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Indigenous Planning Cheat Sheet: Five Types, Tips and Resources


Planning with Maps: First Nation Watershed Map in 3D using wood elevation cutouts

Above: First Nation Watershed Map in 3D using wood elevation cutouts - planning can be fun and exciting - and doesn't have to be stuck in dusty reports!


Springtime is planning time! Do you hear that and groan? We all know the value of a good plan in charting a course to the future we want to see. But for many Indigenous nations, the planning process often seems long, time consuming and ultimately ineffective: how many expensive plans end up forgotten on a shelf?


What if planning doesn’t have to be that way? What if planning can bring a community together? Revitalize culture and spirit? Reignite pride and reclaim roles of environmental stewardship, jurisdiction and sovereignty, and accelerate economic development? What if planning is fun? From our work with First Nations, Métis and Inuit governments across Canada, we know that it absolutely can be a fun and rewarding experience for your whole community.


Welcome to this first post in a series that explore ways Indigenous communities have used the planning process to create an exciting vision for their future and a realistic roadmap to get there – and some resources and ideas for you to do the same. We hope you join us for the ride. Sign up to receive this planning series straight to your inbox. And please get in touch if there’s a topic you’d like us to explore.


Indigenous Planning Cheat Sheet: Which plan do we start with?

A barrier clients often report before they even begin is not knowing which kind of plan they need or should start with. Whether you are a developmental or an operational Land Code community, a nation negotiating land claims or dealing with resource development issues, housing shortages or issues with common lands, there are many reasons to carefully evaluate your planning. Planning is a long-term commitment (some plans can take two or more years!), so weighing the pros and cons of the approaches available is well worth your time up front. 


Read on for a round-up of the main kinds of plans Indigenous nations often choose and an explanation of why you would consider each. As you read through the descriptions below, remember that while there are common aspects to each plan, every community will approach the process with its own unique ideas and circumstances. Tailor the process – and the final document – to be exactly how you want and need it to be. You are the experts on your own experience and the authors of your own story. Make the planning process fit your needs. Like what you're reading? Download a copy of this post here:


Download Planning Cheat Sheet


Comprehensive Community Planning (CCP): Who do we want to be?

Timeline: 1-2 years 

What is it?

A CCP is an all-encompassing approach to community development that brings everyone together to create a long-term vision and to establish objectives to achieve that vision. It can address all elements from housing, health, land use, and infrastructure to environmental stewardship, economic development, culture, and more. Developing a CCP is a holistic process by which the entire community becomes the planning team and is encouraged to participate.

TIP #1: Think of the CCP as the umbrella plan. Although every CCP is unique, most have detailed sections that outline and elaborate on a community’s vision for the future with a high-level workplan of goals and objectives. These objectives often include other planning processes, including strategic economic development planning, land use planning and more (see below).

Why do it?

A CCP is a great starting point to planning for the future and can provide a road map for development that really reflects the values and priorities of your members. It can help shift the conversation from reactive problem solving to proactively planning for the future. The process of developing a CCP also brings everyone together for events, workshops, forums and celebrations that strengthen relationships and create alignment. 


Comprehensive Community Planning resources:

NADF’s Comprehensive Community Planning Toolkit: Finding Bimadizowin


Land Use Plans: What is our plan for our lands?

Timeline: 1-3 years.

What is it?

A Land Use Plan documents your community’s vision for how the lands and waters will be used over the next five to twenty years. The plan determines what areas need to be protected and identifies what areas would be best for development, including where to put new homes, businesses, and cultural sites, for example. Land Use Plans generally include policies, zones or designations. They also include regulations for how to use the land in different areas, and guidelines to make sure development happens in an environmentally sound and culturally sustainable way.

TIP #2: Get everyone involved. Engaging the community in land use planning allows members to write their own story and decide how the past and current state of the land will influence their future. Not sure how to get people to be involved? Stay tuned for the next blog in this series on creative community engagement (hint: the image above is from a 3D mapping workshop).

Why do it?

Land use planning is important for asserting rights and can play a role in revitalizing culture. A land use plan provides clear guidance on where development should go. It creates transparent decision-making on land use with common rules for everyone. It provides tools for staff and leadership to make decisions about how the land will be used, rooted in guidance and input from the community. This means that if you are looking to build a new home or business and want to know where and how to get it done, you can look to the plan for direction. It also ensures that your important cultural and environmental places are protected from unwanted developments.


Land Use Planning resources:

Ecotrust Canada: BC First Nations Land Use Planning: Effective Practices


Environmental Management Plans: How will we protect our environment?

Timeline: Approximately 1 year

What is it?

An Environmental Management Plan identifies environmental threats to the lands and waters and proposes approaches to resolve those issues.Most plans identify key current environmental issues, and plan for potential future challenges. They also help you develop major goals and visions for the state of the environment and include guidelines and strategies for protecting and improving the lands and waters.

TIP #3: Include Indigenous knowledge. Beyond the key components described below, the structure and content of an Environmental Management Plan can vary. Many Indigenous nations feel that their Environmental Management Plan should encompass Indigenous knowledge, as well as rights, values and interests.

Why do it?

Every community faces unique environmental challenges that have the potential to damage the health of the lands, waters and people. Completing an Environmental Management Plan allows you to tackle these challenges proactively and avoid crisis management when issues become severe. These plans also provide environmental guidelines that help members make informed decisions about:

  • managing and storing hazardous materials,
  • managing existing contaminated sites and ongoing sources of pollution or contamination,
  • protecting drinking water sources,
  • managing wastewater and septic systems,
  • managing solid waste and recycling,
  • planning for and managing landfills, and
  • outlining practices that protect wildlife, fish, plants, cultural sites and species at risk.

An Environmental Management Plan is a key component in helping to protect and heal the lands and waters for future generations. It also provides valuable information to help support the development of an environmental protection and assessment regime for your land laws under a Framework Agreement through the First Nations Lands Management Act


Environmental Management Planning Resources: We have previously written about the important components of Environmental Management Plans here.  

LABRC: A Guide to Preparing Environmental Management Plans For Operational First Nations


Community Energy Plans: How will we manage our energy needs?

Timeline: 6 months to 2 years (You typically need at least 1 year of baseline data)

What is it?

Developing a Community Energy Plan (CEP) helps decision makers understand the details of their community’s present energy use and vulnerabilities, assess future energy needs, and maps out an action plan that addresses long-term energy reliability. These plans create a strategy to reduce energy consumption by identifying and addressing inefficiencies and uncovering conservation opportunities.

TIP #4: Think out of the box - think green (in terms of energy and revenue potential!). You can use a Community Energy Plan to assess potential opportunities for alternative and green energy solutions and even to move specific energy projects along.

Why do it?

Energy reliability and security is a growing concern for Indigenous nations. It’s also an exciting time to think about energy as the diversity and viability of alternative energy generation, distributed energy resources, and energy storage options continue to grow. Taking a proactive stance towards energy planning can reduce costs in for community members while simultaneously increasing security of an important resource. There’s also a potential to generate revenue by selling power back to the grid. Some potential climate change impacts can also be addressed in a community energy plan.


Community Energy Planning resources:

Quest Canada: Toward a positive energy future in northern and remote communities

Community Energy Planning Getting to Implementation in Canada Initiative

CEKAP (Community Energy Knowledge Action Partnership): First Principles of CEP 

ICE Network: Webinar on Initiating Community Energy Planning happening May 22:


Strategic Economic Development Plans: What do we want economic development to look like?

Timeline: 6-12 months

What is it?

Strategic economic development planning helps you think carefully about what types of development you want (and don’t want) on your land and to set objectives. These objectives often include creating jobs, establishing businesses, supporting member owned businesses, generating wealth, increasing and diversifying own-source revenue, attracting certain industries and supporting the community’s unique cultural vision and traditions. Once you have determined the types of economic development that should be allowed and prioritized you can plan for how to develop carefully and ensure community ownership and control of new developments.

TIP #5: Get clear on implementation at the start. A good economic development plan will include an implementation plan with milestones over a five to ten year horizon, specific responsibilities and will outline timelines and potential funding resources.

Why do it?

Every community wants to prosper and have vibrant businesses and fulfilling employment, but economic development can be tricky because it is often seen as a trade-off with environmental protection. Developing a plan that builds consensus about desirable types of development, employment and businesses helps economic growth and environmental protection to work in tandem. A strategic economic development plan is an important part of planning a prosperous future for everyone in your community.


Strategic Economic Development Planning Resources:

Wise Practices in Indigenous Community Economic Development, by Brian Calliou


Need help deciding where to start?

If the planning choices seem overwhelming, do give us a shout. We’d be happy to discuss your options and help you weigh the pros and cons. We’re a team of self-proclaimed planning geeks who love to talk about this stuff, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.


Over the next few weeks we will be doing a whole lot more writing about various aspects of planning so stay tuned and feel free to reach out to us with any questions, thoughts or stories of your own experiences.


Read more posts in this series:

Five Crucial Elements Every Land Use Plan Needs

Three Questions to a Clear Vision

Background Info Check List

Indigenous Planning Cheat Sheet: Five Types, Tips and Resources


Want to keep a copy of this cheat sheet handy?


Download Planning Cheat Sheet


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About Us: Shared Value Solutions

We are a Canadian B Corp, and we assist Indigenous communities with support throughout regulatory processes surrounding major development projects like mines, hydroelectric facilities, transmission lines, highway expansions, oil and gas pipelines, natural resource transport applications and nuclear power. 


We have deep context and experience behind the recommendations we provide, having worked for our clients on almost every major project in Canada over the last 10 years. For us, it’s all about building long-term relationships with our clients. We want to get to know you and what you want to do so we can help you move your plans forward. 



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