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Taking the call
Joseph Kochon has seen Colville Lake through some vast changes, remains committed to its evolution

Elaine Anselmi
Northern News Services
Monday, September 28, 2015

Going from a traditional community to one that keeps with tradition while embracing modern ways, Joseph Kochon has witnessed great change in Colville Lake.

The Behdzi Ahda First Nation band manager is an integral part of the community, though he says he never planned to get into politics or business, he says.

"I helped create the band and that's one of the first positions that came up, so the community looked around the table and said, 'OK, you take on that task,'" Kochon said from his hotel in Yellowknife.

He was visiting the capital city last week to attend a regional board meeting.

"I never ever did foresee that," he said.

"I just one day, the people asked me to do this and that and said, 'Well, we want you to take this lead role, you're the go-to person. We don't want any other outside person to be in that position.'"

Seeking more control over local issues was largely what motivated the change, says Kochon.

"The community felt for a long time that we had no sense of control. Our band was a sub-band under Fort Good Hope, so we didn't seen any of our band support-funding, and municipal services were out of Tulita," he says.

"Somebody else was always making a

final decisions for us, so the community felt they needed to take control of their own community, rather than be under somebody's rule."

Prior to taking on the role in 1993, Kochon says he was just minding his own business, and working seasonal jobs.

"Then, as I stumbled along, I heard people referring to Colville Lake as an unstructured community," he says, adding that there

was no administration or local municipal services.

"That kind of inspired me to say, 'Well, we can change that.'"

The community has advanced a lot

since then, says Kochon. Having worked with the mining, and oil and gas industry to assess its land's potential for development, he says they are taking control of their own assets.

"We've pretty well moved the community 10 steps ahead and to see the pros and cons of development and most importantly to develop the community ourselves, versus having outside contractors develop our community," he said.

"We're pretty-well in the driver's seat right now."

He says there have been big accomplishments on the ground in Colville Lake, such as building roads, finalizing a sewage lagoon and completing the construction of the community's airport.

That said, he maintains traditional ways are far from forgotten.

"We're always given the flexibility to go out on the land and do stuff by ourselves

in Colville Lake, we still harvest our own wood and gather traditional food," he said.

"That's one of the flexibilities that we have to continue doing, and not to lose grasp of our way of life."

While his responsibilities were handed down quite suddenly, Kochon said he welcomed the knew challenge and continues to appreciate it.

"It's just like opening a new envelope and seeing what comes next," he says.

"There was a lot of asking questions and we had some good allies that were here and there and I'd call up to them whenever I needed to know what was the next step."

The next step for Colville now, is to continue on.

"We're quite happy with our accomplishments and everyday we continue to grow," Kochon says.

"The good thing about it is that we're in charge of how we grow."

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