Employment and economic development are behind the Hupacasath First Nation’s purchase of a portable sawmill.
The mill is set up and in operation at the tribe’s hall off of Beaver Creek Road.
The small operation employs three tribe members and one trainer, Hupacasath chief councillor Steven Tatoosh said.
Purchasing the mill has been in the works for more than a year but production problems delayed construction of the equipment.
The $90,000 mill was purchased from D & L Timber in Lac La Hache. The project was underwritten with a combination of revenue from the tribe’s woodlot and a grant from the Nuu-chah-nulth Economic Development Corporation, Tatoosh said.
Workers are training on Fir wood that was cleared on the plot of land the mill sits on. The operation will use wood from the Hupacasath’s woodlot and from other areas where they are contracted, he said.
The tribe intends to use money it received from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to build benches and picnic tables that commemorate residential school survivors out of wood milled at the operation, he said.
He hopes the benches and tables will be placed at the wharf on River Road.
Some private contractors have already inquired about getting special orders for custom cut wood.
“We have to work on the training, branding and marketing first but there’s a niche market out there,” Tatoosh said.
An eventual expansion of the operation is envisioned over time, he said.