The concept of pimâcihisowin (making one’s own living) has been a part of the First Nations DNA for time immemorial. Long before the first settlers arrived First Nations people were not only hunters, fishers and gatherers. They were also skilled traders. Before the fur trade engulfed this nation, before Canada was born, First Nations people were trading for goods from coast to coast, north, south, east and west. Ancient cities such as Cahokia in present day St Louis, Missouri, provides plenty of evidence that the early First Nations peoples were not only rural, agricultural and nomadic but also urban dwellers and avid traders.

Further south there are ancient cities throughout Mexico, central and south America that prove that Indigenous cultures, prior to the arrival of Europeans, were indeed quite sophisticated. They had tremendous engineering and mathematical concepts that astound many scientists to this day.  They had technology such as the obsidian blade, remedies for numerous illnesses, performed dental surgery, mined gold and other precious metals.

Closer to home here in present day Canada, museums such as the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec, are full of artifacts that dispel the myth that the early First Nations people were primitive and did not really contribute any goods to mankind. On the contrary, before European arrival, Indigenous peoples were practicing R & D and came up with the canoe, snow shoe, goggles, a variety of spears and fishing tools to name a few. They had cooking pots, furs and tools for preparing clothing and created ingenious engineering methods. These skills and items came in quite handy when contact was made with the early fur traders in the 1600s. For about two hundred years First Nations became allies with the French and British. Then the fur trade crashed and First Nations were left in limbo.

When the numbered treaty negotiations developed the First Nations leaders ensured that the Crown would guarantee the right for assistance to adapt to the new way. That new way on the prairies was agriculture in the late 1800s. Most First Nations did not become independent and self-sufficient as intended during the treaty negotiations. To this day, many First Nations struggle with barriers such as the Indian Act, ineffective governance, a lack of skilled human resources and financial capital in order to rebuild their communities as once envisioned at treaty negotiations.

As we enter the information age, we are witnessing turmoil within the global economy. The demand for commodities is volatile and the risks associated with the ever changing global economy is really making it challenging for many First Nations to adapt, respond, make profits and thrive. These are indeed interesting times ahead as economists and leading financial gurus re-adjust their projections.  Will First Nations benefit from resource development? What happens when the demand for commodities weakens further? What types of skills will be required when technology replaces many jobs filled by humans today? What happens when the oil and gas is replaced by alternative energy sources? Will First Nations be able to respond quickly enough and capitalize on the new wave of opportunities or be left further behind as indicated in the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board Progress Report 2015?

The SFNEDN was established in response to the need for a network of like-minded economic development practitioners to stay connected and on top of trends in the information age. We hope you get something out of our events, seminars and information sharing so that you as a modern day economic warrior can take this information home to benefit the whole community. We hope that more First Nations communities thrive rather than simply survive. We hope that more First Nations define and accelerate some innovative ideas that contribute to a sustainable concept of pimâcihisowin in this fast paced volatile global economic village.

Enjoy the journey. All the best.

Milton Tootoosis