Cheslatta Carrier Nation’s Chief Louie Paddle Company has a strong grasp on what it means to diversify.
CLPC has only been up and running for approximately one year but during that time have expanded production from wooden paddles to also making drum kits, wooden spirit feathers and coasters, cutting boards,wooden neck ties, wooden name plaques, name tags and business cards.
Aside from creating their innovative wood products the paddle company can also engrave images and text on glass, metal, plastic, marble or rock and ceramics.
A $40,000 engraving machine allows engraving and etching of even the tiniest details on a variety of surfaces and has proved very popular with clients who are now able to purchase anything from a personally engraved paddle or coaster to having their own watch or i-pod engraved.
“You name it, we can do it, the sky is the limit,” said Junior Charlie, Chief Louie Paddle Company’s engraver and technician.
“Any picture, image or logo can be engraved onto nearly any surface,” he said.
Each and every paddle made is hand carved.
Mike Robertson, Cheslatta’s senior policy advisor said it was important for people to know that the paddles are not mass produced.
“The paddles are one at a time items, we have no will to mass produce them, that would take away from their value,” he said.
“People like our product … if we were to mass produce the paddles it would certainly put more people to work, but that would be a mistake in terms of product quality,” Robertson said.
A variety of wood is used in the production of the paddle company’s products including pine, birch, spruce, aspen and poplar.
Some of Chief Louie Paddle Company’s paddles are also made from sunken wood that is retrieved from the depths of Ootsa Lake.
“Making a paddle is quite a process,” Jeannie Charlie said.
Aspen paddles are cut out in the same way but are boiled at 185 degrees Celsius in water for up to 36 hours.
“The paddles go through stress testing and can stand up to any wood paddle on the market … they are incredibly strong paddles and while the market has concentrated on the gift industry they are fully functional paddles,” added Robertson.
“We have found that birch is ideal for use for engraving …. the highlights really so up on the white wood,” Robertson said while showing a coaster that had been recently made for a local theatre production.
CLPC paddles cost $95 for a 60 inch paddle and $15 for a 15 inch paddle.
“We are charging a very competitive price for the North American paddle market,” Robertson said.
Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief Corrina Leween said that watching the employees work at Chief Louie Paddle Company was uplifting for her as a leader.
Chief Leween said that there is a significance in taking a raw product and creating a viable and important product.
“Historically we carved our own paddles to get us from A to B …. today we are paddling towards self sufficiency with the Chief Louie Paddle Company,” Chief Leween added.