by Frank Larue
“We made the decision, which is really easy, that it’s a light footprint approach, and we did that for our children. It’s all about future generations.” T’Sou-ke Chief Gordon Planes told the CBC.
Located just outside Victoria, B.C., the T’Sou-ke First Nation may be a native Band of only 250 members but they are numero uno when it comes to solar energy. Having operated on a solar micro grid for the last ten years, their solar energy program was made possible thanks to the Comprehensive Community Planning, which is run by Indigenous and Northern Affairs.
The T’Souke Band solar energy program is based upon a list four priority pillars – energy, autonomy, food, self-sufficiency and cultural renaissance – and is built on the premise that it does not use more power than it produces. And selling power to BC Hydro brings the T’Sou-ke a financial return.
The Band offers eco-tourism tours that have attracted politicians, thousands of visitors interested in solar power, and several native leaders, including four chiefs from Manitoba making the trek to find out firsthand about solar energy and its benefits. The Band also offers workshops demonstrating how solar energy works.
The benefit to solar energy over traditional energy sources was clear to Chief Planes, who, regarding the money that will be saved by adopting solar energy, said, “You’re going to look at a huge cost in the future if they’ve gotta’ start flying fuel in.”
The T’Souke also are involved in specialized agriculture. They own three greenhouses and grow Wasabi, a plant that stimulates nasal passages and is known as the Japanese horseradish. Although Wasabi is more popular in the USA and Europe than it is in Canada, the Band’s first Wasabi harvest was worth $100,000 and the Band now grows Wasabi on a yearly basis.
The T’Souke Band have one more project that is a work in progress. They want to save the Olympia oyster, which is listed as an endangered species. “There are not many left in our harbor We need to bring them back, full circle. The community will tackle anything that ensures the environment will be better for future generations and children yet to be born,” said Chief Planes. “It is important to bring everyone along and that whatever we envision, that we have the whole community behind it.”