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 

Yellow Quill First Nation: First Saskatchewan First Nation to develop its laws entirely under the FMA

In June the Yellow Quill First Nation enacted its Property Taxation and Assessment Laws, becoming the first Saskatchewan First Nation to develop their laws entirely under the First Nations Fiscal Management Act. Yellow Quill joins Whitecap Dakota First Nation, White Bear First Nations, and Muskeg Lake Cree Nation taxing under the FMA, and is now among nine communities collecting tax under either the FMA or the Indian Act.

For Yellow Quill, the laws are integral to the First Nation’s plan to develop its Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE) Lands in downtown Saskatoon into an office complex. Property tax revenue will pay for the services provided by the City of Saskatoon to the office complex, and will afford Yellow Quill the ability to improve and expand community infrastructure and services. In development for over a year, the laws are key to Yellow Quill’s vision of continued community growth.

“Yellow Quill and its membership are proud of establishing this jurisdiction,” said Yellow Quill First Nation Chief Larry Cachene. “The decision to tax, particularly the decision to use the FMA, had a lot do with creating the best opportunities for investment and economic growth.”

Yellow Quill’s taxation of TLE lands follows the path first carved out by Muskeg Lake Cree Nation in 1992. Under the TLE Framework, Saskatchewan Treaty First Nations can acquire lands in and outside of municipal jurisdiction and convert the land into reserves. Where reserves are established within city boundaries, First Nations must negotiate a municipal services agreement with the city.

The passage of the laws is also satisfying for Yellow Quill Tax Administrator Leila Nashacappo who was a student in the First Nation Tax Administration Certificate Program at the Tulo Centre of Indigenous Economics.

“At Tulo we studied the FMA legislative framework and how First Nations establish their tax jurisdiction. That experience served me well in helping to develop communication materials for Council and the membership. A lot of hard work went into this, and its so good to see the finished product.”

This article originally appeared in the First Nations Tax Commission newsletter Clearing the Path

FNTAA National Forum and Tulo Recognition

On September 26-27, 2012, the First Nations Tax Administrators Association (FNTAA) held its 19th Annual National Forum on First Nations property taxation at Osoyoos First Nation.

Representatives of FNTC presented on new developments in FSMA implementation, property taxation and lands management to Chief and Council members and colleagues in attendance. For the keynote address, BC Assessment’s founding member Stan Hamilton talked about the history of assessment.

In a special ceremony, Dr. Andre LeDressay was awarded with a certificate to recognize his contributions as an educator at the Tulo Centre of Indigenous Economics and his continued commitment to inspiring students studying in the field of First Nations property tax administration. 

At the meeting, re-elected board members, FNTAA President Ernest Jack, FNTC Commissioner Terry Nicholas, Vice President Freda Jules, Secretary Christina Clarke and Treasurer Jim Prodger, welcomed two new members, Tulo graduates Lise Steele (2013) and Carlene George (2011).

For 2013, the FNTAA Board approved a special resolution to create a new membership category specifically designated for Certified First Nation Tax Administrators.