A Housing Project in Canada Provides Opportunities for Indigenous People

There are more than 200 unique indigenous communities in present-day British Columbia (BC), Canada. One of them is the Xat’sull/Cmetem’ First Nation, also known as Soda Creek/Deep Creek Band. Craig Kennedy has been working with various First Nation governments for many years. He is the owner/operator of Kennedy Forest & Safety Consultants, a business he started in 2008. Craig explains: “I help businesses with their BC Forest Safety Council certification process and safety audits. I have also managed First Nation logging companies, assisted business start-ups and helped people to get work as part of economic development funding.”

Craig also happens to be an avid saw miller. After working for several big mills in the area, he saw an opportunity to work with local First Nations communities and get them into small scale milling.  While working for Toosey Indian Band, Craig was able to purchase a used WPF in 2014. “I did a lot of research on swingmills before I purchased the Peterson. I looked at D&L, Warrior, Mobile Dimension and Mahoe sawmills. I chose the Peterson mill because it had great reviews and their customer service is so much better than that of any of the other manufacturers. I also liked the aluminum build and the engineering style of the mill itself. I didn’t have to worry about purchasing an edger as the Peterson is designed with that in mind.”


In 2017 Craig and his team ran a training program where they milled lumber and built two small houses at their training site in Riske Creek, BC. They also cut heaps of bridge building material that allowed them to successfully build and sell wooden bridges panels to go over creeks. “We decided to add a large industrial WoodMizer (LT70) to our fleet of sawmills to get even more horsepower in milling timbers.”

Craig purchased another, new WPF in 2017 and for many years was milling Douglas Fir full time. Craig: “The Peterson is very simple to operate and maintain. We had small issues here and there that were easily corrected after a quick call to Peterson. Things like adjusting the tracks or carriage. Training on the mill is very easy, within half a day sawyers can run the mill safely and efficiently.”

Craig continues: “We were pushing the mills pretty hard. I had to replace both engines after using them for 40 hours a week over many years. I love how I don’t need to use an edger when milling with the swing blade. It’s a great concept and it’s always exciting to turn a round thing into a square thing. Overall I’m very happy with the mills, Peterson is the mill brand I promote.”

This year, Craig is getting involved with an exciting new training program taking place at Whispering Willows Campsite, a campground run by Xat’sull. This program will take on ten indigenous participants who will earn a wage while participating in a 16 week training program run by Craig and his team. “These students will build a small caretaker’s home on the campsite and gain skills in sawmilling, house building and house planning. People will learn how to pick the right trees for this type of project, harvest and mill them with the WPF, build foundations, do the grading, drainage, plumbing, electrical, heating, roofing, windows, doors, insulation and everything else that goes with building a small house.”

heritage village

The hope is that it will lead to the development of a new (portable) sawmill business providing for the larger community and the ability to build small homes in cooperation with Xat’sull’s housing department. The location of the house at the Whispering Willows campsite will serve as a showpiece for a potential future business. “The location of the campsite is ideal, sitting right beside the highway. A high number of people visit the campsite each Summer.”

The program will run from February to June 2021, at which point there’ll be a grand opening of the new caretaker’s house. “Aside from the potential for the development of a new business and jobs in the community, we’re optimistic that it will provide ten people from the local area with the knowledge and experience to begin a new and fulfilling career.”

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