Saskatoon

Economic development key to reconciliation, say First Nations leaders

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.

First Nations, business and government leaders connect at Saskatoon conference Monday

Chief Cadmus Delorme of the Cowessess First Nation says economic development is key to reconciliation. (Submitted)

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 Chief Tammy Cook-Searson says profits from First Nations businesses create jobs and fund necessary social programs. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

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.

Whitecap Dakota First Nation Chief Darcy Bear says First Nations people were barred from the Canadian economy for decades, but that's slowly changing. (Livia Manywounds/CBC)

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."

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Jason Warick

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Jason Warick is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon.