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Success through co-operation

David Ryan
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Nov 20/06) - Co-operation can unlock the door to success and for more than 200 delegates at the first Aboriginal Business Conference, the door has swung wide open.

Held in Yellowknife Nov. 6 to 9, the event attracted aboriginal business leaders from around the NWT as well as other industry representatives.

The conference, called Establishing Economic Co-operation, was hosted by the Denendeh Development Corporation (DDC). It featured more than 25 guest speakers along with a variety of networking opportunities, said John Bekale, DDC chairman.

"These are the kind of opportunities that bring people together," he said.

Fort Good Hope Chief Ron Pierrot was one of the delegates in attendance.

"It was really good," he said.

"There was a lot of information sharing and many side meetings."

With the amount of oil and gas interest in the Sahtu region, he said it is important that First Nations take an active role in development. "With mineral exploration coming along too now, we're booming," he said.

"Everybody wants to do business in the North."

Participation in the Mackenzie Gas Project is a must for First Nation businesses and the conference served as a first step to opening opportunities in that arena, said Darrell Beaulieu, DDC and Denendeh Investments Inc. (DDI) chief executive officer.

Two partnerships were announced by DDI during the conference. Tom Jackson, with Homes Inc., will partner with DDI to build housing in NWT communities.

A partnership was also formed between the Gwich'in Development Corporation and DDI, which should allow the investment group to be part of the Mackenzie Aboriginal Corporation.

Besides fostering business connections, the conference stressed training and education for aboriginal workers, said Beaulieu. "Education can't be understated," he said.

Life long learning is something that 29-year-old Gwich'in Tribal Council member Frederick Sonny Blake Jr. learned about during the gathering. He hopes to the take the knowledge he gained during the conference home with him to share with others in Tsiigehtchic.

"I learned quite a bit. I"m hoping to get involved more - we're the future leaders," he said.

Opportunities do exist for Aboriginal people where a lifestyle of business and development can be blended with time-honoured traditions, he said. Organizers said the Aboriginal Business Conference will now be an annual event, but no location has been chosen for next year's gathering.

- with files from John Curran