It would be impossible to learn about the K’awat’si Economic Development LP (KEDC) without first learning about the Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Nation which it serves.

The Gwa’sala-Nakwaxda’xw Nations ancestral homeland is located along the central coastline of British Columbia, spanning from Seymour and Smith Inlets to Blunden Harbour. The total area of their traditional territory constitutes approximately 40% of BC’s coastline. The Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Nations have inhabited this region for time immemorial until they were forcibly relocated to Port Hardy in 1964. Boasting a rich cultural heritage that dates back thousands of years, this Indigenous community maintains a deep connection to the land, sea, and their traditional way of life.

The Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw people, who are part of the larger Kwakwaka’wakw Nation, have thrived in this region for countless generations. Their traditional territories encompass a diverse landscape, ranging from lush rainforests to expansive ocean waters teeming with marine life. This geographical diversity has not only shaped the cultural practices of the Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw but also provided abundant resources essential for sustenance and spiritual well-being.

The Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Nation reveres nature and has a deep-rooted respect for ancestral traditions. Through art, storytelling, and vibrant ceremonies, the Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw people have preserved their unique identity and passed down their knowledge from generation to generation.

The KEDC was established in 2014 with a vision deeply rooted in honoring and celebrating these traditional values. As KEDC commemorates its 10th anniversary in 2024, it’s not just celebrating business growth but also a legacy of resilience, sustainability, and cultural integrity.

Since its inception, KEDC has achieved remarkable milestones that exemplify its mission. The establishment of the Kwa’lilas Hotel in 2017 stands as a testament to KEDC’s dedication to blending profitability with cultural heritage.

Over the past decade, KEDC has diversified its services, expanding into sectors such as tourism, construction, marine, fisheries, forestry, consulting, and counseling. This diversification has transformed KEDC into a comprehensive economic force, not only for the GNN but for the entire Northern Region of Vancouver Island.

“This diversification has enabled us to become a comprehensive economic force, not just for the community but for the entire Northern Region of Vancouver Island,” says Andrew Nixon, Business Development & Marketing Manager of K’awat’si Economic Development LP. “Initiatives like our Cold Storage Facility, K’awat’si Marine Services, and the introduction of K’awat’si Consulting & Management Services have been pivotal in broadening our impact and enhancing our capability to support the Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Nations and the surrounding regions stakeholders.”

Constructed by K’awat’si Construction Company, the hotel serves as a cultural hub where visitors can immerse themselves in the traditions of the Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Nations. Additionally, mobilizing K’awat’si Consulting & Management Services and K’awat’si Construction Company to secure funding for the gukwdzi (Bighouse) project highlights KEDC’s commitment to cultural revival and community empowerment.

Currently, KEDC proudly employs over 180 individuals, with the workforce expanding to more than 200 during the peak tourism season. “This figure is a testament to our growth and the expanding scope of our operations, providing valuable employment opportunities to the community members and contributing to the economic vitality of the region,” says Nixon,

KEDC’s contribution to economic development and community growth extends beyond job creation. Initiatives like the Kwa’lilas Hotel and K’awat’si Construction have not only provided employment opportunities but also supported cultural initiatives and ensured food security through sustainable practices in fisheries and aquaculture, all under the umbrella of cultural development and environmental stewardship.

“At KEDC, environmental stewardship is at the core of our operations,” says Nixon. “We actively integrate traditional knowledge and practices into our business activities, ensuring that our ventures promote and preserve the traditional cultural and environmental values of the Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw people. Through responsible business operations, such as resource conservation and the implementation of sustainable technologies, we aim to minimize our environmental footprint while fostering a culture of conservation and sustainability within the community.”

KEDC also plays a vital role in promoting the cultural preservation and heritage of the Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Nations. From naming entities after traditional kwak’wala words to employing a Cultural Events Coordinator, KEDC ensures that GNN’s culture and heritage are celebrated and integrated into its operations.

Looking ahead, KEDC envisions a future of greater growth, community impact, and sustainability. The organization aims to expand existing ventures, explore new market opportunities, and continue integrating sustainable practices into all aspects of operations. “We aim to further empower the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nations by driving economic prosperity, fostering environmental stewardship, and celebrating the Nations cultural heritage,” says Nixon. “By doing so, we hope to not only ensure the well-being of the community but also set a precedent for Indigenous economic development globally.”

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