Indigenous people from around the world have gathered in Saskatoon this week to connect, share and inspire one another.
An international business forum kicked off Tuesday to engage indigenous people in global economic discussion.
It began with a “Grand Entry Pow Wow” at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, where dancers from across Canada welcomed delegates from New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the U.S. and Australia.
The event was well-attended despite the skies threatening rain, as people gathered under the tent for drum songs and circle dances.
Some of the international representatives felt right at home.
“We talk to each other as if we’re all related,” said Richard Tauehe Jefferies, a Maori businessman.
“There’s certainly that feeling because of our affinity with Mother Earth and each other and how we view the world.”
The CEO of a tribally-owned investment company will act as one of the featured speakers at the three-day forum, joining other indigenous business leaders.
One of his talking points will be about engaging in international trade as a key to success.
“It’s an important part of our development now,” he said. “If we can do a lot of it with other indigenous people, I think that’s a good way to do business.”
Jefferies also gave a taste of Maori cultural practices at the Grand Opening, performing a Haka warrior dance with his fellow delegates.
Cultural performances like the warrior dance will be part of the forum’s legacy event, the first annual Saskatchewan World Indigenous Festival For the Arts.
But first and foremost, he’s here to do business.
“I’m looking to make contact with people who are willing to work with Maori,” he said.
Milton Tootoosis, chair of the Saskatchewan First Nations Economic Development Network, said hosting the business forum is an exciting prospect for the province.
“We’re only a million people, but we have a diverse economy, and (we’re) fairly stable compared to our neighbours to the west, and other parts of the country,” he said.
Tootoosis hopes to address some of hurdles for indigenous people who want to develop a business.
“One of the key challenges is the lack of information and know-how in terms of what industries to get into,” he said.
He also noted another challenge is having access to the financial capital needed for a start-up.
In addition to international speakers, the forum includes presentations from business leaders across Canada.
The event; which has previously been held in New York City, Sydney, Australia and Guatemala City; runs through Thursday.