Erralyn Thomas

Erralyn Thomas

2016 Year in Review: Snuneymuxw First Nation moves toward wealth management

NANAIMO - Snuneymuxw develops forestry, real estate to provide opportunities for its people.

Snuneymuxw First Nation focused on economic development as the bridge that will help provide the nation of about 1,700 a prosperous future.

The work is being carried through Snuneymuxw’s Petroglyph Development Group, headed by its president Erralyn Thomas.

“This last year has basically been corporate and organizational development,” Thomas said. “Doing those fundamental and material exercises between the shareholders and directors that outlines their decision-making relationship, their respect amongst each other, policy development, systems development, internal controls – all of that stuff.”

Forestry, based from 877 hectares of Snuneymuxw-owned land on Mount Benson operating since 2015, and real estate development are key components in the nation’s economic strategies to strengthen its economy and provide services, jobs, skills development and opportunities.

Those efforts will get a massive financial boost when the federal government pays $49 million to partially compensate the loss of 32 hectares of land illegally taken from the Snuneymuxw in the 1880s. The nation and federal government will also negotiate a land transfer, likely from former Nanaimo Military Camp acreage, that could happen in 2017 and trigger real estate development opportunities.

“The prospects for our nation to achieve some high-level goals is possible now,” Thomas said. “The path looks a little more clear as a result of the 79-Acre Claim.”

The nation is also moving forward with plans for Newcastle Island that entail everything from the ferry service to commercial asset development.

“On a high level, what we’re talking about is moving from poverty management to wealth management,” Thomas said. “That’s the continuum we’re on and with all these priorities moving ahead. It moves the dial forward.”