Learning Inuk Nu’at’en with Lake Babine Nation: Indigenous Community Planning in Action

by Meika Taylor and Justin Wiebe.  

In early 2012, SCARP collaboratively developed the Indigenous Community Planning (ICP) specialization with the Musqueam Nation, whose traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory is home to UBC. The ICP specialization aims to  “train a new generation of community planners who will break the colonial legacy and culture of planning in order to work in respectful partnership with Indigenous communities.” One of the degree requirements for second year ICP students is an 8-month planning practicum working in and with a First Nations community in British Columbia. In September, we were partnered with Lake Babine Nation (LBN) and have been working closely with two amazing people in the community, Deanna Brown Nolan and Pauline Goertzen. LBN is located in Northern British Columbia, and their traditional territory encompasses the area around Babine Lake (about 3 hours west of Prince George). The Nation is somewhat unique in that it is made up of 5 distinct communities, all of which are involved in the planning process. Nadut’en is the language spoken, and also a word that is used to describe the Nation collectively. This is SCARP’s first year in partnership with LBN and we have had a tremendous experience establishing and building a wonderful working relationship with the Nation.During the early stages of our relationship, Deanna shared the Nadut’en teachings of Inuk Nu’at’en with us. Inuk Nu’at’en are the laws that dictate how people interact with one another in a good way. These laws have become the basis of how we work together internally, and how we carry ourselves within the broader community.








Meika Taylor prepares the dotmocracy exercise at the CCP booth for the LBN Annual General Assembly, Nov 2014.

Photo: Justin Wiebe

With Inuk Nu’at’en as our guiding principle(s), we began working with LBN to develop Phase 1 of their Comprehensive Community Planning (CCP) process. The process aims to be holistic and all-encompassing, with an emphasis on centering the goals, values, and dreams of community members at the heart of the plan. We, along with Deanna and Pauline, have worked to develop a process that works for the community, driven by the community, and is able to be implemented by the community to guide future planning for the Nation.

Community planning is not new to Indigenous communities, and LBN is no exception.  They have been planning for their Nation since time immemorial. However, in recent history, the paternalistic structure of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) has forced many Indigenous communities away from their traditional, community centered forms of planning into a more western, top-down, government regulated planning system.  As a team, we are striving towards a more decolonized approach to planning that is led by the Nation, at the pace of the Nation, and in accordance with the traditional laws and values of the Nation.  Decolonization is a process for all of us, and learning together how best to decolonize the work we do has been one of the greatest learning experiences for us.










The Planning Team. (LtoR: Pauline Goertzen, Deanna Brown Nolan, Meika Taylor, Justin Wiebe).

Photo: Antoinette Tom

In our practicum experience, we have been focusing on relationship building and pre-planning with our community partners in order to lay a solid foundation for the future of the Comprehensive Community Planning process.  Beginning with the first trip to the community, which was coincidentally timed with the first CCP community information session, our practicum has been an experience in learning on the fly. Our time in LBN has allowed us to practice facilitation skills, survey design, quantitative and qualitative data analysis, report writing, photography, community engagement techniques, graphic design, communication, and engagement strategies.  We have three more trips to the community planned where we hope to finalize the terms and conditions for a nation wide planning working group; implement a quick start video project for youth with the help of Patrick Shannon (Haida Nation); and, co-develop and co-facilitate a series of community visioning and engagement sessions.  By the end of our practicum we will have developed a series of in depth community profiles for the Nation as a whole, and for each of the five distinct communities; a summary report of phase 1 of the CCP process; a draft communication and engagement strategy; and, a final presentation in the LBN community and at UBC.









Trip 4 - Things they don’t teach you in planning school. Justin Wiebe using a CB radio to call up on the one lane logging roads into Fort Babine.

Photo: Meika Taylor


We feel very privileged to have the opportunity to work with such an amazing community planning team in Lake Babine Nation.  It has truly been an honor to witness LBN’s traditional ways of planning in action, and we would like to thank all of the community members that have trusted us with their stories and teachings during our time in the community.  Mesiy / Hiy hiy / Thank you.