Alberta Chambers of Commerce Awards Recognize Aboriginal Achievements

By Clint Buehler

EDMONTON – Four Aboriginal recipients were among 14 selected to receive 2007 Alberta Business Awards of Distinction from the Alberta Chambers of Commerce.

The awards were presented here recently at a gala featuring a champagne reception and gourmet dinner attended by more than 600 guests, including Premier Ed Stelmach. The master of ceremonies was George Arcand Jr., regional director general for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Alberta Region.
brendaThe Aboriginal Woman Entrepreneur Award of Distinction, sponsored by Alberta International, Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Relations, was presented to Brenda Holder, president of Mahikan Trails Inc. of Canmore.

The award recognizes outstanding achievement by an Aboriginal woman entrepreneur who exemplifies effective leadership, innovation, and a commitment to enhancing the wellbeing of the larger Aboriginal community.

Mahikan Trails, with seven employees, is an Aboriginal guiding company offering “soft adventure” and cultural activities. Soft adventure activities include cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice treks, hiking, dog sledding and caving. Cultural activities include survival skills, bushcraft and team building programs based around the fur trade era, along with fun programs like Nature CSI.

The Aboriginal Youth Entrepreneur Award of Distinction, sponsored by Syncrude Canada Inc., was presented to Scott Ward of Scott Ward Inc. of Edmonton.

It is awarded to a young Aboriginal entrepreneur who best exemplifies the qualiies of effective leadership, innovatively applied know-how, and excellent potential for growth, and who shows a level of social, cultural and environmental awareness.
Ward, a stage hypnotist and motivational speaker, appears at more than 50 events a year. With a bachelor of education degree in drama and Native American education, and certification as a hypnotist, he is committed to assisting communities and conferences with educational and entertainment needs.
Known throughout Canada as the “Aboriginal Hypnotist,” and throughout the United States as the “Native Hypnotist,” Ward specializes in doing comedy hypnosis shows and speaking engagements full time.

He is primarily booked by Aboriginal organizations looking for unique, uplifting and hilarious entertainment, as well as workshops geared mainly to Aboriginal youth, and is quickly becoming one of Canada’s busiest stage hypnotists.
In 2005 he was the recipient of an Aboriginal Youth Achievement Award for his history of volunteer service to this community.

The Eagle Feather Business Award of Distinction, sponsored for the seventh year by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, was presented to Bigstone Ventures Ltd. of Wabasca, co-owned by the Bigstone Cree Nation and Petrocare Services Ltd.
This award goes to a First Nation-owned business that demonstrates outstanding achievement in business and has incorporated entrepreneurial and cultural concepts into its operation for long term success.

Bigstone Ventures has become the largest supplier of oil and gas operators, and maintenance and construction crews in the Wabasca region. Over the past three years, annual sales have increased an average of 34 per cent. Fully 88 percent of the company’s more than 130 employees are Bigstone Cree Nation members.

The Aboriginal Relations – Best Practice Award of Distinction, also sponsored by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada for the seventh year, was presented to EnCana Corporation of Calgary, which has 3,200 employees.

The award is presented to a non-Aboriginal business that demonstrates outstanding achievement in Aboriginal relations, including economic development, employment and training, and Aboriginal community support.

Since 1973, EnCana’s approach has been to increase the level of Aboriginal participation in its activities b creating opportunities in business and economic development, providing employment and training, as well as reducing environmental and social concerns and impacts. EnCana constantly strives to improve its own guidelines and programs through training and communications to ensure all staff are aware of Aboriginal issues.