the First Nation it is managed by, formerly Westbank Indian Bank.

In the Okanagan language Ntityix translates into spring salmon.

In a video shared with forum delegates, Christopher Derickson, chief of Westbank First Nation, explained spring salmon must persevere through different currents and waters, avoid predators, grow and venture back up the river to give life to the next generation.

“We felt that was the perfect architype for what we need to be doing financially and economically for our people,” Derickson said. “We need to be following the cycles of the economy, we need to persevere through challenges, up and downs, so we can provide for future generations.”

Westbank was originally part of the Okanagan Indian Band but separated to become an independent band in 1963. But it wasn’t until 2005, that Westbank First Nation officially became self-governing.

“Growth has been absolutely exponential,” said Ryan Malcolm, the CEO of the Ntityix Development Corporation. “Westbank is now seen as a very viable family community.”

Malcolm said it was a huge honour to be singled out for a national award.

“It’s tremendous to be recognized by the CCAB,” he said. “I think it really ratifies all the blood, sweat and tears that generations before us did to make the corporation the success that it is today.”

Derickson echoed the sentiment that success was not achieved overnight.

“I think the greatest lesson from Westbank First Nation is that there really is everything you need to move forward found within your community,” he said. “This has been the result of 50 or more years of community discussions and visioning and planning to get to where we are today.”

All Aboriginal economic development corporations in Canada are eligible for the annual award.

These corporations are the economic and development arms of First Nations, Metis or Inuit government and vital economic boosters for Indigenous communities across the country.

While one-time achievements are considered, organizers of the award, sponsored by Sodexo, place more emphasis on recognizing sustained efforts of a corporation.

Also considered is the size of the projects a corporation has developed as well as how innovative those projects are.

Another factor which is taken into consideration when selecting a winner is whether the corporation has increased both employment and business opportunities for its members.

CCAB’s president and CEO Tabatha Bull said the winning corporation was indeed a worthy recipient of this year’s award.

“Ntityix demonstrates that when we align hard work with our values and a clear vision for the future, we can have a major impact on our communities for generations,” she said.

Nelson Derickson is currently working as the business development officer for Ntityix Development Corporation, which includes Ntityix Resouces, its forest management company.

“That company goes beyond the provincial requirements for things like reforestation, streams management and environmental protection,” he said.

Chief Derickson added his thoughts on why the forest management company is noteworthy.

“We harvest and manage our timber in a way that it preserves the natural environment for certain species and also preserves the natural environment to protect certain significant sites or sensitive areas,” he said.

The corporation also includes WIBCO Construction, the community-owned construction division.

“WIBCO’s priorities are to build assets that are required for community members, whether that’s housing, the school, the youth centre, the government building, our office or industrial,” said Nelson Derickson.

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