The married couple of four years are both Teck employees and residents of the Elk Valley in British Columbia, Canada. Together with their blended family of five children, Anna and Zane are members of the Aq’am (St. Mary’s Indian Band) and Tobacco Plains Indian Band, respectively, two of the four Ktunaxa Nation communities in B.C. When not on the job, the pair spend their time fishing on the lakes near their home, hunting wild game, and enjoying music and adventures with their kids.
“Even though our community is the smallest within the Ktunaxa Nation and our nation is one of the smallest within Canada, with a population of around 1,500–2,000, we’ve done a lot of footwork to ensure our cultures and traditions are still being practised,” says Anna.
The Ktunaxa people are a distinct Indigenous and linguistic group who have historically occupied and protected their land while living in balance with nature. Preserving their culture remains of high importance today, but so does integrating with the communities within and surrounding their territory, which spans southeastern British Columbia, southwestern Alberta, and parts of Washington, Idaho and western Montana.
In May 2016, Teck signed an Impact Management and Benefits Agreement (IMBA) with the Ktunaxa Nation Council that is creating numerous long-term benefits for the Ktunaxa people and increased certainty around future sustainable mining development in the region. Spanning approximately 40 years and all five of our steelmaking coal operations in the Elk Valley, it is one of the most comprehensive agreements of its kind in place in Canada.
“When I first started at Teck, there was very little knowledge about the Ktunaxa Nation; people didn’t know who the nation in the area was,” says Zane. “I really like the IMBA program and the steps that are being taken.”
Zane’s relationship with Teck began through the Mining Apprenticeship Program (MAP) at the College of the Rockies, when he enrolled in a training program for Industrial Electricians and Heavy Duty Equipment Technicians.
“It was a great opportunity because you’re moving around from mine to mine and learning different things while progressing within your apprenticeship,” says Zane.
He knew he wanted to work close to home and family, so after completing the program he was pleased to accept a job as one of eight running repair field electricians at Line Creek Operations. Today, his primary duties involve keeping the shovels and drills running, as well as taking care of the mine facilities.
“I find it rewarding helping out at the mine site and knowing that there are a lot of things that are basically on my shoulders at certain times. My co-workers rely on my abilities, as I rely on theirs, while at the same time watching out for each other’s safety.”
Anna’s career with Teck began in a temporary role in 2017 and advanced to a permanent position earlier this year as an administrative assistant for the Environment and Social Responsibility team in Sparwood, B.C. Here, her day-to-day work includes onboarding staff during new-hire orientations, coordinating meetings, finance reconciliations, and vacation and schedule management.
Along the way, both Zane and Anna say they have developed positive relationships with the people they work with. And, as the first Ktunaxa Nation couple both working at Teck, the Gravelles note they’ve seen a shift in the relationship between Teck and their community, and still see more opportunities in the future.
“Teck recently helped fund the Administration and Health Building in Tobacco Plains, which was quite an achievement,” says Zane. “We have our own healthcare system in our band, and Teck purchased a van for the healthcare workers. There are a lot of things that they do in general to help out the communities in the area, as well as in Ktunaxa communities.”
Adds Anna, “I feel like we have quite a few strong leaders right now who are guiding us in the right direction, and we make our presence well-known. It’s still a growing relationship, but it’s growing in the right direction for us.”
Learning More: The Ktunaxa Nation
The Ktunaxa, also known as the Kootenai or Kootenay, have occupied their land for over 10,000 years. The Elk Valley area is the main home of the easternmost branch of the Ktunaxa people, who are closely connected to families living at what is now Tobacco Plains. Additionally, three other Ktunaxa communities currently exist in Canada near Windermere, Cranbrook and Creston.
Over their long history, the Ktunaxa people have enjoyed the natural bounty of the land, seasonally migrating throughout their territory to follow vegetation and hunting cycles.
“Our homeland really defines who we were and who we are today; we have a huge responsibility to ensure this place continues to exist for future generations of Ktunaxa, as well as non-Ktunaxa people,” says Ktunaxa Nation Council Chair Kathryn Teneese. “We need to try to figure out how we can move forward together in a way that makes sense, but that recognizes and acknowledges that we have a unique identity and connection to our homeland that no one else really has.”
The Ktunaxa Nation is achieving this by educating and supporting its neighbours, all while building relationships and economic opportunities for its people. Work done at the governing table is guided by the group’s vision statement that celebrates cultural identity, partnerships, and managing land and resources in a self-sufficient way.
For more on the Ktunaxa Nation, visit www.ktunaxa.org