Siksika Nation Enters Cannabis Business

The sky hasn’t fallen and civil society hasn’t collapsed since Canada ended its national cannabis prohibition in October 2018. Contrary to the warnings by drug warriors, cannabis decriminalization and government regulation has resulted in economic opportunity and empowerment and is generating additional revenue needed to better finance important tribal programs.

Siksika Nation is the latest First Nation to stake a claim in the Green Rush. Via a 50/50 partnership with Kelowna BC-based Frozen Penguin Medical Industries, construction is set to begin this fall on a 25,000 sq. ft. cannabis cultivation and processing facility.  Involved with cannabis production since 2013, Frozen Penguin brings invaluable experience to the partnership. Reefer grown at the facility will exclusively help supply Health Canada and none will be diverted for recreational resale at a dispensary.

When complete, the building will be the first purpose-built cannabis production facility constructed on Indigenous land in Canada, according to Siksika Resource Development Ltd. CEO Tom Many Heads. The facility will be located in the same industrial park as SRDL headquarters. Siksika Construction, the construction arm of Siksika Resource Development Ltd. (SRDL), will be given the honour of helping build the infrastructure and erect the structure. No figures are available on the number of construction jobs that will be created, but 50 full-time positions for Siksika Nation members to staff the facilities’ day-to-day cultivation operation will be needed.

The plan is to produce five crop rotations per year that are expected to bring Siksika Nation coffers up to $15 million annually. The band intends to spend the money on social programs like housing and combating the opioid crisis – a catastrophe that is especially hard on Canadian Indigenous communities where many of our young people are succumbing to the deadly outcome of addiction.

The warehouse-type structure will contain a number of grow rooms. Frozen Penguin is working on a new system developed by RotoGro where plants are grown in a barrel-shaped planter and fertilized using a rotating motion. Barrels provide approximately 3.14 times additional grow area when compared to a bed, and this system can increase the yield by as much as twelve times the floor space of a traditional facility. For twelve months, Frozen Penguin has been testing the system at their Kelowna facility, and according to RotoGro CEO Adam Clode, they’re “getting exceptional yields.”

The RotoGro system will help Siksika Nation set the price they need to sell at to stay competitive and turn a profit. That would be good news for Siksika First Nation. According to Roland Bellerose, an advocate for Indigenous participation in the pot business, pricing for recreational sales are quite high and may not be sustainable. “What happens when a country like Columbia starts selling their product at 60 cents a gram?” asks Bellerose.

Siksika Nation’s decision to grow Mary Jane follows that of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation, who in 2018 retrofitted an 84,000 sq. ft. former bottling plant located on their land and began producing medical and recreational weed. Akwesasne’s pot business is 100 percent band owned and has 75 employees. Business has been good and the band plans to expand to a 100,000 sq. ft. facility in the near future.

Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN), located next to The Pas in Manitoba, is another First Nation community that’s gotten into the weed business. They partnered with National Access Cannabis (NAC), in a 51/49 company ownership split. OCN and NAC focus on the recreational segment of the business and sell their products in NAC’s Meta Cannabis Supply Co. stores. They recently opened a dispensary in the OCN providing jobs for 12 Opaskwayak.

Siksika’s goal is for 100 percent ownership. Though branching out and joining the recreational-use dispensary sector in the future is a possibility, for now they want to learn, develop, and perfect the medicinal cannabis business one step at a time.

Frozen Penguin is in the process of a name change to comply with Health Canada’s strict rules against using animal names to promote products such as cannabis.

Summit Shares Vision for Way Forward

Melrene Saloy, Teara Frazier, Stephan Nairn, Jordon Jolicoeur, Jenn Harper and Heather Black who were in the Seed To Success panel.
L-R Melrene Saloy, Teara Frazier, Stephan Nairn, Jordon Jolicoeur, Jenn Harper and Heather Black who were in the Seed To Success panel. Photo by Aaron Many Guns.

The Forward Summit was a good distraction from the chaos in world affairs. The February 26-28 event attracted a gathering of industry professionals, bankers, consultants, a dragon, and Indigenous people seeking better communication and participation in today’s economy.

First Nations Drum attended the first two days of the three-day conference held at the Telus Convention Centre in downtown Mohkínstsis – “elbow” in Blackfoot, and their name for Calgary, Alberta. The summit began on a bone-chillingly cold day with Elder Martin Heavy, Head of the Kainai Nation, opening with a Blessing and thank you to the Creator. Following were panel sessions, roundtable discussions, and workshops.

Nicole Robertson, one of the organizers for the Forward Summit conference speaks to delegates.
Nicole Robertson, one of the organizers for the Forward Summit conference speaks to delegates. Photo by Aaron Many Guns.

The panel sessions started with the First Nation Major Projects Coalition, which is a group of 52 members from across Canada who want to help each other in negotiating the acquisition or building of major infrastructure projects. These projects will bring employment and a degree of financial independence.

Shane Gottfriedson, a former chief of the Tk’emlup First Nation, near Kamloops B.C., gave a keynote speech on his band’s expanded portfolio. They invested in resource development that includes partnership in a gold mine.

He also talked about his own business dealings with friends in starting Powwow Coffee Co. and becoming franchisees with Tim Hortons. They hope to build their Powwow Coffee company to become one of the major suppliers in B.C. and beyond.

The roundtable discussions were held concurrently, so I chose to attend Attracting Capital and Sustainable Economic Participation. There were also discussions on hydrocarbons, mining partnerships in Canada, capacity building, and energy gridlock.

Preston Manning was in on the discussion, and he mentioned that the challenges Indigenous people face need support by positive and proactive political will from government to move infrastructure projects along. Removing political risk would make Indigenous participation possible.

Chief Jason Gauthier of the Missanabie Cree First Nation spoke about his band’s involvement in purchasing a railroad in north Ontario, additional agreements in revenue sharing, partnership in a large forestry company, and 70 joint ventures.

Mathew August from Animus Capital Partners explained his firm’s work with Indigenous communities that wish to acquire infrastructure projects and be involved from the planning phase to completion and operations.

Also in the Attracting Capital and Sustainable Economic Participation roundtable discussions were the China Railway First Survey and Design Initiative Group who shared their railway-building expertise. The company is doing a feasibility study on a rail link for the Ring of Fire development in north Ontario.  

Some summit participants were there looking for contacts and possible contracts. Clarence Assassin with Pride Hydrovac was busy networking when I asked him about the work situation in Northern B.C. He replied, “It’s slow like everywhere, but we have people and machinery out there.”

Jack Toth is founder and CEO of Impact Society, a group that works with Indigenous youth and communities. Toth was in attendance to better understand the commitment that industry groups have to holistic youth and community development. He wanted to learn how the Impact Society can partner with industry and communities in a positive manner so opportunities can be maximized.

Dan Pawlachuk from Deh Tai was at the summit getting info for the Fort Nelson First Nation, which has been expanding their business portfolio to include the Laird Hot Springs owned by the band.  

Troy Buchanan, from Modular Home Builder Modus out of Crossfield, Alberta, was there to promote their product to First Nations experiencing housing shortages. Those wanting a quote can contact his team via their website at

A panel session on the second day covered building sustainable relationships. It brought together the Mikisew Cree Nation, McMurray Metis, and Chris Stannell of Teck Resources Ltd. who discussed their involvement in the proposed Frontier Project north of Fort McMurray.

The Mikisew Cree have lived in the area since time immemorial and were opposed to the project initially, but through consultations with all the groups involved, they’ve come to an agreement that will safeguard the environment during construction, operation, and for the duration of the project. This project will need pipelines built and add 260,000 bbl/d to the supply system for the life of the mine.

In the event of a spill, Delta Remediation explained their cleanup procedure that uses petroleum metabolizing organisms to break down spills and help nature heal itself through natural processes.

This method uses naturally occurring microbes, is non GMO, and safe for use in any environment where a pipeline is situated. Across Canada and the U.S., pipelines are having a lot of problems getting started, and those being built are having trouble getting completed.

Chief Clifford White of the Gitxaala Nation spoke of their relationship with LNG Canada and how he’s pushing for legacy projects to help future generations so that when natural resource projects are no longer viable, the wealth created will have been properly invested and provide a return. “We want to make sure that our people are looking at that 7th generation of our children’s children yet to be born,” said White.

Guy Lonechild, CEO of First Nations Power Authority, talked about Indigenous groups getting into solar and clean energy projects. He explained how his group partnered with the Saskatchewan government to deliver 40 megawatts of renewable energy to SaskPower.

Heather Black of Creative Spirit Solutions moderated a panel session of small business entrepreneurs who started up small businesses after getting opportunities either through trial and error, hard work, or luck.

Jordan Jolicoeur is CEO of Carvel Electric who managed to pull off a $300,000 contract through handwork, determination, and a few credit cards. Stephen Nairn is an expert on project risk analysis who saw a lack of risk capital for Indigenous entrepreneurs, so he and some friends started Raven Indigenous Capital Partners.

Teara Fraser always wanted to go to Africa, so when she had a chance to go, it was in a small plane. When the plane banked, she saw what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. Frasier become a pilot and founded Iskwew Air, and today she is selling her first air surveying company.

The Growth of the Cannabis and Hemp Industry round table discussion was hosted by Francine Whiteduck and Roland Bellerose of the Cannabis and Hemp Indigenous Consortium Canada. Bellerose spoke of the way many Indigenous people have always known cannabis as a medical plant and this is why we need cooperation from as many Nations as we can get to better lobby for growth and distribution of all types of cannabis products.

Hemp and cannabis are good carbon-capture tools that have the potential to transform our economy by helping to rebuild our manufacturing industry and selling finished products to the rest of the world.  

Reconciliation will take time, but events and conferences like Forward Summit are important for Indigenous and non-native people because they remind us we have too much in common to keep going the way it has been since our ancestors were forced to accept a foreign way of life.

Forward Summit organizers Miki Reeder of Connect Partnership Group and Muskwa Media’s Nicole Robertson wanted Indigenous people who are experts in their fields of work included in the summit. After attending, I found it evident they were successful in attracting those experts. A shout out also to event co-chairs Chief Charles Weaselhead of Kainai Nation and JP Gladu, CEO of Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB).

Those interested in receiving updates and learning more about Forward Summit should visit,

Osoyoos Chief to be Inducted into Business Hall of Fame

Clarence Louie, Chief of the Osoyoos Indian Band will be inducted into the 2019 Canadian Business Hall of Fame on June 19, 2019. Mr. David Denison, Chancellor of the Order of the Business Hall of Fame says the 2019 Class of Companion Inductees is a very special group which recognizes and celebrates the accomplishments of Canada’s most distinguished business leaders.

“The Canadian Business Hall of Fame is honoured to recognize their enduring contributions to the business community and our country,” said Denison.  “We will have the great privilege of highlighting their excellence in business leadership, outstanding professional achievements and dedication to bettering Canada’s social fabric.”

Clarence Louie, the first Indigenous person inducted into the Business Hall of Fame was born in 1960 and raised on the Osoyoos Indian Band by his mother. Due to high unemployment, many adults on his First Nation community had to work as transient labourers on fruit orchards in nearby Washington State. Louie was forced to be self-sufficient during his childhood years. At age 19, he left BC and enrolled at the First Nations University in Regina. He then completed native studies at the University of Lethbridge. After receiving his degree, he returned to home to Osoyoos.

At 24 years of age, Louie was elected as chief of the Osoyoos Indian Band. Louie has won every election but one since 1985. The band has 540 members, and controls 32,000 acres of land. He started the Osoyoos Indian Band Development Corporation (OIBDC) in 1988. Through the corporation’s efforts, the previously impoverished band started or acquired nine businesses, including tourism, construction, and recreation companies. The band now employs 700 people including non-First Nations. A high-profile business started by the OIBDC during Louie’s tenure is Nk’Mip Cellars, the first aboriginal-owned winery in North America.

First Nations Drum had the chance to speak with Clarence Louie and discuss his induction into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame.

When did your interest in business start?

“I guess when I was first elected chief back in December of 1984 because you quickly realize in order to create self sustaining jobs on the reserve you have to be in business affairs, there aren’t enough jobs in the band office for every band member; and the biggest employer should not be the band office. The only way to create jobs is to get involved in economic development and business.”

One of your main goals was to hire band members, was this difficult, and how did you go about getting members trained and qualified for their positions?

“Well any band’s main goal is to employ band members, of course you can’t always do that, because you need experienced people and you need to hire qualified people for those jobs whether that be in finance or any position. I know many First Nations who hire white people or whoever because you need people to keep the ship running. This is why you need to set aside money for training, and the money that comes from Indian Affairs for Education is never enough, so you have to create your own revenue to cover and employment & training. Leasing revenue pays for everything around here at Osoyoos Indian Band. Not all band members want to work for their band, so you have to hire non-band members, and it’s no different here at Osoyoos. Every band has some capacity building to do, so we set aside money to send band members to go get their education and training, whether it’s in Canada or the U.S., so they have an opportunity to manage some of our businesses.”

You are the first Indigenous business person to be inducted into the Canadian business Hall of Fame, what are your thoughts?

“Well again I’m not the original entrepreneur here, as elected chief, I don’t own any of these companies here in Osoyoos. So I find it strange that I’m being singled out, because I didn’t put any of my money in these companies, they’re owned by the band, so it should be the band recognition because this was a team effort, not only one person. I played a role in Osoyoos accomplishments and success, but there’s council, and band members that have to agree in the business ventures and land leases, so it’s a recognition for the Osoyoos Indian Band.”

What are some of the achievements that stand out?

“Well all the jobs we’ve created. We now have more jobs than we do band members. Every First Nation can’t say they’re independent if they can’t create their own money, it’s a simple reality. If your money comes from Indian Affairs, then you’re a dependent First Nation, if the biggest employer on the First Nation is the band office, then that’s wrong. You can’t be independent if you don’t create your own revenue.”

You have been elected chief of the Osoyoos since you were 24 years old, how has the business landscape changed for you, since 1984?

“No, I ran for chief 17 times and  been elected 16 times since 1984. Well of course I’ve learned  a lot, I have a lot more business contacts, experience. We’ve done some stupid things, and we learn from those mistakes. When I was first elected, we only had 2 council members and now we have 5 council members and a Chief, plus our population has grown. We have more mouths to feed, more demands, therefore we have to make more money and create more jobs.”

It seems you started from scratch to your current business and investments (including a vineyard and winery, a four-star resort, and a 9-hole golf course) what were the main challenges you faced?

“Well it always boils down to money and that is the main obstacle.  We need money to seek out good advisors to create proposals and grant money. We also needed to change our mindset that we can’t always depend on Indian Affairs for money and we have to start creating our own economy and become more business minded and we need better finance people, number crunchers, better business minded individuals, and hire business advisors. We need to move forward and get on our economic horse.”

The welfare rate on First Nations in Canada is quite high, what is the rate, if any on Osoyoos Indian Band?

“In every community you have people on welfare, some have good reason, cause of their health, or maybe a disability, single mothers raising children and of course we have our group of ‘lazy ones,’ I think every community has their ‘lazy ones. 80 per cent of my people or more are employed compared to many First Nations that have 50 per cent of their people unemployed. We have a membership of 540, but like every band, not all our members live on our First Nation, we have members scattered throughout the U.S. and Canada, but the majority live on the reserve, and we’ve had members move back to Osoyoos because of the opportunity of jobs. But we have more jobs then we do have band members. Is everybody working, ‘no.’”

Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders are saying they have authority over the territory and the elected band councils have authority over the band reserve, would you like to comment on this issue?

“We don’t have hereditary chiefs in the Okanagan First Nations, so we don’t have to deal with this issue here, but all people on our reserve still have a say on decisions that are important to Osoyoos. My understanding is the First Nation is owned collectively not individually.

What are your thoughts on current Liberal MLA, Jody Wilson-Raybould controversy?

“I have too many other issues to deal with on my reserve, that’s a national issue, we have a national chief, and of course you have your provincial AFN (Assembly of First Nations) chief, and Union of BC Chiefs, so we elect them them and they get paid to keep their focus and eyes and ears on national issues.”

Osoyoos Chief Inducted into Business Hall of Fame

From left to right: Claude Lamoureux O.C., FCIA, Chief Clarence Louie O.C., Annette Verschuren O.C., Stephen J. R. Smith. Photo credit: Tom Sandler (CNW Group/JA Canada)


Clarence Louie, Chief of the Osoyoos Indian Band will be inducted into the 2019 Canadian Business Hall of Fame, which recognizes and celebrates the accomplishments of Canada’s most distinguished business leaders. Also being inducted are: Claude Lamoureux, retired president & CEO, Ontario Teachers’ Plan, Stephen J.R. Smith, chairman & CEO of First National Financial, and Annette Verschuren, chair & CEO of NRStor Inc.

Mr. David Denison, Chancellor of the Order of the Business Hall of Fame says the 2019 Class of Companion Inductees is a very special group.

“The Canadian Business Hall of Fame is honoured to recognize their enduring contributions to the business community and our country,” said Denison.  “On June 19, 2019, we will have the great privilege of highlighting their excellence in business leadership, outstanding professional achievements and dedication to bettering Canada’s social fabric.”

Clarence Louie who’ll be the first Indigenous person inducted into the Business Hall of Fame was born in 1960 and raised on the Osoyoos Indian Band by his mother. Due to high unemployment, many adults on his First Nation community had to work as transient labourers on fruit orchards in nearby Washington State. Louie was forced to be self-sufficient during his childhood years. At age 19, he left BC and enrolled at the First Nations University in Regina. He then studied native studies at the University of Lethbridge. After receiving his degree, he returned to home to Osoyoos.

At 24 years of age, Louie was elected as chief of the Osoyoos Indian Band. Louie has won every election but one since 1985. The band has 460 members, and controls 32,000 acres of land. He started the Osoyoos Indian Band Development Corporation (OIBDC) in 1988.Through the corporation’s efforts, the previously impoverished band started or acquired nine businesses, including tourism, construction, and recreation companies. The band now employs 700 people including non-First Nations. A high-profile business started by the OIBDC during Louie’s tenure is Nk’Mip Cellars, the first aboriginal-owned winery in North America.

In 2003, Louie was chosen by the U.S. Department of State as one of six Canadian First Nations leaders to review economic development in American Indian communities. In 2004, he received the Order of British Columbia. Louie has also been involved in land claim settlements with the provincial government.

The Canadian Business Hall of Fame was established by JA Canada in 1979 to honour Canada’s preeminent business leaders for their professional and philanthropic achievements.

This year’s Class of Companions will formally be inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame at the 2019 Gala Dinner and Induction Ceremony at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on June 19, 2019. Proceeds from this gala help JA Canada meet the growing demand for financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship programs for Canadian students, which are essential to youth’s future success


Willie Sellars: Making a Difference for the Williams Lake Indian Band and Williams Lake

Willie Sellars

Part of a series of People Making a Difference for National Indigenous Peoples Day

Making a difference in your community takes a lot of effort.  Fortunately for Willie Sellars, he has seemingly boundless energy.  Originally elected in 2008 at the age of 24, Willie is now in his third term of Council for the Williams Lake Indian Band (WLIB).  In addition to his political duties, Willie is also employed by the WLIB as Special Projects Coordinator and has played a critical role in the renovation of WLIB’s governance structure and its major accomplishments in the area of business and economic development.

Willie’s community efforts don’t stop when the business day ends, though.  He is also passionate about sports, and serves as goaltender for the Williams Lake Stampeders.  Recently, Willie competed in the bull riding competition at the Williams Lake Indoor Rodeo and was paired with another local hero, Carey Price, who held Willie’s rope as he prepared for his ride.  Willie also spearheaded major renovations to the WLIB’s outdoor baseball facility as part of a project funded by the Jays Care Foundation.

Willie is on the Board of Directors for numerous entities, including the Williams Lake Business Improvement Association, the Indigenous Business and Investment Council, and Borland Creek Logging.  During the forest fires of 2017, Willie was seconded to the BC Wildfire Service where he served as a crew leader.

In 2014, Willie authored the best-selling children’s book “Dipnetting with Dad,” which tells the story of traditional fishing practices from the perspective of an aboriginal youth.  His second book “Hockey with Dad” is due for release in late 2018.

Willie lives on WLIB’s Sugar Cane reserve, and has three children aged two, eight and ten.

Elevate Excellence, Share Success, Inspire Change! 2017 Aboriginal Business Awards Gala Dinner

2016 BC Aboriginal Business Award presented by the past Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, John Rustad, to Awardee Tumia Knott and Chief Marilyn Gabriel of Seyem' Qwantlen Business Group.

2016 BC Aboriginal Business Award presented by the past Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, John Rustad, to Awardee Tumia Knott and Chief Marilyn Gabriel of Seyem’ Qwantlen Business Group.

2017 Aboriginal Business Awards Gala Dinner
Thursday, October 26, 2017
Fairmont Hotel Vancouver

Celebrate Aboriginal Business in British Columbia at the Ninth Annual Awards Gala Dinner on Thursday, October 26, 2017 at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. The BC Aboriginal Business Awards, under the umbrella of the BC Achievement Foundation, are generously supported by New Relationship Trust, TD, Teck, BC Hydro, CN, Encana, MNPLLP, Enbridge and Vancity and are presented in partnership with the Province of British Columbia.

These Awards showcase diverse, vibrant and successful Indigenous businesses in BC while also shining a spotlight on their important and expanding role in the province. The program also provides Awardees with a platform to inspire other Indigenous entrepreneurs to excel by sharing stories of their achievements. The event brings together industry partners and offers opportunities to make connections leading to mutually beneficial collaborations.

On the podium at the 2016 Gala Presentation, Councilor Tumia Knott, President of Seyem’ Qwantlen Business Group (Community-Owned Business of the Year Award Recipient) shared these thoughts: “Tonight is a celebration for all Aboriginal businesses, and from our nation to you we celebrate all the success stories and differences we are making to build wealth, success, healing and health in our communities for our next generations.”

Since 2008, the inaugural year of the program, 154 Indigenous businesses have been honoured. The unique Individual Achievement Award honouring outstanding Aboriginal business leaders has also been awarded annually since the program’s inception.

The 2017 Call for Nominations generated an ever- growing number of nominations in a variety of sectors. These reflected the remarkable and unique industries and entrepreneurial diversity within the Indigenous business community in British Columbia whether it be a young entrepreneur, a small or large business, a community-owned business or a business partnership between Aboriginal partners and the private sector.

An independent jury of Indigenous business experts adjudicated the nominations guided by the success and sustainability of the business. Awardees will be honored at a Gala Presentation event.

Join the celebration and support Indigenous entrepreneurship at the Gala Presentation Dinner at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver on October 26 where over 600 guests are expected to attend.

Please visit for further details and information on ticket purchase as well as links to past Award Gala Dinner videos and speeches.

Border Tribal Council and SIGA Break Ground on Lloydminster Casino Development

Lloydminster Casino Rendering Photo Courtesy of Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority

Lloydminster, SK –

The Border Tribal Council and the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA) held a sod turning ceremony today to mark the official groundbreaking for the Lloydminster casino development – this will be SIGA’s seventh entertainment destination in Saskatchewan.
Chiefs Wallace Fox and Wayne Semaganis, from Onion Lake Cree Nation and Little Pine First Nation, respectively, on behalf of the Border Tribal Council revealed plans for the Eagle Park West development and reaffirmed their eagerness to expedite construction of the new casino.
Chief Reginald Bellerose, Board Chair for the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, speaks to the key partnerships involved.

“On behalf of SIGA, we’re excited to officially be in the ground and to continue working with the Border Tribal Council to make this development a reality. This casino will not only benefit the community of Lloydminster but all First Nations of Saskatchewan, and is only possible through the positive partnerships between the FSIN, Border Tribal Council, Little Pine First Nation and the City of Lloydminster.”

The land for the development is owned by Little Pine First Nation, which is responsible for site development. The casino property will be leased to SIGA by the Border Tribal Council, the facility landlord, which will be responsible, alongside SIGA, for the facility development. SIGA will operate the casino and follow the same profit distribution model as its other six casinos as outlined in the Gaming Framework Agreement, with profits being administered by the Province of Saskatchewan.

Breaking Ground on the Lloydminster Casino ProjectPhoto Courtesy of Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority

50% is shared with the First Nations Trust which is distributed to Saskatchewan First Nation communities;
25% is shared with regional Community Development Corporations (CDCs) which are situated in the casino locations and benefit local initiatives;
25% is shared with the provincial government’s General Revenue Fund.

“The new casino will have significant benefits for Lloydminster – it will create local employment, provide funding for city services, non-profit and charitable organizations, and it will support local businesses through service agreements and by attracting tourism dollars to the community,” says Zane Hansen, President and CEO, Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority.

Participating in the sod turning ceremony were First Nation Elders, representatives from the FSIN, Border Tribal Council, Onion Lake Cree Nation, Little Pine First Nation, the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, and from various levels of government.

SIGA continues to strengthen the lives of First Nation people through employment, economic growth and community relations. SIGA operates six other casinos in Saskatchewan in North Battleford, Prince Albert, Saskatoon, Swift Current, Yorkton and on the White Bear First Nation near Carlyle. SIGA’s casinos offer a distinctive First Nations entertainment experience that reflects the traditional aspects of First Nations heritage and hospitality.

New CEO Weighs in on the Forest Industry

By Kelly Many Guns

Derek Nighbor, CEO for FPAC.

Derek Nighbor, CEO for FPAC.

Canada’s forest products industry is a $67 billion dollar a year industry that represents 2 per cent of Canada’s GDP, and recently hired CEO Derek Nighbor for The Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) says he’s ready for the challenges that lay ahead.
First Nations Drum recently had the opportunity to meet-up with Nighbor at an event in Vancouver. We discussed his plans and initiatives including FPAC’s plans and partnerships with the Aboriginal community.
The industry is one of Canada’s largest employers, operating in 200 forest-independent communities from coast-to-coast, and directly employing 230,000 Canadians.
Nighbor was selected the new CEO for FPAC almost at the same time the new liberal government were elected.
“We’ve had a new government in Ottawa for the last 18 months so my main focus is what are the main issues facing the forest industry around trade, softwood lumber, and issues around labour,” Nighbor said. “I have spent a lot of time with issues facing us coast-to-coast, how do those issues interface around with what the Trudeau government priorities are; I think we have significant alignment with the government on issues like climate change, and healthy managed forests play a big part on fighting climate change. Also Truth and Reconciliation, we’ve done a lot of work internally on how we can do better in terms of supporting our companies with best practices on engaging with Indigenous communities, hiring Indigenous talent and working on Indigenous lands.”
Nighbor says that the main priority is how can FPAC work best with the government, and make sure the government knows what their issues are. For example, there currently is an urban government and as you know most of the forest products are in the rural areas so FPAC needs to bring forestry into the urban industry.
There is approximately 1400 Aboriginal businesses, contractors, and companies partnered wiry FPAC and, there are a little more than 17,000 jobs for the Aboriginal communities right now. Nighbor says that FPAC will be looking at the youth in the Aboriginal communities to fill in the aging workforce.
I asked Nighbor how FPAC is working closely with the youth in the Aboriginal community.
“There are two things, we sponsor a couple of Aboriginal Scholarships for Aboriginal students studying for a career in forestry, and partnering with CCAB (Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business) and awarding Aboriginal businesses for their work in forestry, and we engage our members with best practices when it comes to working with the Aboriginal businesses and contractors.”
FPAC shares their information as a national organization to companies on how they can do better in all parts of the country. They also take a close look at their hiring practices with the Aboriginal communities and focus on the cultural sensitivities, plus awareness building.
“So we play a big role in sharing collaborations on the overall big picture when it comes to working with the Aboriginal community.”
Since Canada forest products industry has the best environmental reputation in the world, according to a Lager Survey of international customers, does FPAC share their environmental standards with other countries?
“Yes, they’re jealous” Nighbor said with a smile. “We do have high levels of government ownerships of the lands, 90 percent of the trees in Canada are subjected to government rules and regulations. We have some of the best talent in the world and other countries are envious and there is a lot of interest in what Canada is doing in forestry, which is good as we sell our products around the world. The Canadian product is highly valued and trusted around the world, so that’s great for business.”
Nighbor says that forestry is a global business and he wants people to understand that our product is sustainable.
In regards to the clear-cutting issues, how does FPAC operate in this area.
“Number one, every tree that is harvested is done in very scientific and planned out way. Like I mentioned earlier, 90 per cent of the land is government related – the cuts are very planned, we need to take into consideration the species, the water and the local environment; for every tree that is cut, three are planted. The key is following the strict rules, the cuts are planned and based on science, we deal closely with the Aboriginal communities, even if you have legal right to cut in an area or on Aboriginal lands, we have to go in with good intentions because this is a long-term investment. So that’s important to have good engagement, and have good solid science knowledge when cutting.”
Nighbor grew grew up in the Upper Ottawa Valley, and had a lot of exposure, working in small mills and plants as a teenager, and his family also worked in the forest industry.
“I am also very passionate about rural issues and I understand how important these jobs are for the rural communities. There are limited job opportunities in the northern communities, and a lot of the young people have to move to the urban areas to find work. I want to be a voice for those communities and that’s why I took the job.”
Canada is ranked as the world’s second largest exporter of forest products and the sector is the second biggest contributor to Canada’s trade surplus at 20.9 billion.
The industry wants those numbers to grow. Increasing trade with new and existing markets will be necessary for a vibrant forest products sector, especially in the face of growing international competition.
The final questions I asked Nighbor was where does he see the forest industry in 20 years.
“Number one, selling our wood products to the rest of the world is a huge opportunity, there’s more opportunity in China, India, and number two, the types of product we’re producing, we’re increasingly making bio materials, wood components are being used in other goods like cosmetics, and we’re seeing a lot of new uses for wood materials.”
Nighbor finished the interview by saying, “For the Indigenous communities we’re gonna see a lot more job opportunities for the young people and working with CCAB is a good thing so we can better position ourselves on how we can tap into that young talent, that’s a huge opportunity for FPAC. It’s a truly sustainable industry and of course there will be challenges ahead of us.”

First Native Owned Winery a Success

by Frank Larue

Osoyoos First Nations Chief Clarence Louie has proved to be a visionary when it comes to business. The Osoyoos First Nations has built a spa and resort, rented out land to wineries, and made the first native owned winery in Canada and the United States. All projects have been successful. The Osoyoos First Nation have become financially secure, and they are always open to new challenges. No one is surprised that the resort has done so well, but many are surprised that the winery has prospered since it opened 15 years ago.

The Nk’Mip Cellars has been given multiple awards since its inception, including Best Winery awards for their Icewine and Pinot Blanc. They are now one of the main wineries in Canada, and it all started by partnering up with Vincor.

Patio at Nk’Mip Cellars Winery

Patio at Nk’Mip Cellars Winery

“We already had 300-acres of very high quality grapes, and they thought it was in our best interest to come together and make a winery,” assistant winemaker and band member Justin Hall told the CBC. “The idea was to utilize our high quality grapes and actually make wine out of them instead of selling grapes to so many people, and them all profiting from it. Why not profit from it ourselves?”

Vincor was bought out by Constellation Brands, who continued handling the corporate such as the marketing and distribution. The OIB are visited by their corporate partner twice a year to inform them of their strategies, and to discuss what new wines they are projecting for the future. “Our mandate for the winery is to produce wine off native soil,” Randy Picton told the CBC. “The band has over 1,000 acres in production, and we have about five or six different vineyards that we source grapes from. We get our cooler climate varietals from vineyards situated more northerly in the valley, and our Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Blanc all come from the 350-acre vineyard in Oliver, which is owned and managed by OIB.”

Picton has encouraged band members to become familiar with the process of wine making, and he has recruited band members to work for Nk’Mip. Picton wants the winery to be cultural to the Osoyoos First Nation, insisting that the selection of names for their wines is influenced by their own culture. This includes their lively white wine ‘Dreamcatcher’, and their smoky red wine – named after the mythical Thunderbird – ‘Talon’.

“You never stop learning” says Picton, speaking on the wineries everyday challenges. “The different thing, from a winemaking perspective, is that you only get one shot every year. You have to wait until the next year to make changes to your program. Over the years, we’ve become more familiar with our blocks of grapes, and we have a very good understanding of the winery.”

The Osoyoos First Nations, led by their entrepreneurial Chief Clarence Louie, have successfully taken native business in a different direction. The only concern now is to maintain a level of consistency, which I am sure the OIB will handle with the pragmatism and caution they’ve carried in all of their enterprises. First Nations entrepreneurships have grown more in the last 10 years than they have in the last 100 years, and it is native leaders such as Clarence Louie that have been the difference.

Taking action towards cultural safety in healthcare for Indigenous people in British Columbia

By Margo Greenwood, Hilary McGregor and Julia Petrasek MacDonald

In British Columbia, Northern Health is taking up the challenge of building cultural safety for Indigenous people both within the structures and systems of the organization and at the front lines of health care delivery. This is occurring within the context of a changing landscape of First Nations health governance in the province that is initiating New Relationships. This article discusses how Northern Health is taking steps towards cultural safety and provides concrete examples.

Health Service Delivery in Northern British Columbia
The landscape of northern British Columbia (BC) is vast and diverse with a relatively sparse population. It covers approximately two-thirds of the province and is home to about 300,000 people. Approximately 18% of the population is Indigenous.

Health services in BC are funded through the Ministry of Health and delivered through five regional health authorities. Unique in the province is the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), the first Indigenous-led health authority in Canada. In 2013 FNHA assumed responsibility for the health programs and services previously administered by the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch. This historic transfer marked a New Relationship between First Nations, the province of British Columbia, and the Canadian government. Northern First Nations, the FNHA, and NH are working together to implement the Northern First Nations Health and Wellness Plan with goals and actions to support improved First Nations peoples’ health and wellness.

Repositioning Northern Health to Build a Culturally Safe Health System for Indigenous People
Cultural safety occurs when an individual feels affirmed and respected, is able to maintain dignity, and is safe from racism and discrimination. Health care service providers—and the organizations that support them—must reflect upon, understand, and if necessary, change any routine processes, habits, or behaviours that create unsafe healthcare experiences. Realizing concepts like cultural safety require different types of initiatives, activities, and processes. Following are examples of how Northern Health has made system changes to be more culturally safe.

In 2013, the CEO and Board of NH created a Vice President of Aboriginal Health position – the first executive-level position in Aboriginal Health in the country and a significant structural change that supports incorporation of Indigenous perspectives and priorities throughout organizational structures.

In July 2015, Northern Health, along with the BC Ministry of Health, FNHA and the remaining regional health authorities, signed a Declaration of Commitment to Cultural Safety and Humility, providing a mandate to advance cultural humility and safety in their practices with Indigenous people in BC. Furthermore, all new leadership job descriptions include a commitment and responsibility to the goals and intent of the Northern First Nations Health and Wellness Plan.

Building cultural safety at the front-lines of health service delivery
Northern Health (NH) is committed to advancing cultural humility and safety, especially at the front-lines of health service delivery. The Aboriginal Health (AH) team supports NH employees to learn about Indigenous peoples’ histories and current realities and provides a multitude of resources for employees. For example one fact sheet provides information on how to support continuous care as First Nations patients transition from acute care settings to their homes in First Nations communities.
In addition, NH funds seats for employees in a provincially-developed online Indigenous cultural safety training course. This course provides an important introduction to colonial histories in Canada along with opportunities to critically reflect on one’s own biases and assumptions about Indigenous people. The goal is for all employees to take the course.
Aboriginal Health Improvement Committees (AHICs) are an example of NH’s commitment to strengthen and enhance relationships with Indigenous people in northern BC. AHICs bring together local NH leaders, members of Indigenous organizations and communities, and representatives from the FNHA, to collaboratively address local health priorities. To date, the work of AHICs has included patient journey and process map activities to identify and address gaps and opportunities in health care service delivery. They have also developed over 30 local cultural resources to support increased cultural learning within the health system by informing health care providers about local Indigenous community protocols, histories, experiences and needs.

The examples described in this article represent only a small glimpse into the ongoing work by Northern Health and the Aboriginal Health team in collaboration with Indigenous communities, to build a culturally safe health system for Indigenous people in northern BC. These initiatives are helping one regional health authority take meaningful action on its commitment to improve the way health care services are delivered to Indigenous people. Northern Health recognizes that meaningful transformation in the face-to-face, on-the-ground interactions between Indigenous clients and health service providers requires an organizational commitment to cultural safety at all levels.