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Sto: lo venture hits the ground

Six local Sto: lo communities have come together to create an aboriginal-owned environmental monitoring and site restoration business that Grand Chief Joe Hall hopes will be a role model for First Nations everywhere.

Seven Generation Environmental Services is a million-dollar startup created out of a partnership with BC Hydro and will be involved with Hydro's Interior to Lower Mainland (ILM) Transmission Project.

The company was created by the Aitchelitz, Leq'a: mel, Skawahlook, Skowkale, Tzeachten and Yakweakwioose First Nations who kicked in $925,000 of the $1 million startup costs.

In a special report issued in June, TD Economics said both on-and off-reserve aboriginal people are "increasingly flexing their economic muscle." The report said the combined total income of aboriginal households, business and government sectors will reach $24 billion in 2011, double the $12 billion in 2001.

And by 2016, TD Economics estimates this overall income could rise to $32 billion, greater than the level of nominal GDP of Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island combined.

On Aug. 31, 18 trainees selected from across the province-14 aboriginal and four non-aboriginal-will graduate with environmental technician certificates after an intensive 400-hour, 50-day applied learning partnership taking place in Chilliwack and delivered by instructors from Vancouver Island University (VIU).

The training initiated by Seven Generation will likely lead to employment in the company for many if not most of the trainees.

On Tuesday, the students were at a site on the Soowahlie reserve learning how to install sediment fencing and erosion control blankets. By graduation, the 18 students will have learned from four safety instructors and six academic instructors, and hold certificates in essential environmental skills, water monitoring, land monitoring, fish and habitat monitoring, construction site monitoring, electrofishing, erosion and sediment control, environmental monitoring for construction projects, power systems safety protection, all-terrain safety and the workplace hazardous materials information system (WHMIS).

On the site this week, Hall, who is the chair of the board of directors for Seven Generation, said this type of company fits perfectly with Sto: lo tradition and culture.

"This is just a natural fit," Hall told the Times. "Let's do what we say, how we feel we are responsible for all living things. I think this demonstrates a real valued commitment to an important aspect of our culture, taking care of everything that lives and breathes in our territory."

Tana Mussell from the Skwah First Nation and Dan Kelly from Leq'a: mel are two trainees who, on Tuesday, expressed enthusiasm for the intensive training they have nearly completed and a desire to join Seven Generation when they are done.

But even if they don't get on with the new, local company, VIU instructor Ed Van Osch said there is a real need for environmental technicians in the industry, so they will likely all find work.

"Environmental management is an ongoing high priority," he said. "I believe there is lots of work out there."

? To find out more about Seven Generation, visit the company's website www.sges.ca.

phenderson@chilliwacktimes.com

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