In the early 1970s, the Kalispel Tribe embarked on an entrepreneurial venture that led to the development of an invaluable partnership between enterprise and career training on the Tribe’s reservation in Cusick, WA.
With a rich history of hunting as their cultural legacy, the Tribe recognized a need to create a superior product that would protect their valuable firearms and bows for generations to come. Thus, Kalispel Case Line (KCL) was born, becoming the perfect blend of traditional values with practical solutions. As one of the first Kalispel Tribal enterprises, KCL provided economic opportunities for Tribal and community members in rural Northeast Washington.
Commonly referred to as “The Original” aluminum gun case, this product soon expanded into a full line of aluminum cases and a robust business supported by collectors, hunters, and law enforcement alike, offering a wide range of products from gun and bow cases to K9 crates. These cases’ durability and long-lasting nature guarantee that they will be passed down from generation to generation. Master craftsmen have been hand-crafting these cases on the Kalispel Reservation in Cusick, WA, for over 45 years.
In addition to the expansion of Kalispel Case Line, the Tribe created Kalispel Metal Products, an all-encompassing sheet metal fabrication shop specializing in custom projects. Kalispel Metal Products (KMP) has provided Tribal members the opportunity to express themselves creatively and follow their passion for welding and fabrication. KMP has proudly partnered with local municipalities and organizations to create one-of-a-kind metal products like park benches and picnic tables that will endure for decades. The skilled artisans at Kalispel Metal Products also produce unique metal art at virtually every scale imaginable, from small items like garden stakes and planter hangers to large metal sculptures displayed at world-class resorts.
Recognizing the need to continue the tradition of craftsmanship and artistry, the Kalispel Tribal Council created the Kalispel Career Training Center (KCTC) to provide vocational training in skilled trades to local youth and adults. KCTC offers hands-on training, which leads to future employment, especially in underserved Pend Oreille County, which has historically high unemployment rates and a lack of educational opportunities. The Kalispel Tribe is deeply committed to providing access to education for its members and community members living in rural Pend Oreille County, allowing its students to pursue dreams that might otherwise not be feasible.
Kalispel Career Training Center accepts students into pre-apprenticeship programs, giving them on-the-job training in skilled trades overseen by journeyman tradesmen in welding and fabrication as well as carpentry. Both Kalispel Metal Products and Kalispel Case Line support Kalispel Career Training Center by providing projects for students to work on, honing their talents. Most of these projects are then displayed with pride throughout the community in which these trainees live, adding to the excitement created through the learning process.
The income generated from the sales of these projects through Kalispel Metal Products and Kalispel Case Line is then reinvested into the KCTC program, allowing more Tribal and community members to advance their education in these skilled trades. The ultimate goal is for the Kalispel Career Training Center to be fully self-sustaining with the sales proceeds from these two businesses. Currently, KCTC is also supported by the Kalispel Tribe and several community partners, including the Pend Oreille County Economic Development Council, Seattle City Light and the Group Health Foundation.
Since its creation in 2018, KCTC has enrolled 37 youth and adults into its programs, some of whom are second and third-generation community members involved in these enterprises. Upon successful completion of their programs, 17 individuals have attained full-time employment in the community, including 11 who have been hired to positions within the Tribe’s various enterprises. There are currently nine people in the program, working alongside the 11 team members at Kalispel Metal Products and Kalispel Case Line.
KCTC is not just about job training; it is also about job creation, as many former pre-apprentices have been hired as soon as they finish their pre-apprenticeship. The specialized training programs allow students to be ready to enter the workforce once they complete their education. The program breaks down the employment barriers typically seen in Tribal and rural communities by providing industry-specific training that teaches students how to be exceptional employees. Some trainees have continued their career path at KCL and KMP as production specialists, while others have transferred to departments at Tribal Headquarters and Northern Quest Resort & Casino as carpenters or maintenance technicians.
The Tribe’s commitment to providing a stable and sustainable future for its people and those around them is demonstrated by the seamless connection between the educational opportunities at KCTC and the economic development of its enterprises like Kalispel Case Line and Kalispel Metal Products. KCTC provides educational resources that are otherwise unavailable in the community and gives those in the local area an outlet to pursue their dreams.