When Cowessess First Nation wanted to farm their own land in 2018, large non-Indigenous companies refused to extend them a line of credit, said former chief Cadmus Delorme.
It wasn’t that the land, about a 90-minute drive east of Regina, couldn’t be farmed. The First Nation had watched non-Indigenous farmers grow food on their land for years.
Instead, Delorme said, barriers laid out in the Indian Act stood in their way.
“The Indian Act is not business-friendly,” Delorme said.
When the act was created, Canada’s policy was to eliminate the Indigenous worldview, including the economies of Indigenous people, he said. Despite revisions, some sections of the act, such as Section 61, which references loans, still restrict First Nations’ sovereignty over their money, he added.
It took two years for credit companies to cave and realize partnering with the Cowessess First Nation wasn’t high risk, Delorme said. Now, the First Nation farms 7,000 acres of their land, creates jobs and turns a profit.
No longer chief, Delorme has created his own Indigenous-led consulting firm, OneHoop, to help First Nations bridge the gap between business and reconciliation. He is behind just one of many Indigenous-led consulting firms working to bring economic reconciliation to the forefront of the minds of corporate Canada. But they say more are needed to meet a growing demand.
Corporate Canada simply doesn’t know how to work with Indigenous people, said Sxwpilemaát Siyám (Chief Leanne Joe).
A hereditary chief of the Squamish Nation, the Transformative Storyteller for Economic Reconciliation at Simon Fraser University and a consultant, Sxwpilemaát Siyám said she hears the phrase “I don’t know where to start” all too often.
Indigenous-led consulting firms are working to bring economic reconciliation to the forefront of the minds of corporate Canada. #Indigenous #EconomicGrowth #reconciliation
Sxwpilemaát Siyám’s advice is to pick one action, commit to it, be willing to fail and prepare to be uncomfortable.
“This is not easy work. This is going to challenge your worldview, it’s going to challenge so much of who you are as a human being. But if we don’t do it, then who will?” she said.
This is where consultants like Delorme play