Whitecap Dakota First Nation: Building an economy through jurisdiction

Whitecap Dakota is a progressive First Nation with a proud culture, a strong sense of community and a passion for creating business relationships that support the community’s economic vision. With a traditional territory that extends from Saskatchewan to Manitoba, south and west to the Great Lakes and the United States, Whitecap has a rich history filled with stories of the First Nation’s involvement in defining moments in Canadian and American histories. In August, 1882, Chief Whitecap counseled John Lake on the location for a new temperance colony that would later become the city of Saskatoon and he is recognized as one of the city’s founding fathers.

Whitecap’s members have mandated their leadership to implement a nation-building vision geared toward strengthening community and building opportunity. To that end, Whitecap has created a land code under the federal government’s First Nations Land Management Act that allowed them to open the door to business with commercial and residential leases giving the First Nation the flexibility to meet the needs of investors.

As developers became interested in investing in Whitecap, the First Nation began looking into options for implementing property taxation to assist in the development of infrastructure. Whitecap held community meetings to consult with members, who ultimately voted in favour of implementing a property tax system as they had seen the economic success that the First Nation was already experiencing with an unemployment rate of 4.1%, down from 70% prior to the development of the land code.

Since implementing their property tax system, Whitecap Dakota First Nation has made significant improvements to the community’s infrastructure and services, including upgraded power supply, signage, paved roads, street lighting, a fibre optic network, two water treatment plants, and a solid waste transfer station. Whitecap’s property tax system has also allowed the First Nation to assert its jurisdiction as a government and develop and create jobs for their community members.

In 2013, Whitecap updated their property assessment and property taxation laws by repealing their priorIndian Act by-laws and putting in place new laws more suitable to working under the FMA. Also, in conjunction with the planned infrastructure expansion, Whitecap is currently working with FNTC regarding implementing the first development cost charges law under the FMA in Saskatchewan. Much of the legal drafting on the new law has been done, but the law cannot be finalized until the new infrastructure has been designed and fully costed.

Recently, Whitecap leased 10 lots to a private developer that developed residential units as a pilot project with 10 homes for families on 99-year leases. The new initiative is building the local economy.

Whitecap is currently looking into a $10 million infrastructure expansion to complement a planned hoteland business park with service and tourism opportunities that will create 400 to 500 jobs in the next three to four years.

Future plans include to developing a residential resort community. Whitecap Dakota continues to create new and innovative ways to expand their jurisdiction and move business forward.

Whitecap’s Lands Manager and Tax Administrator Dalyn Bear is currently enrolled in the First Nation Tax Administration certificate program at the Tulo Centre for Indigenous Economics and is expected to graduate from the program in the spring of 2015.

“The program is extremely helpful. It provides tailored education for tax administrators for their regions with the various provincial laws taken into consideration. It is proactive with up-to-date scenarios that encompass all aspects of a Tax Administrator’s role. I have learned a lot about tax administration and would recommend the program to any tax administrator not currently certified.”

*Reprinted with permission from the First Nations Tax Commission