Tsuut'ina Nation abuzz with honey business

A first of its kind beekeeping program is underway on Tsuut’ina First Nation in southern Alberta.

First Nation has created first of its kind beekeeping program

Tsuut'ina Chief Lee Crowchild holds a jar of naturally produced honey from Tsuut'ina lands as part of the Nation's beekeeping program. (Livia Manywounds/CBC)

A first of its kind beekeeping program is underway on Tsuut'ina First Nation in southern Alberta.

The program was the brainchild of Tsuut'ina Chief Lee Crowchild who says it started three years ago with a beekeepers workshop.

The workshop graduated five trained Tsuut'ina beekeepers and supplied them with the beehives and tools they needed to succeed. 

Ron Miksha teaches Tsuut'ina member Cameron Deschamps about beekeeping. (Livia Manywounds/CBC)

Since then the Tsuut'ina members have maintained and cared for the hives year round on Nation lands. 

Crowchild says the honey they harvest is pure and naturally produced and that "it has been a learning experience," for all the beekeepers involved.

The chief adds there is lots of interest in the program and he thinks it will likely "grow more and more" in the future.

Master beekeeper Ron Miksha has partnered with the Tsuut'ina Nation to train the beekeepers.

Miksha says the honey produced is all natural from harvest to extraction and says "the honey quality is just outstanding" on the Tsuut'ina Nation.

Beehives on Tsuut'ina First Nation. (Livia Manywounds/CBC)

The lifelong beekeeper says there is so much more to beekeeping than just raising bees.

"You learn about the environment, about ecology, self-management, work skills, carpentry, sales, time management and learn more about bees themselves."

Harvesting honey requires a high amount of energy to produce, but the Tsuut'ina program does not use outside energy sources and the honey is 100 per cent organic according to Miksha. 

Eliese Watson, founder of ABC Bees, beekeeping training and education. (Livia Manywounds/CBC)

Eliese Watson teaches beekeeping and specializes in supporting and using bees as a part of community development.

The founder of ABC Bees has partnered with the Tsuut'ina program to teach at an upcoming national beekeeping conference in February. 

She will share her perspective on how to manage disease and colonies in beehives without the use of chemicals. 

"Any opportunity for community to come together is an opportunity not to be missed," says Watson.

The trainer says the program is a great opportunity and hopes the initiative goes far.

"[It] produces gorgeous honey on beautiful land," she said.

This honey was produced on Tsuut'ina First Nation in southern Alberta. (Livia Manywounds/CBC)

Tsuut'ina Nation member and beekeeper Sharon Deschamps has created a business selling her harvested honey.

But Deschamps' interest in the honey business is not just about profit.

It's an attempt, "to do my part and save the bees in the natural world," she says.

The First Nation beekeeper has been producing wildflower organic honey for the past three years.

She said the program is expanding each year and hopes to reach over 300 hives. 

The Tsuut'ina program is hoping other First Nations will get involved with beekeeping.

The program will host a national beekeeping conference in February.