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Strengthening Aboriginal Business: NAABA’s 30th Anniversary

NAABA Beginnings: Aboriginal strength, unity, and opportunity in business

Long before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued their 94 Calls to Action, Indigenous Peoples were taking steps to ensure the truth was known, especially in Northern Alberta where large oil deposits had been discovered and billions of dollars were being generated in the traditional territories of the Cree, Dene and Metis.

The Northeastern Alberta Aboriginal Business Association (NAABA) had already been in operation for 15 years in 2008 when the Canadian Government formally issued the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report to educate Canadians about the residential school systems and the abuses Indigenous children received at the hands of the church. And while Call 92 – For Business and Reconciliation, had not yet been formally issued in 1993, the year NAABA was founded, work was well underway to advocate for the inclusion of Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous businesses, in the resource extraction taking place in what would become known as Canada’s economic engine, the Oilsands.

The development of NAABA is a story that movies are made of. Hardworking people living and working on their traditional territory saw their region becoming the land of opportunity for everyone but them, until they said no more! It was the lack of inclusion, injustice and disregard for the First Peoples of this region that drove the NAABA founders to come together to create an organization that some 30 years later continues to advocate for inclusion, engagement and access for Indigenous entrepreneurs in a region flush with resource development.

In its early days, NAABA pushed for inclusion in the supply chain, procurement and business development. And while this remains a priority and always will, an awakening and clarity has presented itself as the Board and Staff continue to remove barriers, open doors and celebrate Indigenous excellence. What brought NAABA to this 30-year mark is not what will carry NAABA for the next 30 years. Change is needed, necessary, and exciting given the vast opportunities that lie ahead to continue making change.

NAABA Today; Extending the legacy whilst moving forward

NAABA plays a significant role in education, both for our Indigenous Members and those non-Indigenous members who are committed to supporting the success and development of Indigenous entrepreneurs and the Indigenous economy.

As we continue to face the truth as part of the journey to reconciliation, NAABA will create a space and an avenue to have the especially important conversations surrounding the rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the difficult conversations as to why working with Indigenous entrepreneurs is not only nice to do, but also a must-do. As an organization, we will present, teach, educate and discuss the who, what, when, where, and why of Indigenous business ensuring there is a recognition that the land being developed in this country was stolen from its rightful owners and that the process of reconciliation is more than the declaration of Indigenous spend via contract dollars. It has been said many times that education is the new Buffalo, and in honouring the traditions and culture of the Indigenous People, NAABA will seek to share with our community all that we can through education and awareness.

As we move forward NAABA will seek to educate corporate Canada at all levels, changing the lens through which they view Indigenous engagement and how they define and see Indigenous business. We will create a new context for the value of working with Indigenous entrepreneurs and will lead corporate Canada to recognize that the very success of the country now called Canada is dependent on honest, respectful, brave engagement with the First People of this region.

NAABA in the Future; Honouring traditional ways of knowing and being in a modern way

Nistawoyou, where the three rivers meet, is home to some of the most successful entrepreneurs across Turtle Island. More noteworthy is that the most prominent and celebrated of these businesses are Indigenous-owned, proudly and loudly. Historically living off the land, adaptation runs deep and has always been a key to Indigenous culture. NAABA plays a role in ensuring that businesses continue to grow and do so through the provision of culturally appropriate resources and approaches that allow businesses to increase their capacity and reach.

Indigenous communities have long been recognized for their deep connection to the land and their commitment to preserving their cultural heritage. As stewards of both the land and the community, Indigenous businesses exemplify a unique approach that blends traditional values with modern economic practices. Names like Tuccaro, Golosky, Bouchier, Wilson and Antoine are all celebrated for their accomplishments, contributions and engagement in the community in addition to their commitment to traditional values, the land and their people.

Indigenous businesses not only prioritize environmental sustainability but also place a strong emphasis on community well-being. These businesses understand that their success is interconnected with the prosperity and resilience of their communities. Their economic ventures often involve reinvesting in community development projects and prioritizing local employment. By adopting a community-centred approach, Indigenous businesses foster economic empowerment and social cohesion. They create opportunities for education, training, and skill development, empowering community members to actively participate in the local economy. This approach strengthens the social fabric, preserves cultural identity, and reduces dependency on external resources, thus promoting self-sufficiency and resilience.

“Indigenous peoples have long maintained ways of life, including systems of law and deep knowledge of the environment, that embody principles and values which are now being described as ‘sustainable development.” While at first glance this may seem like a more traditional way of doing business “focusing on community or the greater network” these priorities and focus areas have laid the foundation for what is now seen as a future-forward practice of reporting favourable outcomes of the modern business practices surrounding measuring and reporting on ESG (Environment, Sustainability and Governance)

Over NAABA’s 30 years, the business landscape has changed but its vision has not. Unity and competitiveness in business remain at the forefront of NAABA’s efforts and contrary to the competitive mindset prevalent in many business sectors, Indigenous businesses embody a philosophy of collaboration and abundance. They understand that economic success is not a zero-sum game but rather a collective endeavour that can benefit all stakeholders. This is why the community NAABA has created and continues to nurture will always be fundamental to its success. Contrary to a traditional business association, we are a community that together will see the success of all Indigenous Peoples become a reality. As we continue to bring people together and to bring teachings and topics of conversation forward we know that this collaboration and collective benefit will increase.

There is a great deal of work still to be done as we seek to grow the Indigenous economy. We are up for the challenge and look forward to working with Nations, entrepreneurs, investors and creative minds to remove barriers, educate, make change and have an impact on the region and its people that will be a turning point for the prosperity of this region.

Become a NAABA Member

There are two categories of NAABA Members; Certified Full and Associate. Certified Full Members are businesses that are at least 51% Aboriginally owned, controlled, and local to the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo region. Associate Members are those businesses that strive to increase their social capacity within the Aboriginal business community.

More information is available at naaba.ca, alongside the membership application forms which NAABA is more than happy to help businesses complete. You can also email membership@naaba.ca if you are interested in joining the NAABA member base and its thriving community.

Join the NAABA Newsletter

Our newsletter provides information on popular networking events in Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo, truth and reconciliation resources, business tips from professional advisors, Member spotlights, and grant-funding opportunities. See why hundreds of entrepreneurs, key industry representatives, NAABA Members, and individuals that invest themselves in the economic well-being of the region already subscribe to this bi-weekly newsletter.

Join the NAABA Newsletter today by visiting the resources page at naaba.ca.

NAABA’s Shared Services: Enhance your business operations

Based on in-depth research and in pursuit of providing tactical growth for its members, NAABA implemented its Shared Services in January of 2023. Within the program is a Programs Manager, Marketing & Communications Advisor, Human Resources Advisor, and a partnership with MNP that fulfills the Financial Advisor role. NAABA Members can purchase a package for these shared services to obtain professional support for their business.

 

CALL 92

We call upon the corporate sector in Canada to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a reconciliation framework and to apply its principles, norms, and standards to corporate policy and core operational activities involving Indigenous peoples and their lands and resources. This would include, but not be limited to, the following:

Commit to meaningful consultation, building respectful relationships, and obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples before proceeding with economic development projects.

Ensure that Aboriginal peoples have equitable access to jobs, training, and education opportunities in the corporate sector and that Aboriginal communities gain long-term sustainable benefits from economic development projects.

Provide education for management and staff on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal-Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.

Save the Date: Annual General Meeting (AGM) 2023 is on October 12th

Join NAABA each fall as we celebrate the accomplishments of the organization for the previous year. As we discuss current initiatives and plans, Certified Full Members will be called upon to vote on new policy and impacts on the organization. Are you interested in becoming a NAABA Board Member? AGM serves as the election stage for all Aboriginal Business designates to put their name forward. The NAABA AGM is always followed by a community gathering where entertainment, food, and fun combine for an evening of celebration and connection.

Save the Date: Aboriginal Business Showcase 2024 is on April 11th

The Aboriginal Business Showcase is NAABA’s premier business networking event of the year. Potential clients and contractors from all over the region can interact and engage with NAABA Members. Attendees experience entrepreneurial storytelling, keynotes, focused business sessions as well as the highly requested and very engaging speed networking and trade show. The goal of this event is to bring together decision-makers, business leaders, and entrepreneurs from across the region to discuss current and pending business trends and opportunities for working together in the future.

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