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By Scott Larson, The Starphoenix

More than 1,200 delegates from around the world are expected to attend the 2016 World Indigenous Business Forum (WIBF) that will be held in Saskatoon.

The WIBF brings together indigenous business leaders from around the world to help foster relationships that will increase international trade and encourage aboriginal participation in business and economic development.

“It is a uniting of indigenous, business-minded leaders that are primarily involved in community economic development,” said Milton Tootoosis, director of livelihood and chair of the Saskatchewan First Nations Economic Development Network.

“We get them all together in one room for a couple of days and learn about best

pract ices and promising practices,” he said. “It is really about sharing what they are doing in their great countries and getting each other excited.”

About 1,200 people will attend the event at TCU Place in August 2016.

The conference is expected to generate $2 million in direct economic impact to the city and a similar amount in indirect economic impacts.

The city’s planning committee has recommended council approve funding of $150,000 under the Profile

Saskatoon Event category for the conference.

Previous cities to host the event include New York, Sydney, Australia, Windhoek, Namibia, Guatemala City and this October the conference will be in Oahu, Hawaii.

Tootoosis has attended all of the previous conferences and said Saskatoon’s vibrant and diversified economy makes a perfect backdrop for the event.

“There is a lot of excitement and optimism,” he said, adding, “We have a lot of stories to tell.”

Tootoosis said he has learned from previous conferences that there is a common thread that unites all indigenous people around the world.

“The struggle to rebuild indigenous nations is universal,” he said.

“We still have the racism, the poverty, the justice issues, residential school fallout etc. … but there is progress and possibilities. “Forums like this can get people excited.”

The conference also looks at developing stronger leadership, better governance policy and the challenge of balancing western capitalism with the traditional indigenous model of sustainability.

As part of the Saskatoon WIBF, an International Indigenous Music and Cultural Festival will be launched and will be an annual event commemorating Saskatoon’s contribution to the WIBF and indigenous prosperity, cultural and economic well-being.

“We are going to wow people with the local indigenous culture,” Tootoosis said.
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