Economic development key to reconciliation, say First Nations leaders
First Nations, business and government leaders connect at Saskatoon conference Monday
Economic development for Indigenous people is a key part of reconciliation, First Nations chiefs told an audience of business and government leaders Monday in Saskatoon.
"Economic self-sustainability is our future. We have to work through this together," Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme said during a Monday morning panel of the Bridging Economic Reconciliation conference at Saskatoon's TCU Place.
Delorme lauded growing partnerships like a recent one with SaskPower on renewable energy.
Lac la Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook Searson said the band's Kitsaki Management employs hundreds of people through their trucking, catering and other businesses.
Whitecap Dakota First Nation Chief Darcy Bear talked about the casino, golf course and other developments on his reserve.
All three said the profits from these business ventures can help them create jobs and finance social programs.
Bear spoke about how the pass system and other policies barred First Nations people from taking part in the economy. He said that's slowly changing. Whitecap has gone from 70 per cent unemployment to less than five per cent in one generation.
"Today is about highlighting those partnerships and saying 'You know we can't go back in the past and correct all the wrongs such as the Indian Act, residential schools,'" Bear said.
"Going forward, we all have a role to play."