Using an innovative approach, the Hupacasath First Nation in Port Alberni is benefiting from nearly $112,000 in funding from the B.C. government as part of the Indigenous Forest Bioeconomy Program.
Since time immemorial, people of the Hupacasasth First Nation have inhabited their territory on central Vancouver Island. Now, from the pristine forests of the Alberni Valley, they are creating Kleekhoot Gold bigleaf maple syrup from 100% bigleaf maple sap. This species creates syrup with an indescribable, unique flavour different from the eastern Canadian sugar maple.
Doug Routley, Parliamentary Secretary for Forests, along with Josie Osborne, MLA for Mid Island-Pacific Rim, visited the Kleekhoot facility. “By locally producing maple syrup from the abundance of bigleaf maple trees unique to the west coast of British Columbia, the Hupacasath First Nation is showing us how we can all benefit from our forests in new and sustainable ways,” Routley said.
“Bigleaf maple has always been used by Hupacasath for its wood for smoking fish and game,” said Chief Brandy Lauder, Hupacasath First Nation. “Some of our members now also use the bigleaf maple syrup to glaze the fish and meat before smoking it with the maple wood. Kleekhoot Gold has provided training and employment opportunities to our youth over the first few years of operations. It is also bringing our members back into the forests with a renewed sense that there is more to the forest than just logging opportunities. We are very proud of the product produced here and by our members who work so hard to produce it for everyone.”
Osborne said: “Kleekhoot Gold is a great example of how innovative forest management can help strengthen communities. People in the Alberni Valley take so much pride in locally grown food, and bigleaf maple syrup makes a sweet addition to our local food landscape.”
Since its inception in 2015, the Hupacasath First Nation has invested more than $300,000 in Kleekhoot Gold to bring this high-value novel product to market. Kleekhoot Gold is one of several independent business ventures of the Hupacasath First Nation.
- First Nations in B.C. are increasingly active participants in forestry activities that offer economic opportunity and community sustainability.
- The Indigenous Forest Bioeconomy Program targets funding to support Indigenous partners in leading the development of a forest bioeconomy.
- Since 2019, the program has delivered 41 projects with 24 Indigenous communities and organizations throughout the province, with projects including:
- essential oils extracted from conifer needles;
- a novel engineered wood product made from dead and degraded wood from fires and beetle kill;
- textiles made from bark; and
- insulation made from scrap wood fibre.
- Funding for the program in 2021-22 was approximately $1,126,000.
- The program is being expanded in 2022 with an additional $3.9 million over three years for an accelerator stream that will move projects to commercialization faster.