By Nicole Trigg
In complying with the First Nations Transparency Act, the Columbia Valleys Shuswap Band has revealed some startling figures. On one hand, the band should be congratulated for its economic success. To be able to pay its chief and councillors a combined renumeration of almost half a millon dollars (split between three people) due to the bands immense financial prosperity as a result of entrepreneurial management of its traditional territory is quite the achievement in a capitalist-driven economy.
However, there are two obvious issues that result from this disclosure that are certain to cause some disconcerting discussions both within and outside the band.
In addition to its own revenue sources, the Shuswap receives federal funding as stipulated by the 1867 British North America Act that created government obligations to provide aid and services in return for First Nations losing land and resources through treaties and land claim settlements.
The Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development sets the amount of money that goes to each First Nation. For the Shuswap in 2013, that amount came to the tune of $985, 810, and for 2014 the band received $668,383.
As the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs struggles with limited resources to help many poverty-stricken First Nation groups across Canada to achieve basic services like clean water or affordable food, one has to wonder at the logic of continuing to fund an extremely prospserous band that claims, as Dean Martin states, to have $75,000,000 worth of assets.
The second issue is the disparity of wealth within the band itself. The Shuswap has less than 100 members living on reserve, and according to Barbara Cote, the bands immense wealth is not benefiting the majority. This is an internal issue that, with the bands upcoming election on November 7th, is likely to become a hot topic for some time to come.