A Week Defined by Aboriginal Economic Development

It was a week that began with candid discussion with Aboriginal business students about how to create interest in the study of business amongst Aboriginal youth and ended with an in-depth dialogue between academics and industry professionals focused on partnerships in Aboriginal economic development.  Central to this week-long conversation, which sparked new ideas, collaborative opportunities and helpful insight into issues being faced by Aboriginal communities across the country, was Cape Breton University’s Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies, Dr. Keith G. Brown and his research team. 

Always mindful of the Chair’s purpose and potential impact of the research outcomes for Aboriginal people, the team created a research agenda relative to Aboriginal economic development that is national in scope. The week of October 22-26, brought together 10 First Nation, Métis and Inuit business students from six provinces and one territory, and seven post-secondary institutions. The student program focused on business success in their home communities, key factors of success for each and how they might be incorporated as case studies in a text book on Aboriginal business. The students also participated in a think tank to identify recruitment strategies to attract more Aboriginal students to the study of business at the post-secondary level.

“We’re are in the process of writing the first Aboriginal business textbook, and key to this is the involvement of current Aboriginal business students. They are interested in and supportive of the work we are doing and realize the impact this project is going to have on their communities,  on all of Canada and what this means for future Aboriginal business students. They’re just as excited as we are to be a part of it,” says Dr. Brown.

Held in the latter half of the week, the Partnering for Successful Economic Development: Best Practices and Lessons Learned workshop attracted Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal participants from across Canada and the United States from a variety of sectors.  Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, participants were asked to engage with the question “How do we create and maintain successful partnerships for Aboriginal economic development?”  This two-day event consisted of a combination of panel discussions of local case studies –  the Unama’ki partnership model, Eskasoni Cultural Journeys, and the Hampton Inn in Membertou – as well as small group discussions to provide recommendations for the creation and maintenance of effective relationships.  The keynote address was delivered by Margaret Froh, a Métis lawyer who spoke about the partnership between the Ktunaxa Nation, the Samson Cree First Nation, and Rama First Nation that established St. Eugene Golf Resort and Casino in Cranbrook, BC.

“The conversation that took place over this week was very intriguing. There were many perspectives brought to the table which led to greater understanding and consideration of business processes,” says Brown.

Over the last year, the Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies has implemented programs to support its mandate of promoting the study of business to Canada’s Aboriginal people including the Business Network for Aboriginal Youth. The Chair has also held a series of roundtable discussions across the country with Aboriginal community leaders and business students about successes and challenges in Aboriginal economic development and barriers faced to the study of business.  To learn more about the work of the Chair visit www.cbu.ca/crawford.