First Nations across Canada are structured in many different ways. Some are still considered ‘Indian Act’ bands; their organization and structure follows the statutes laid out in the Indian Act of 1876, often including leadership through Chief and Council, two-year terms for councilors, a band office with a Band Administrator or Manager and various departments established according to the needs of the community and various funding stipulations.
It’s a good idea for any First Nation to periodically review its own structure and systems. Organizations grow and change in response to community needs, funding opportunities and shifts in the social environment. Changing priorities can mean that Band Council offices are suddenly too big or too small; funding cutbacks or new revenues often lead to changes in staffing; new programs or services create new policy and procedural needs. More generally, each Council has an obligation to govern as efficiently and effectively as possible. That means a periodic, formal assessment of governance, management and administrative structures – and ideally, BEFORE there’s a crisis!
The Batchewana Experience
Batchewana First Nation is located near Sault Ste. Marie, in northeastern Ontario. The community has a total population of nearly 2,500 with over 700 living on reserve. Nearly 100 are employed at the band office, or with various departments or band-controlled organizations.
In 2014, Chief and Council initiated a comprehensive organizational review of Batchewana First Nation, including its structure, programs and services, policies and procedures, and administrative systems. The NVIsion Insight Group was chosen to do the work, under the direction of Project Manager Alex Ker.
“The key to a project like this is to listen, and to listen to as many sources as possible,” says Alex. “We gathered as much information as we could from records and current policy documents, and then we talked to every staff member, as well as Chief and Council. We wanted everyone to know their voice was being heard”.
To that end, Stonecircle further supplemented their data collection with two extensive surveys; one directed to staff, and one to the community at large, including both on and off-reserve membership.
Stonecircle reviewed and analyzed all the data and information collected, then prepared a comprehensive report, identifying key issues and setting out recommendations to address them in six key areas: council; organizational structure; human resources; programs and services; policy and planning; and community engagement and communications. Following a round of client review, the final report was expanded to include revised organization chart and an implementation plan for acting on the key recommendations.