Ktunaxa Nation Network

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The Five Pillars or Sector Approach (Traditional Knowledge and Language Sector, Lands and Resources Sector, Economic Sector, Social Sector and Corporate Sector)

By Don Maki and Jason Woodman Simmonds

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There are six bands in the Ktunaxa Nation. Four are located in what is now British Columbia, Canada, and the two others are now in the United States. The Canadian bands are the Akisqnuk First Nation, St. Mary’s Band, Tobacco Plains Band, and the Lower Kootenay Band.

Ktunaxa (pronounced ‘k-too-nah-ha’) people have occupied the lands adjacent to the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers and the Arrow Lakes of British Columbia, Canada for more than 10,000 years.

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The Traditional Territory of the Ktunaxa Nation covers approximately 70,000 square kilometres (27,000 square miles) within the Kootenay region of south-eastern British Columbia and historically included parts of Alberta, Montana, Washington and Idaho.

The hybrid network of Fibre to the Home (FTTH) and wireless was launched in March 2007, and although there are only four First Nation communities that are serviced by FlexiNeT Broadband Inc, which is a Ktunaxa Nation Network owned ISP, the organization also serves many other communities in the East Kootenays region of B.C. This helps the network benefit from increased sustainability opportunities. Currently, Flexinet Broadband Inc is one of the largest First Nation owned networks in B.C.


The Ktunaxa Nation Network was created by the member communities in the Ktunaxa Nation, which worked to overcome enormous challenges and build local capacity during the development process. There was no business case for private sector companies to build infrastructure to the involved communities, and so the Network was developed and built by the Nation in a demonstration of a community-based, First Mile-driven process. The Network now reaches from the U.S. border in southern B.C. to Golden, Creston and Fernie. It includes 23 communication towers and fibre to the home in two communities.

According to Heather Henley, “the network was originally envisioned as a means to disseminate the Ktunaxa language” (Henley, 2010, p.5). Thus the website lists as one of its current initiatives a Development of the Nation Language Implementation Planning Model and lists the development of a Fibre Optics Nation Intranet as one of its primary goals for implementing the model. A fibre optic network “will allow the Nation to access all of the digitized language products and hold live or pre-recorded language classes via the computer”. The Nation has developed, among other resources, local on-line language courses, a digital grammar book and an expanded digital dictionary.

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Click to visit FirstVoices.ca
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While revitalizing the language through education is one of the primary focuses of the Network, this revitalization program is only one “pillar” in a five pillar approach to creating a self-sufficient, self-governing First Nation. The other three pillars include Land and Resource Management, Economic Investment, and The Social Sector. In the Social Sector, for example, the Ktunaxa Nation Network provides telehealth services. It also utilizes the First Nation Inuit Health Information System. The Social Sector pillar page also includes links to “Finding Your Roots” which provides support for young Ktunaxa parents by, among other services, connecting them with experienced Ktunaxa parents and grandparents.

Click here to find the region near the Ktunaxa Nation Network on Google Maps.