At the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, we use case studies when working with government and community partners and students to analyze problems while considering the broader political, societal, and economical contexts at play.

Indigenous Leadership, Governance and Development

The case studies on this webpage were developed by a team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers and their affiliates at the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, as part of the Indigenous Leadership: Governance Development Project.

Athabasca Basin Development (ABD) is an Indigenous-owned investment company created in 2002 to access and benefit from the mining industry that was developing in the Athabasca Basin of northern Saskatchewan. Seven communities in the Athabasca Basin own ABD, which has investments in construction, mining, industrial security, electrical, diamond drilling, logistics, cannabis, retail, road maintenance, aviation, and more. Through its investments and partnerships, ABD is creating job opportunities and generating revenue, which can be reinvested in community development projects that can lead to greater self-sufficiency, autonomy, and improved quality of life for the Dene people in the Athabasca Basin region.

An eco-system of Métis Development The region around the Northern Village of Beauval in northwest Saskatchewan provides an example of a community where an entrepreneurial eco-system is developing. The communities in the area have become entrepreneurs, with the Village of Beauval creating Beauval Development Inc. (BDI), and the four municipalities in the region – Beauval, Cole Bay, Jans Bay, and Ile a la Crosse – creating the Primrose Resources Corporation (PRC). The development of these businesses, and the enterprises they then purchased and/or developed, was supported by a group of development organizations, several of which have a mandate to support Métis businesses. These organizations include the Primrose Lake Economic Development Corporation (PLEDCO, the Clarence Campeau Development Fund (CCDF), SaskMetis Economic Development Corporation (SMEDCO) and the Beaver River Community Futures Development Corporation (BRCFDC).

Clarence Campeau Development Fund (CCDF) helps Métis entrepreneurs and communities in Saskatchewan by providing them with expertise, financial support, and access to funding partners and industry. CCDF supports Métis businesses and boost economic development by offering various types of financial assistance, such as loans and grants. CCDF also works to enhance the management skills of new and existing Métis business owners. With CCDF’s non-interest and interest-bearing loans and grants, businesses can develop and, by doing so, make a positive impact in their community. CCDF strongly believes in the power of Métis entrepreneurship to bring about positive change and is committed to supporting Métis businesses “every step of the way.”

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.

Established in 1991, Des Nedhe Development LP (now Des Nedhe Group of Companies) pursues sustainable employment and business opportunities for the member communities of the English River First Nations. Des Nedhe has a diverse portfolio of businesses and investments built around the four “Fs” that contribute to Saskatchewan's business success: food, fuel (uranium), fertilizer (potash), and First Nations. Des Nedhe used the 1992 Treaty Land Entitlement settlement to kickstart the development of an urban reserve outside of Saskatoon. In 2016, Des Nedhe shifted its governance structure from political leadership to an independent board of directors. As the experience of Tron Construction and Mining Business illustrates, business is always risky, even for successful groups, and continued profitability requires constant attention to good management.

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.

First Nations Bank of Canada (FNBC) is a chartered bank started in 1996 with the primary goal of serving First Nation individuals and organizations. FNBC operates in a decidedly Indigenous way. It understands the First Nation market and it operates with a largely Indigenous management and staff. Historically, First Nations people and organizations have been underserved by mainstream financial institutions. Over the past 25 plus years, FNBC has gradually built financial and banking success serving under-served and under-valued First Nation markets. FNBC’s initial capital base of $10 million has grown to an asset base of over $1.1 billion.

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 Co-op). 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 the creation of the Kici Anishinabek Kananakachiwewat Community Service Cooperative (KAKC) formed by Elders of the Cote First Nation in southern Saskatchewan. It explores the connection between the culture of a First Nation and its foundational impact on the community’s economic development. KAKC was incorporated in 2021 as a direct response to the threat faced by the Anishinabek culture resulting from government policy, the legacy of residential schools, and declining knowledge of the Onakawawin language. The goal of KAKC’s founding members is to establish programs that will preserve the use of their language and support the cultural education of a new generation. The development of a community service co-operative to preserve a First Nation’s culture offers important insights for Indigenous leaders, Elders, and policymakers. Historically, the work of the Elders would be informal and subject to interference by political leaders or threatened by a lack of resources. Using an appropriate corporate model to formalize their governance and financial management opened new doors for KAKC’s members to advance their goals. Using a co-op allowed access to new revenue streams and independence from governments and other organizations.

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

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

The Northern Village of La Loche is one of the largest communities in northwest Saskatchewan, with a population of roughly 2,664 residents, 90% of whom are Indigenous (predominantly Métis).  Like other Indigenous communities, La Loche has a significant need for public and social housing. Methy Construction was established by the Village to participate in community construction projects, while Methy Housing was established to be a housing developer. While Methy Housing and Methy Construction have not resolved the housing shortage in La Loche, their efforts have improved the situation. Since these organizations have the capacity to construct and manage significantly more houses, the greatest constraint to further increasing housing is access to capital.

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.

In the late 1800s, the Mosquito Band, the Grizzly Bear’s Head Band, and the Lean Man Band were united to form the Mosquito Grizzly Bear’s Head Lean Man First Nation (MGBHLM First Nation). Through patient efforts, MGBHLM First Nation has finally achieved recognition. The situation where land was taken from them by the government illegally has been rectified and land claims with the government have been settled. These settlements have provided MGBHLM with capital for economic development; a key goal of this effort is the development of human capital.

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.

Whitecap Dakota Nation (Whitecap) is located 26 kilometres south of Saskatoon. Whitecap's successful development is underpinned by a strong emphasis on good governance and the development of effective sovereignty. The starting point for Whitecap's development journey was financial stability. After dealing with a substantial budget deficit, the community moved to transfer control of its land from the federal government, which allowed for more agile business decision-making and the bypassing of burdensome processes prescribed under the Indian Act. Whitecap also used the Whitecap Development Corporation (WDC) to undertake a number of business ventures, including the Dakota Dunes Golf Links, Whitecap Convenience Store, Whitecap Industrial Services, and the Dakota Dunes Resort. In 2023, Whitecap bolstered its governance certainty by signing a Self-Government Treaty that affirms the Whitecap Dakota Nation’s inherent right to self-government under the Constitution Act, 1982. Collectively, these efforts have resulted in a thriving on-reserve economy, with job opportunities surpassing the number of community members available to fill them; as a result, hundreds of individuals commute daily for employment.

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.


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