Tsi Del Del Enterprises celebrates 20 years

First Nations logging company celebrates 20 years of success.

Tsi Del Del Enterprises (TDD), a joint venture logging company owned by Alexis Creek Indian Band (ACIB) and Tolko Industries Ltd, celebrated its 20th anniversary on Friday, Oct 19 at Redstone.

Chief Percy Guichon said the company has come a long way since it began with one skidder and a few chainsaw operators in 1992. 

“Now the company owns lots of equipment including a couple of logging trucks, and employs 30 employees and subcontractors, both aboriginal and non-First Nations,” Guichon said. 

He said several businesses run by independent entrepreneurs are built around Tsi Del Del, and the company has consistently been among the top five logging companies in the region. 

Recently Chief Percy and company president, Otis Guichon, travelled to Moncton, N.B. to accept the aboriginal business leadership award for 2011, recognizing TDD for its long term environmental and safety record.

Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett presented Chief Percy with a certificate from the provincial government recognizing the company’s achievement. “It’s really truly great to see entrepreneurial skills with First Nations moving ahead to create their own opportunities,” said Barnett, making special mention of the post secondary education fund set up by the company to train young people.

Tom Hoffman, manager of Tolko, recognized the leadership of Chief Percy, former chief Ervin Charleyboy, and former Tolko Woodlands manager, Don Niquidet for solidifying the joint venture. He said when Tsi Del Del became safe-certified in March 2008, it exemplified not just the company’s ability to produce logs but to care for its employees as well.

Hoffman also credited TDD for its higher level land use planning to protect special places. “What makes this company a success is that the community has direct control over what happens on the landscape.”

Chilcotin school trustee Joyce Cooper, who MC’d the event, admitted she was anti-logging when she first became a leader more than 20 years ago. She said she was told by her mentors that it didn’t matter what she wanted any longer, because as a leader she had to listen to the community.

“We are out-of-the-box thinkers,” Cooper said. “We did the land use plan despite widespread opposition and distrust in the beginning.”

Otis Guichon, who has been involved with the company from its inception, said the joint venture began with Jacobson Forest Products in 1992. Then in 1994, when Riverside purchased Jacobson, TDD was awarded a five-year, 60,000 cubic metre license.

“That’s when Tsi Del Del expanded into a highly mechanized roadside logging operation,” Otis said. “Now fifty cents per cubic metre goes to our post secondary education fund for band members.”

In 1994 Otis started training youth in silviculture and eventually he formed his own silviculture contracting company. He has been president of Tsi Del Del Enterprises since 2004.

Former chief Ervin Charleyboy said the company got started when members of his community got tired of watching logging trucks going by hauling logs from their territory to Williams Lake. 

“I remember saying, ‘what are we going to do about it.’”

He said the process to start the joint venture was a difficult one. “We had rough going for a while. Meetings and meetings. Then we started trusting each other and built that trust.”

Don Niquidet, who served as a director for Tsi Del Del Enterprises for 13 years, confirmed that some of the early meetings were hot. “We had our share of disagreements. You wanted a piece of the action watching those trucks going by. People wanted to go to work and they had the skills.”

One of the achievements of TDD has been to include the broader non-First Nations community of Tatla-Tatlayoko-West Branch. Brian Hansen was hired to develop a land use plan that involved both communities, cutting in sensitive areas yet incorporating First Nations values.

Peter Shaughnessy, chair of the Tatla Resource Association, admitted there was some animosity and a wide range of opinions when the process began. 

“Then we had a ‘Eureka’ moment that we were all after the same thing. From that point forward we have had a very strong relationship with Alexis Creek Indian Band. At one time we saw ourselves as two communities; now we see ourselves as one community.”

Chief Joe Alphonse of neighbouring Tletinqox First Nation community said 20 years of logging is a pretty big feat. He said resource development in the Chilcotin must involve First Nations people, and TDD Enterprises is a good example of how this can be done.

“Lots of my community members have worked for TDD. The joint venture has created stability and I honour that.”