Birch Narrows First Nation
BIRCH NARROWS FIRST NATION has invested extensively in recreational facilities, community services, infrastructure, and both economic and capacity development with the assistance of funds distributed by the First Nations Trust.
The on-reserve population at Birch Narrows is relatively small at 627 people, but the need for local services is large. The First Nation has several initiatives that will make a difference. For example, the First Nation took over the Turnor Lake Provincial School and now owns the local Northern Store. These shifts in control open up new opportunities for change. The Birch Narrows Store has taken control by stocking shelves with healthier foods, including foods that are better for diabetics. Ownership and control of the school provides the opportunity to revitalize language retention and local history knowledge – these changes can help meet the needs of the community.
Like most reserves, there are major concerns about livelihood. Currently, prospects for employment are beginning to open up to the west of Birch Narrows. In anticipation of opportunities, on-reserve programs for capacity building are underway, including Job Readiness, Driver Education and Life Skills Training.
The Birch Narrows Elders' are active in the community and vigilant about changes to the environment. Mapping and recording the environmental history of their traditional territory is one Elder project underway. Their lifelong relationship with the land is just one reason they are holding meetings at the Birch Narrows Lodge. The Lodge is a development conceived by the community, developed with First Nations Trust monies, and is wholly owned by the Birch Narrows First Nation. It is located in an isolated area of their traditional hunting, fishing and trapping lands. Built with logs, furnished with handmade furniture, it is an idyllic setting for their discussions about the impact of current resource exploration on their community. Other concerns of the Birch Narrows Elders' include the continuing loss of language, knowledge and history, affected by the passing of every member of their Elders' community.
Other developments that have occurred at Birch Narrows provide for both young and old, and follow the tradition of inclusiveness. Two recreation directors and student assistants, have been hired; this is possible because of funds from the First Nations Trust. The roster of events routinely goes to the Chief and Council for approval. Everyone is welcome to participate from both the Hamlet of Turnor Lake and the Birch Narrows First Nation membership.