Sod turning part of nation building for Muskeg Lake Cree Nation
- EFN Staff | August 08, 2014
Political leaders and dignitaries gathered recently to witness a sod turning to begin a 16,000 square foot building development on the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation urban reserve in Saskatoon. This is the first development venture for the economic development arm created up by the First Nation.
"We have worked diligently at Muskeg Lake to separate our politics from our business arm and I am pleased at the direction the MLCN Investment Mgmt Corp has taken to improve our economic development future," said Chief Cliff Tawpisin Jr. "This is a milestone for us in business. We use best business practices and having people on the board that are business oriented and know the industry. This is our very first build and part of our strategic plan on how we are going to develop these sixteen and a half acres."
Muskeg Lake Cree Nation was the first First Nation to purchase urban lands through its Treaty Land Entitlement monies and has seen economic success with its businesses and property development on the land. First Nations and city administrations from across Canada have studied and modeled the approach Muskeg Lake Cree Nation and the City of Saskatoon have taken.
The success in the urban setting befits members in the city and back home on the First Nation.
"I always come back to nation building. We look at our own source revenues and our economic program and what it does for the community back home. It is about quality of life," added Chief Tawpisin Jr. "Opportunity. Employment opportunities. It is about education. Housing. This impacts everything."
The MLCN business arm is chaired by Frank Proto. A business giant, Proto has been on the board of several well known businesses like SaskEnergy, Wascana Energy and the Nelson Group. That experience is a valuable asset to the board. He knows the market and he knows the issues.
"We have found some reluctance from some people about building or leasing on reserve lands. Some people don't quite understand the system or what rights they have," said Proto. "Muskeg Lake is under the land management act and leasing here is no different than any other land owner. But the demand for more high quality office space has been evident for some time and we get calls daily inquiring about available space. The project is viable and will provide a healthy return and add to Muskeg Lake Cree Nation economic base. I want to put up an office tower next."
Financing for the project is provided by Affinity Credit Union. Muskeg Lake is a member of the Affinity Credit Union First Nations District. Chris Sicotte, the First Nations Business Development Officer at Affinity says the deal is a win for everyone involved.
"Affinity is committed to First Nation economic development on reserve. This project enhances the well being of the members, First Nation people and the City of Saskatoon," said Sicotte. "Our relationship with Muskeg Lake is a real synergy of values. The similarities between traditional first nation values and the core values of cooperatives are just a perfect fit."
Confirmed tenants for the building include a sports medicine rehabilitation centre and a law firm. It will be located behind the Cat Tail Building.
"It is a proud day for our community," added Chief Cliff Tawpisin Jr. after the first sod was turned. "We continue on with our rich history and legacy of being the leaders that we are, developing the partnerships that you require in order to build a nation that our future deserves. And that's what this is all about. It's about our future and providing members with the opportunity and the quality of life that they so deserve."