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Annita McPhee
Indigenous Leadership Award honoree

McPhee has demonstrated a strong commitment to advancing the economic prosperity of her Tahltan Nation people, while protecting their lands and way of life in northwestern British Columbia.

Annita McPhee is an accomplished professional and indigenous leader who has demonstrated a strong commitment to advancing the economic prosperity of her Tahltan Nation people, while protecting their lands and way of life in northwestern British Columbia.

She embraces a respectful, balanced, and mutually beneficial approach to economic development in Aboriginal communities: responsible resource development respects Aboriginal title and rights.

As a three-term President of the Tahltan Central Council (TCC), the administrative governing body representing the Tahltan Nation, Annita worked on behalf of the nation through some of the most challenging and exciting times in its history. The abundance of natural resources in the nation has brought overwhelming interest in resource development by government and industry. Annita has worked diligently to negotiate agreements with industry and the BC Government on revenue sharing and shared decision making processes to ensure that the Tahltan people shape development in their territory. She was instrumental in negotiating more than $2 billion worth of agreements on behalf of the Tahltan Nation for BC Hydro’s Northwest Transmission Line and AltaGas’ run of river projects.

Annita has also played an integral role in helping to permanently protect the Sacred Headwaters region of British Columbia, in the heart of Tahltan territory, from resource development. The region, centered around Mount Klappan, is the headwaters for three salmon-bearing rivers essential to the sustenance of the Tahltan people — the Nass, Stikine, and Skeena.

Annita lead a coalition that convinced Shell Oil to withdraw its plan to drill for coalbed methane on Klappan, and worked to halt Fortune Minerals’ planned open pit coal mine on the same mountain. She continues to work with the province of British Columbia to outline a collective long-term land use vision for the headwaters area.

Her thoughtful, globally-aware stance on economic development attracted the attention of James Anaya, the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on the rights of Aboriginal peoples, who visited with Annita in 2013. “I am inspired by the teachings and courage of my Elders from the Klabona Keepers, who through their commitment to the land have brought international awareness to protecting our Sacred Headwaters,” Annita says.

People gathered in forest clearing.
Annita McPhee and Tahltan meeting with Fortune Minerals CEO Robin Goad.

The Tahltan Social Cultural Working Group’s innovative approach earned the Premier’s Award for the Province of BC in 2013.

Annita holds a Bachelor of Law and a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Victoria, and studied Public Relations at BCIT. Early in her career, Annita worked with First Nations people and organizations throughout British Columbia to provide legal assistance, fundraising, business development, and substance addiction and family support.

She was named a National Native Role Model in 2000 by former BC Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, for her commitment to community service and aboriginal youth.

She now consults with industry and First Nations working to find common ground in energy and resource development. She became the first Aboriginal woman named to the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada board and is a member of the Vancouver Board of Trade’s Aboriginal Affairs Committee and BC Hydro’s Strategic Aboriginal Engagement Committee.

Chief Rick McLean, of the Tahltan Band Council, says: “Annita never fails to impress me with her commitment to our people and land.”

On November 14, 2014, Annita McPhee and four others were honored at the 12th annual Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award in a private ceremony at the Portland Art Museum. Find out more about the award at ecotrust.org/ila.