Project Overview

A key action in Saskatchewan’s Growth Plan 2020-2030 is to grow Indigenous participation in the economy through economic development.

The Indigenous Leadership: Governance and Development project, funded by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Trade and Export Development, provides made-in-Saskatchewan tools for Indigenous communities to undertake long-term economic development. An important part of the project involves capturing the experience of Saskatchewan Indigenous communities through case studies.

Project Approach

The case studies are developed by a team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers and their affiliates at the JSGS, University of Saskatchewan. The Principal Investigator for the project is Murray Fulton, JSGS Professor Emeritus.

Each case study begins with an informal discussion with community leaders and representatives. If the leaders indicate an interest in participating, they are sent a formal letter of introduction; this letter can be used to obtain official permission to proceed. 

The case studies combine material from websites and other publicly available sources with material gathered through interviews with leaders and representatives involved in economic development activities.

A key principle of the project is to ensure that the case studies are shared with the communities in ways that are beneficial to them. To this end, a case study is not finalized until it has been read and approved by the people that have been interviewed and consulted. In some instances, community members participate in writing the case. Once a set of case studies have been developed, community leaders are given the opportunity to discuss the findings.

Case Studies

The case studies are designed to be used by Indigenous communities across Saskatchewan. The premise of the work is that economic development stories need to be shared among those involved in economic development, both in the community where the economic development activities take place and in other communities looking to undertake economic development. It is important to focus on what does and does not work. The cases can be used as governance training components and/or strategic planning exercises. The case studies may also be used in teaching.

This case study profiles Cowessess First Nation’s nation-building approach and its economic development corporation, Cowessess Ventures Ltd. It highlights key strengths, successes, and community outcomes. The case also demonstrates the importance of partnerships to support capacity building and knowledge when entering the renewable energy sector.

This case study profiles FHQ Developments’ approach to economic development, highlighting key strengths, successes and community outcomes. 

FHQ Developments is one of several for-profit entities owned by File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council (FHQTC). FHQTC also owns and governs a number of non-profit organizations that combine Indigenous ways of being and doing with Western mainstream approaches to deliver important services to Indigenous and non-Indigenous citizens of the region.

This case study profiles George Gordon Developments Ltd.’s approach to economic development, highlighting its key strengths, successes, and community outcomes. George Gordon Developments Ltd. (GGDL) is the economic development corporation of the George Gordon First Nation (GGFN). GGDL’s purpose is to create wealth, employment, and opportunities for the community through four pillars linked through economic reconciliation: Strategic Partnerships; Property Development; Renewable Energy; and Agriculture.

This case study profiles the development of the Ile-a-la-Crosse Co-operative Association Limited (the Coop). It highlights the regional economic development organizations in and around the Northern Village of Ile-a-la-Crosse and how they used the co-operative model to address food security and community development. The Co-op was incorporated in 2020 with the goal of providing Ile-a-la-Crosse and the surrounding area with access to groceries and other goods.

This case study profiles an entrepreneur who has become an active participant in economic development and growth opportunities in Saskatchewan. Cody Demerais, a registered citizen of Métis Nation Saskatchewan in Prince Albert, used an entrepreneurial approach to turn a weekend and evening venture into a thriving business called Limitless Gear, Clothing & Apparel (Limitless) — see https://www.limitlessgearclothing.com/. This case shows how Demerais applied his personal values, culture, and identity to build a successful small business. This entrepreneurial approach can be applied by others, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to create economic independence and growth.

Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC) and its nine First Nations have been using an economic development corporation for over 40 years to manage and grow successful businesses and partnerships in northern Saskatchewan. Meadow Lake Tribal Council Industrial Investment (MLTCII) manages MLTC’s business operations.

MLTC’s development has coincided with an increase in employment and an increase in the Community Well-being Index among MLTC First Nations. These impacts can be linked to the economic activity created by MLTC and to the economic activity undertaken by member Nations and supported by MLTC

Misty Ventures Inc. is the economic development corporation of Mistawasis Nêhiyawak First Nation. It was founded with the goal of creating wealth and independence for the First Nation through the development and ownership of successful businesses. Misty Ventures uses a partnership model to meet its objectives. An important element for success is to not rush into an endeavour without thoroughly researching and considering all options. Partners are attracted to Misty Ventures due to its good reputation and straightforward approach to business. The company's focus is on creating equity, building capacity, and investing in the growth of its subsidiaries.

Northern Resource Trucking (NRT) is a limited partnership that was formed by First Nations and Métis partners in northern Saskatchewan, along with Trimac Transportation, to provide transportation services to the mining industry and other businesses in the region. NRT was formed with a collective vision for northern development and ownership, and is committed to building the northern economy by providing safe, reliable transportation services to its customers.

For over 25 years, the Northern Village of Pinehouse (NVP) has used a blended economic development approach to create successful partnerships and be an active participant in economic development in northern Saskatchewan. A key benefit of these initiatives has been increased year-round employment.

NVP’s approach to development is based on: (1) self-determination through community collaboration; (2) investment in the local and greater community; (3) partnerships; (4) active governance and seeking of new opportunities; and (5) continued traditional land use and stewardship.

This case study examines how two First Nations, Beardy’s and Okemasis Cree Nation (BOCN) and Fishing Lake First Nation (FLFN), used their respective economic development corporations, Willow Cree Development Corporation and FLFN Ventures, to partner with each other to secure contract work related to the construction of the BHP potash mine near Jansen, Saskatchewan. 

Ya’ thi Néné was created to provide the seven Athabasca Basin communities of northern Saskatchewan with meaningful participation in the Duty to Consult process and to protect the region’s lands and resources. The Duty to Consult is a legal obligation that requires governments in Canada to consult with Indigenous communities and accommodate their concerns before making decisions that may impact their rights or interests. Participation in the Duty to Consult process is important for Indigenous communities since it provides a way of ensuring that treaty and Indigenous rights are upheld. At the same time, participation is costly and many Indigenous communities do not have the expertise or the resources to participate in a meaningful way. Ya’ thi Néné provides its community members with the support to engage in the Duty to Consult process and thus to more fully participate in the economy on a sustainable basis.