Indigenous bands and businesses in the Kootenay region of British Columbia

Entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in First Nation communities throughout the southeast corner of British Columbia.

Mount Fisher shown as captured by Indigenous photographer Blaine Burgoyn

Mount Fisher shown as captured by Indigenous photographer Blaine Burgoyn — Photo Blaine Burgoyne

For hundreds of generations, the Indigenous people of our region—the Ktunaxa and Secwépemc—have supported strong, thriving communities through trade. Across a traditional territory that includes southwestern British Columbia, the foothills of Alberta and parts of Montana, Idaho and Washington, First Nations people have proudly prospered and done business with each other.

That same pride of doing business exists today. Indigenous-owned businesses make up an important part of our local economy and they contribute to the well-being, sustainability and prosperity of local First Nations communities. More than that, they also create jobs, teach valuable employment and entrepreneurial skills, maintain and support land stewardship and create a self-sustaining economic base for First Nations communities across the region. By the same token, meaningful relationships and opportunities are also built and nurtured across the region at large, creating shared prosperity for all. In the spirit of economic reconciliation, we are all one.

We bring you a list of all the local bands and the businesses that they own or partner with.

Outside of Ktunaxa Nation Government building in downtown Cranbrook.

The Ktunaxa Nation Government Building is located at 220 Cranbrook Street in Cranbrook, British Columbia. — Kerry Shellborn photo

Ktunaxa Nation

The Ktunaxa Nation is made up of six individual First Nations communities—four in south-eastern British Columbia and two in the United States. The traditional territory of the Ktunaxa Nation covers approximately 70,000 square kilometers and includes parts of British Columbia, Alberta, Montana, Washington and Idaho. The territory of the Ktunaxa has been inhabited for at least 11,500 years.

The Ktunaxa language is distinct and not related to any other language in the world. Pushed to the brink of extinction through policies such as residential schools, the language is now the mother tongue of only 100 people. Through the use of technology and educational resources, the Ktunaxa people are actively working to promote and preserve their language and culture for future generations.  

Ktunaxa Ready

The Ktunaxa Ready website is a comprehensive directory of Ktunaxa businesses across the Kootenay region, designed to facilitate business-to-business relationships.

Read the KootenayBiz interview with Janice Alpine, Business Development Officer at Ktunaxa Nation.

Ktunaxa Nation communities in British Columbia:

ʔakisq̓nuk - Columbia Valley

The ʔakisq̓nuk First Nation Band is situated in the Columbia Valley, between the towns of Windermere and Fairmont Hot Springs. The region is traditionally part of the band’s winter territory. Community member services include housing development and support, traditional and non-traditional education programs and workshops and land stewardship.

Learn more about the ʔakisq̓nuk First Nation Band

ʔakisq̓nuk Band-owned businesses and partnerships:

  • Lakeshore Resort & Campground: In operation for over 30 years, the Lakeshore Resort and Campground is the largest recreational spot on Lake Windermere. The site is regularly updated and enhanced and features two children’s playgrounds, an interpretive trail and Indigenous cultural experiences. The newest addition is the Legacy Hall, an open-air, roofed structure that is available for gatherings, events and weddings.
  • Columbia Lake Recreation Centre:This long-desired facility was completed in 2019. The 2000-square-metre centre features a sports floor that is adaptable to a variety of different athletic sports, an elevated running track, a cafeteria area and a commercial kitchen.
  • Eva Joseph Learning and Cultural Society: The Eva Joseph Learning and Cultural Society was established in order to bring Ktunaxa culture into local programs. Home to the Little Badgers Early Childhood Education program, the society is also involved with the Aboriginal Head Start program and the community playgroup.

Yaqan Nukiy (Lower Kootenay) - Creston

Locally known as the Yaqan Nukiy (translated as “where the rock stands”), the Lower Kootenay band community is located along the banks of the Kootenay River in the fertile Creston Valley region. On the May long weekend, the community hosts the annual Yaqan Nukiy Traditional Pow Wow, which brings together dancers and drummers from across Western Canada and the United States.

Learn more about the Yaqan Nukiy Band.

Yaqan Nukiy Band-owned businesses and partnerships:

  • Ainsworth Hot Springs: The healing properties of the hot springs have been known to the Ktunaxa people for generations. Acquired by the Lower Kootenay band in 2015, the resort continues to offer those same therapeutic and healing benefits to visitors.
  • Yaqan Nukiy Farms: Fresh fruit and vegetables are grown on this Lower Kootenay-owned farm. Produce is sold on-site and also through the new gourmet grocery section at Morris Flowers Garden Centre. The farm also raises beef cattle.
  • Morris Flowers: Acquired in 2018, Morris Flowers consists of a downtown florist shop, greenhouse property and garden centre. Locally grown seasonal bedding plants and flowers are sold, as well as fruit, vegetables, ornamental trees, nursery stock and more.
  • Robert Logging Partnership: Log harvesting, road building, hauling, right-of-way clearing, site preparation and commercial excavation projects are all services provided by Robert Logging Partnership.
  • Lower Kootenay Forage Partnership: Custom baling, hay compression services and Timothy hay production and sales are offered by the Lower Kootenay Forage Partnership.
  • Lower Kootenay Guide Outfitters: BC wilderness and photography adventures are led by experienced guides and wranglers. Lower Kootenay Guide Outfitters offers fully outfitted hunts for elk, deer, mountain goat, moose and cougar.

ʔaq̓am (St. Mary's) - Cranbrook

Nestled along the St. Mary’s River between Kimberley and Cranbrook, the ʔaq̓am band has the largest population and land area of all the Ktunaxa Nation communities. Administration includes education services, community health, economic development and ʔaq̓am community enterprises.

Learn more about the ʔaq̓am Band.

ʔaq̓am band-owned businesses and partnerships:

  • ʔaq̓am Trading Gas Bar: Opened in 2018, ʔaq̓am Trading is the first and only First-Nation fuel station in the B.C. Rockies. The beautifully-designed roundhouse building features artisan First-Nation giftware and souvenirs from artists across Western Canada, as well as the usual convenience-type items found at a gas station. Two EV charging stations are also on-site.
  • D&B Flagging & Traffic Control: This full-service traffic control and flagging company employs a team of over 30 certified professionals. As well as traffic control and flagging, the company also provides pilot vehicle services, management plans and more.

Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi ‘it (Tobacco Plains) - Grasmere

Located in Grasmere, the territory of the Tobacco Plains band comprises 10,600 acres and includes lands surrounding the hamlet of Grasmere and the Canada Customs facility at the Roosville Border crossing.

Learn more about the Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi ‘it Band.

Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi ‘it band-owned businesses and partnerships:

  • Tobacco Plains Duty Free Store: Canadian gifts and souvenirs, cosmetics and fragrances, premium liquor and more can be purchased at the Tobacco Plains Duty Free Store.
  • Big Springs Campground: Owned by The Tobacco Plains Development Corporation, the Big Springs Campground offers 65 seasonal and overnight camping spots. Located on a scenic and secluded beach on Lake Koocanusa, the campground is dog and family-friendly.
  • Ayes Ranch Campground: Operated by The Tobacco Plains Development Corporation on a long-term Licence of Occupation (LOO) agreement, the Ayes Ranch Campground has 130 seasonal campsites and 20 campsites available on a monthly-rental basis. The location offers beautiful sandy beaches, shade trees and is pet and family-friendly.
  • Dorr Road Campground: Operated by The Tobacco Plains Development Corporation, the Dorr Road Campground has spacious sites that are suitable for large RV’s. The campground is rustic and remote and does not have electricity, although generators are allowed.
  • Edward Lake lease lots: Located on Tobacco Plains reservation land, Edward Lake lease lots are available on a 50+ year lease basis, with the right to renew. Lease holders are free to build cabins and homes on their lots.

Shuswap Nation Tribal Council

The Shuswap Nation Tribal Council is made up of nine Secwepemc communities, all located in the southern interior of British Columbia. Only the Shuswap First Nation Band is located in the Kootenays - the other eight communities are located in the Thompson Okanagan and Cariboo regions.

Shuswap Nation Tribal Council - Kootenay nation:

Shuswap - Invermere

The Shuswap First Nation band is located near Invermere, B.C., along the banks of the Columbia River. The traditional territory of the  entire Secwépemc Nation (17 communities)  comprises over 180,000 km of land, stretching across British Columbia and Alberta.  The Shuswap Band’s caretaker area extends from the region north near Valemount, south to the U.S. border, west to the Monashee Mountains and east to the Rocky Mountain foothills in Alberta.

Learn more about the Shuswap Band.

The Shuswap band-owned businesses and partnerships:

  • St. Eugene Golf Resort & Casino: A former residential school, the St. Eugene Mission building was reclaimed and transformed into the beautiful, world-class resort and casino it is today. The property is owned and operated by the four B.C.-based Ktunaxa Nation communities and the Shuswap First Nation band.

Businesses collectively owned by Ktunaxa Nation and Shuswap Nation Tribal Council communities:

  • Nupqu Resource Limited Partnership: This natural resource management consulting and contracting firm is managed by Ktunaxa Enterprises Ltd., which is the business arm for the Ktunaxa Nation. Ktunaxa Nation communities act as shareholders in the company.
  • Kettle River Contracting: Specializing in resource development, Kettle River Contracting is a heavy civil construction company and provides services such as bridge installation, site development and surveying.  The business is managed by Ktunaxa Enterprises Ltd., which is the business arm for the Ktunaxa Nation. Ktunaxa Nation communities act as shareholders in the company.
  • Amakis Transport Ltd: This company specializes in hauling logs within Ktunaxa territory. The business is managed by Ktunaxa Enterprises Ltd., which is the business arm for the Ktunaxa Nation. Ktunaxa Nation communities act as shareholders in the company.
  • St. Eugene Golf Resort & Casino: A former residential school, the St. Eugene Mission building was reclaimed and transformed into the beautiful, world-class resort and casino it is today. The property is owned and operated by the four B.C.-based Ktunaxa Nation communities and the Shuswap Indian band. 
Julie Matchett

Julie Matchett is a writer and content coordinator for KPI Media. She ranks as a 7 on the Introversion vs. Extraversion scale out of 100, which might help to explain why she chose a career of quiet contemplation as opposed to public speaking. View all of Julie Matchett’s articles

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