Percy Guichon, chief of the Alexis Creek Indian Band, and Tsi Del Del Enterprises of Chilanko Forks have received the Forest Products Association of Canada/Assembly of First Nations business leadership award.
The announcement was made at the Assembly of First Nations general assembly in Moncton, N.B. last week.
The award recognizes indigenous entrepreneurs for their success in forest products business in the areas of business leadership, environmental and safety performance, the delivery of high-quality products and services and a long-term commitment to the indigenous community through employment.
“Percy Guichon and the workers at Tsi Del Del have truly shown excellence, reliability and creativity in promoting the economic goals of the forestry sector in the remote Chilcotin region of B.C.” said Avrim Lazar, president and CEO of FPAC, in a prepared release.
Tsi Del Del performs logging and forestry consulting and has been operating a joint partnership since 1992.
At the time First Nations leadership was looking for a way to create employment and business opportunities and to work with the major licensees in First Nations’ territory.
“We felt we were being left out and not having the opportunity to participate in the management of our resources in our territory so that’s how it’s arisen,” Guichon said, adding, “We saw an opportunity that would alleviate a lot of our concerns and one of the big concerns was management of our resources in our territory and carrying out responsible harvesting practices.”
Then, Tsi Del Del worked with the Jacobson brothers. That company was bought out several times and now there is a partnership between Tsi Del Del and Tolko.
That means the company is governed by three directors from Tolko and three directors from the Alexis Creek First Nation.
Tsi Del Del operates several forest licences and, while it harvests wood, it does not currently process it. Rather raw wood is sold on the open market. Guichon says Alexis Creek has a small mill on the reserve that it would like to utilize in the future. As well, the First Nation is part owner —- with three other First Nations — of a former RiverWest mill near Hanceville.
Guichon called the award a “proud moment for the community.”
He says one of the unique elements of the company is that it sets aside 50 cents for every cubic metre logged for an Education Trust Fund that provides post-secondary education or trades and technology training for band members.
“From the band’s point of view we wanted to create capacity to be able to run operations ourselves at some point. What we want is for our people to be put through school and at some point when they’re ready they can come back and contribute to the community in some way,” Guichon said of the purpose of the trust.
Tsi Del Del employs 30 people, about 80 per cent of them First Nations.
Although the years have brought changes, the essence of the company remains strong.
“The vision has always been the same and we’ve continued to steer towards that vision making sure the company is viable and making money in order to create employment, business opportunities, help the local economy and for us to participate in a meaningful way in the management of our resources.”
Guichon further called Tsi Del Del the pride of the community and thanked those who performed the hard work on the ground for many the award possible.