The Hupacasath First Nation has re-elected its entire four-person council for the next two years.
Steven Tatoosh will remain as chief along with councillors Brandy Lauder, Warren Lauder and Jim Tatoosh.
“It’s offering good consistency,” said Steven Tatoosh, who is in his fifth term as chief. His opponent for this election was Jolleen Dick.
Seven people put their names forward for council positions in addition to the two candidates for chief, Tatoosh said. This is Warren Lauder’s seventh term, Jim Tatoosh’s fourth term and Brandy Lauder’s second term.
Re-electing an entire council shows confidence and certainty to the agencies the Hupacasath First Nation are dealing with, Warren Lauder said. “It’s not a learning curve for a new council. That speaks volumes,” he said. “We all look forward to serving our nation for another two years.”
“This is our second year working together and we do a good job,” Jim Tatoosh said. “I guess the membership liked that too.”
Steven Tatoosh said the Hupacasath have a number of economic projects on the go, with more in the planning stages that could potentially benefit the Alberni Valley as a whole. He declined to elaborate on the projects.
”We consider ourselves a progressive nation with very good business sense,” he said. “Eventually we’d like to become self-sufficient. It looks like that’s the way we‘re going in the future.”
The Hupacasath First Nation has 340 members; they are not engaged in a treaty process at the moment, Tatoosh said.
The nation recently received a rural dividend grant from the provincial government to go toward its community farm project. The farm has expanded its summer food box program to include 60 shares to the general public this coming summer. Manager Jason Lion has also approached Alberni Valley-based restaurants about providing local produce for menu items.
The Hupacasath’s Kleekhoot Gold Bigleaf Maple Syrup has already sold out for 2019, Tatoosh said, and they are working with forestry companies in the region to identify Bigleaf maple tree stands for possible expansion in the future.
The Hupacasath waste management program will expand this year, Warren Lauder added.
Tatoosh said the council’s goal is to continue to support its members financially. “We’ve been in a position to support the people that are here now,” by continuing regular financial distributions to on-reserve members.
”We’ve built our trust fund up to a quarter of a million dollars,” he added, “so we’re putting money away to the future.”
For off-reserve Hupacasath members, “we connect with people who live out of town as much as we can,” he said. “They get the same distributions as everyone on reserve, we put seafood away for them.”
Budgeted items such as house insurance for low income pensioners or for other housing needs are considered targeted funding and cannot be spent off-reserve, he explained. Tatoosh is hoping recent federal government decisions will change that.
Hupacasath council members learned in the recent election that communication with their members is critical. “We continue to work on transparency and communications,” Tatoosh said.
”On the campaign trail we learned that our communication with our membership could be a bit better, so we’ll work on that in the next two years.”