The role of the grant writer: Empowering First Nations in the Northwest

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Marianne Weston is an experienced grant writer for aboriginal and non-profit organizations. Weston has worked on a wide variety of projects with First Nations throughout the Northwest including the Nuxalk Nation, Gitwinksihlkw Village Government and the Ksan House Society. She has benefitted from the Grant Writing Support program since 2012.

“I started out grant writing in the early 1980s,” said Weston. “I was hired by the Kermode Friendship Centre in Terrace as program director and was acting executive director for more than a year, where I learned a lot about First Nations, social services and the tips and tricks of writing bigger grants.

“What excited me about working on economic development and cultural tourism is how it builds capacity, self-esteem and skills.”

One such project that Weston is passionate about is the Nuxalk Pathway to Cultural Tourism, which has been in development for three years, beginning with the Nuxalk Council intention to build an aboriginal tourism strategy for the First Nation. In 2014, the Nuxalk Nation purchased the Bella Coola Motel lands. Under Nuxalk ownership and with First Nations management and staff, this motel has completed several upgrades, setting the stage for development of a larger vision.

Weston’s recent grant application was for the construction of the second phase (of five), which is the restaurant and gift house. Aside from an indigenous-inspired menu, the facility plans to include an adjoining multi-purpose space to be used for smaller community events, coffee houses, music and storytelling nights, family birthdays and dinners. This venture will provide employment and skills training to Nuxalk members, both in construction and operations phases.

Aboriginal tourism is growing in B.C. According to Aboriginal Tourism BC, the industry is expected to contribute an anticipated $68 million to BC’s economy.

The shared vision of an indigenous-inspired restaurant, gift house, big house and cultural path showcases the Nation and the valley, fostering collaboration, economic growth and community pride. It could provide infrastructure and attractions, drawing visitors to the region.

Northern Development has provided funding for similar First Nations tourism infrastructure projects such as the Gingolx Longhouse project, the Lheidli T’enneh Aboriginal Pavilion project in Prince George, Xeni Gwet’in Traditional Village project in the Nemaiah Valley, Xat’sull Heritage Village Enhancements project at Soda Creek, Qay’llnagaay Heritage Centre, Williams Lake Pow Wow Arbour Revitalization project and the Interior Allied Tribes Memorial Project in Spences Bridge.

Grant writing support specifically for First Nations from the Trust has reached more than $1.3 million.