Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’ / Che:k’tles7et’h’ First Nations’ Strategic Planning Lessons

The Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’ / Che:k’tles7et’h’ First Nations’ new five-year strategic plan, developed in 2022, has been designed to secure a prosperous future, including providing economic security and self-sufficiency for the Nation.

Walters Cove Resort – now Tiicma Lodge – is a 46-bed lodge that will be used for sports fishing, eco and cultural tourism, and community social, health, and well-being programs supporting citizens and their families.

In 2021, the sovereign treaty First Nations, which has their shared community located on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island, engaged its members – including leadership, traditional government, and 600 members – to create its vision: “Flourishing, healthy, and resilient Nations leading a sustainable economy in Kyuquot Sound region and beyond.”

The new strategic plan, led by the Nation’s community-owned businesses, Tiičma Enterprises, aims to promote profitable businesses, build a successful economic base, and foster entrepreneurship within the community. Tiičma (teech-ma) is a Nuučaan̓uɫ word meaning heart. This is an apt word to describe its “businesses with heart” approach, which serves as the economic lifeblood of Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’ / Che:k’tles7et’h’. These Nations include 200 residents and 400 community members living in other regions.

The Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’ / Che:k’tles7et’h’ are together a leading example of reconciliation with government and industry. While the Nation faces pressure to be self-sustaining, the community also has the freedom to make decisions free from the traditional local government bureaucracy. This allows them to act more nimbly and take risks, disrupting business-as-usual practices as it becomes independent once more.

The Value of a Strategic Plan

While not every community has a strategic plan, the benefits can be numerous. But the document must be utilized for its purpose and, even more importantly, aligned to the local government’s budgeting process.

The value of a strategic plan lies in how it can track its progress to community stakeholders. It must go beyond being a plan that simply reflects an organization’s idealized vision. It must also be a document that demonstrates concrete progress on actions taken to achieve a community’s specific goals and objectives.

Strategic planning is even more critical within First Nations communities in helping to maintain focus on goals and leverage resources in strategic, efficient, and effective ways. This reality was even more pronounced during the economic challenges and isolation experienced by Indigenous peoples during the pandemic years.

Among the Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’ / Che:k’tles7et’h’, two Nations whose population are together widely dispersed, they are making a concerted priority to keep community members engaged and informed on strategic plan progress. Having a strong foundation of community engagement ensures the plan will continue to gain traction and momentum.

Building Transparency and Trust Through Digital Tools

A long-term vision, high-level goals and priorities, and strategies to steer actions are all crucial parts of building an effective strategic plan.

In this day of digital, the Nations must take advantage of technological advances, and in particular cloud-based software, to make clear and actionable strategic plans. This means utilizing the power of digital tools to efficiently translate vision, goals, and strategies into time-based actions with owners, contributors, and means of evaluating progress.

Sharing data with community stakeholders via a public dashboard is imperative in the monitoring process, as it also ensures transparency and accountability. These latter two values cannot be underestimated in significance in restoring trust and support of Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’ / Che:k’tles7et’h’ members.

The Nations are currently using strategic plan software to help make goals actionable, establish transparency, and build trust. A public dashboard feature to demonstrate how its operations align with its goals is a way to display its quarterly progress, while also allowing the community to monitor its investments and projects and ensure transparent outcomes.

Safeguarding Future Generations Through Economic Development

Tiičma Enterprises, which encompasses Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’ / Che:k’tles7et’h’ citizen-owned and operated businesses, aligns perfectly with the community’s culture. It values long-standing, collaborative, and familial relationships along with the key natural resource elements of water and land. These elements have sustained the Nations for millennia. The local businesses, which are in Houpsitas and the larger Kyuquot Sound region, include: the Fair Harbour Marina and Campground; Houpsitas Village Suites; Tiičma Fisheries, Tiičma Forestry, Tiičma Hospitality; Walters Cove Resort; West Coast Expeditions; and various other ventures.

The strategic plan for economic development, created by Tiičma, is guided by seven principles.

  • Community health and wellbeing: supporting projects that address and improve community health and wellbeing.
  • Education, training, and mentorship: providing education and support to Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’ / Che:k’tles7et’h’ members as they learn new skills, build capacity on the job, and develop leadership and management skills.
  • Culture: encouraging projects that restore and celebrate Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’ / Che:k’tles7et’h’ culture and heritage while integrating language and culture into all aspects of economic development.
  • Business retention and development: improving the performance of existing businesses, including the Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’ / Che:k’tles7et’h’ citizen-owned businesses, and supporting citizen entrepreneurship.
  • Employment: creating more jobs for Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’ / Che:k’tles7et’h’ members year-round.
  • Partner, promote, and welcome: Raising the profile of Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’ / Che:k’tles7et’h’ through cooperation and collaboration with regional community economic development partners.
  • Self-sufficiency: Facilitating projects that improve the self-sufficiency of Houpsitas and Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’ / Che:k’tles7et’h’.

These seven principles are designed to foster collaboration in achieving the strategic goals and promoting accountability and transparency in self-governance. The plan will further action the following five goals:

  • Achieve financial self-sufficiency through effective fiscal planning and management.
  • Expand employment and training opportunities for Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’ / Che:k’tles7et’h’ members.
  • Expand on existing successful businesses.
  • Identify and pursue new opportunities and partnerships.
  • Establish the community as a skilled, agile, and effective organization.

The strategic plan will be used by staff when they develop annual budgets, work plans, or any other plans connected to the Tiičma Enterprises. Quarterly and annual reports that outline progress made on the goals and objectives will also be produced.

Lessons Learned from Early Progress

Noteworthy progress has already been achieved across numerous fronts, even at this early stage of strategic plan implementation. Such achievements include the acquisition of businesses and capital assets that have put the community in a position to negotiate the purchase of a forestry tenure.

Meeting these milestones enable Tiičma, and therefore Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’ / Che:k’tles7et’h’, to provide opportunities for building its wealth and establish partnerships and job opportunities for its members. Concomitantly, the implementation of the plan has challenged Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’ / Che:k’tles7et’h’ and Tiičma Entreprises’ team to continue building capacity, engaging its members to participate, and accessing capital to achieve plan objectives.

Progress so far has presented several valuable lessons that may benefit other First Nations communities and local governments throughout the country. These are some of the lessons learned to this point:

  • Start where you are: while getting it perfectly the first time may not be realistic, it is important to simply start the process and get the ball rolling.
  • Develop in collaboration: it is vital to create plans in conjunction with the community members, as they are also shareholders of its group of businesses. Regular contact, in the form of meetings and other forms of communication, will help ensure goals align with the vision.
  • Inform the budget using the plan: Budgeting for outcomes that align with strategic goals and priorities. This may be contrary to how typical local government budgets are created – normally driven by incremental changes to last year’s line items for each department – but it is a valuable way to assure money is spent on what community values.
  • The value of consistency: Build habits with the team that prioritizes reporting back on progress, rather than relying on inertia or legacy processes, which can be a deterrent. This also allows the team to continually revisit its goals and objectives, which leads to ongoing improvement.
  • Create ownership: It is crucial to allow team members that are accountable for the delivery of an operation plan to be a part of the plan-building process.
  • Endless engagement: Having community input is an integral part of the journey, not just at the onset, but throughout the entire process.
  • Transparency is crucial to trust-building: A public dashboard is an invaluable way to allow community stakeholders to track and visualize progress on goals and objectives. Make your progress visible, accessible, and transparent to ensure trust!

Next Steps

Historically and culturally, Indigenous people have long tended to think collectively and collaboratively when it comes to community. They have always considered the impact of one action overall and into the future – the Seventh Generation Principle.

This worldview not only considers the people, but also the natural resources around them, including the land, water, and other species, including the winged, finned, and four-legged ones. Among the KCFN, seeing the world through this lens ensures socioeconomics is considered beyond pure wealth accumulation. It is about building businesses that sustain the community and larger ecosystem in ways that are restorative and replenishing.

Indigenous communities have existed for 10,000 years and with strong strategic planning, will endure for another 10,000. In doing so, there is the opportunity to create a model that benefits both Indigenous and non-Indigenous governments. If these organizations want to get into the canoe altogether, they are more than welcomed.


This is a reproduction of an article written by Gary Wilson, Chief Executive and Director of Economic Development of Tiičma (Teech-ma) Enterprises, in Municipal World in June 2023.

Island Coastal Economic Trust is honoured to have been working in close partnership with the Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’ / Che:k’tles7et’h’ First Nations on a project to purchase a year-round floating resort that will help with visitor growth and tourism diversification opportunities valued at over $2,000,000. The Trust contributed $300,000 to the overall budget.