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The challenge facing Chief Calvin J. McArthur and the duly elected Council of the new Pheasant Rump Nakota Band #68 is formidable - build enough homes for approximately 40 families by March, 1993, and provide valuable training for Band Members in the process.
They have turned to the Southeast Regional College, Employment and Immigration Canada (Estevan), and SIAST, Palliser Campus for assistance. Together, the group has launched one of the most innovative projects of its kind in Canada.
Rather than attempting to fit the Band's unique requirements into existing training models, the stakeholders have agreed on a customized training program that will see 14 houses built before March of 1992, and the rest before March, 1993.
At the same time, the students will be well on their way towards receiving their professional certification in building construction form SIAST.
McArthur explains that the Band has an immediate need for housing, so any training package had to be worked around their housing deadline.
"Still, the training was very important to us," he said. "We did not want to just hire a contractor to build the houses using our Band Members as unskilled labour. By combining a recognized training course, 10 participating Band Members will have valuable skills they can use in the future, both on and off the reserve."
For SIAST Palliser Campus, the project took some re-thinking of traditional training patterns.
"The first thing we had to do was abandon our usual training model (of 30 straight weeks). We had to focus on strategies that would allow them to learn while building the houses," said Building Construction Program Head Ron Strinholm.
The modified program involves three phases and will rely heavily on the efforts of the students and the expertise of Instructor Dave Nunn for its success.
Following eight weeks of classroom instruction in Carlyle, the ten students and Nunn will move their project onto the Reserve and construct the 14 houses. Then, having solved the immediate housing crunch, they will return to the classroom for an additional 14 weeks.
Although it is early in the project, Nunn is impressed by the dedication and potential of his students. He fully expects them to be successful in the trade.
"No question about it," says Nunn. "I've got a group of future journeyman carpenters here."
Judging from the Pheasant Rump Reserve's plans for steady development on the reserve over the next five to ten years, the future carpenters will not have to go far to find work.
And that's just fine with McArthur.
"Our ultimate goal is to see the welfare system phased our and employment take over as the diving force of our Band economy."