Fraser Needham

LG-Thumb-WIBFLeft to right: Saskatoon Tribal Council Vice-Chief Mark Arcand, Indigenous Leadership Development Institute President Rosa Walker and Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison.

Aboriginal business leaders from around the world will have an opportunity to share their ideas at an upcoming forum in Saskatoon next summer.

The city has been selected at as the site of the 2016 World Indigenous Business Forum.

The forum, which is expected to attract about 1,000 delegates, will be held at Teachers’ Credit Union Place from August 25 and 26 next year.

It will be co-hosted by the Indigenous Leadership Development Institute (ILDI) and Saskatchewan First Nations Economic Development Network.

This will also be the first time the event has been held in Canada.

ILDI President Rosa Walker says the forum will provide a tremendous opportunity for Saskatchewan Aboriginal organizations to showcase their economic development projects and learn from others.

“I’m going to give you an example of what happened in Guatemala (site of the 2014 World Indigenous Business Forum),” she says. “We were able to introduce a group of Indigenous people from Chile to West Bank First Nation and as a result they now are entering into a partnership to do some solar energy projects. Our whole goal is not only to create a network but to get something meaningful out of it. So, I think in Saskatoon we’re pretty confident that’s going to happen.”

She adds a very competitive bidding process to host the games takes place but the selection committee was sold on Saskatoon after seeing a strong presentation from Gilles Dorval of the City of Saskatoon and Milton Tootoosis from the Office of the Treaty Commissioner.

“Their presentation was so amazing. They highlighted the economy, they highlighted partnerships between governments and Indigenous people here in Saskatoon and the goodwill.”

Dorval, Saskatoon’s director of Aboriginal relations, says local government believes the city has a lot to offer international visitors in terms of highlighting Indigenous economic development.

“We’ve got a lot of good things happening in the Aboriginal community, both First Nations and Métis, from an economic perspective,” he says. “We’re leaders in the development of urban reserves and the involvement and engagement of our First Nations communities in our growing community of Saskatoon.”

The event costs about $600,000 to put on of which the City of Saskatoon has agreed to put in $150,000.

Walker says the remaining amount will be generated through registration fees and sponsorships.

An international Indigenous music festival will also be held in conjunction with the business forum.

Festival organizer Curtis Standing says they hope to attract about 1,500 people to this event with a focus on Saskatchewan talent.

“It’s going to be worldwide but we also want to highlight a lot of our own local people because a lot of them tour and are featured throughout the world and we want to let people know – visitors that are coming to Saskatchewan, Saskatoon – for the event that we have our own people here we want to highlight, expose the talent,” he says.

The first World Indigenous Business Forum was held in New York City in 2011.

It has also been held in Australia, Namibia and Guatemala.

The 2015 forum will be held in Hawaii.

Co-chairs for the Saskatoon event include Whitecap Dakota First Nation Chief Darcy Bear, Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson and former Saskatoon StarPhoenix publisher Marty Klyne.

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