By Frank Larue
Veteran leader of the Ktunaxa Kimbasket Tribal Council (KKTC), Chief Sophie Pierre, has reached yet another plateau in her long and illustrious career when she was recently chosen as one of this year’s recipients of the National Aboriginal Achievement Award in the business category for her leadership in the creation of the St. Eugene Mission Resort – the largest and most elegant destination resort /casino in Western Canada.
“It’s not a personal award. It’s my name, but it’s not about me,” says Chief Pierre. “It’s an indication of what our bands have accomplished.”
Over ten years in the planning and development, the St. Eugene Mission Resort is a world-class resort at the foot of the Rocky Mountains that features a refurbished residential school transformed into a 25 suite executive hotel, an adjacent 100 suite lodge, as well as the ‘Casino of the Rockies’ and a renowned championship golf course.
“We didn’t know when we started it would be a $40 million project. I think the biggest reward is knowing that a former residential school was being turned into a four-star hotel,” said Pierre.
In addition to her National Aboriginal Achievement Award, Chief Pierre, was recognized as CANDO’s 2002 ‘Individual Economic Developer of the Year’.
She is a past co-chair of the First Nations Summit, and a recipient of the Order of British Columbia. In December 2002 , Chief Pierre received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee commemorative medal – a creation of the Department of Canadian Heritage in which recipients are nominated and selected by their home town communities.
Born in Cranbrook, B.C., she obtained a business administration diploma from Camosun College. Ms. Pierre has led her own band, St. Mary’s, as chief for more than 20 years and has demonstrated her commitment to her community through her ongoing involvement in youth activities, women’s advocacy, and elder’s support.
Her business savvy has made her one of the most recognized aboriginal leaders in the country and she is a frequent speaker at business and economic development conferences.
Chief Pierre has always been a strong advocate of economic development as a means to achieve self determination for aboriginal peoples and has demonstrated that commitment through her dogged determination in making the St. Eugene Mission Resort a reality for her people.
The Mission Resort is owned collectively by the five bands of the KKTC, and employs 120 people with an annual payroll of more than $3 million.
“We built it for our future generations,” said Chief Pierre. “We wanted to create something that would make a better life for our children.”