Montreal Lake First Nation
This Treaty 6 First Nation with more than 3000 members has always wanted a self-sufficient business. A community-based process began with itemizing community concerns, which included high unemployment, young people in need of skills and work opportunities, and many old houses sprouting black mould in every room. Next they considered resources and assets; that list included Elders with wisdom, youth with energy, and stands of tall straight trees and their FNT funds. Gradually the idea of building log-homes emerged. But their goal is more than constructing houses; it is also about learning skills and teaching traditions that will be of lifelong benefit.
There are two teams of workers under age 25. Each day they spend one hour with the Elders learning about values and traditions and the remainder of the day learning from their construction foreman. There is a no-tolerance, chemical-free requirement for all the construction employees. Safety procedures, equipment and clothing are mandatory since much of the work involves using chain saws, felling and peeling trees and transporting them to the work site. By the end of the training period, the 12 full-time employees will have paid for all their tools and safety equipment.
A combination youth centre/Elders lodge is underway. However, a business opportunity will delay its completion while the teams build six cabins for a northern First Nation resort. It's a challenge that the foreman, employees, volunteers and the community see as an opportunity to market their skills and take another step toward a profitable business. Building on the FNT seed money is shaping up to be a profitable venture at Montreal Lake First Nation. The future may find Montreal Lake Elders and single families, and cottagers nearby, living in log homes.