[insert greeting] Good afternoon. I want to begin by acknowledging the First Nations on whose traditional territory we are today, and to thank Elder Tom Crane Bear for his beautiful prayers. Chi Miigwech for welcoming me into your territory. I also want to thank Brian Calliou and the Banff Centre for the wonderful hospitality they have shown us. What an excellent opportunity this symposium has provided us to share our stories and the lessons we have learned along the way. As First Nations, Métis and Inuit leaders, we continue to heal and strengthen our communities. It is through events like this one where we gather and talk that we learn from each other, and build even stronger networks that support us all in the work that we do as leaders.
I have been asked to share with you the story of a unique First Nations’ partnership which my community, The Chippewas of Rama First Nation has created with two other geographically and culturally diverse First Nations in Canada: the Samson Cree Nation and the Ktunaxa Nation. We have come together as partners in the St. Eugene Golf Resort and Casino of the Rockies venture, located near Cranbrook, BC. This photograph was taken at our Grand Opening in 2004. Cutting the ribbon with me are Chief Victor Buffalo of Samson Cree, and Chief Sophie Pierre of the Ktunaxa Nation. It marked the beginning of a new and vibrant partnership. Let me begin the story by telling you a little about the Partners.
For those of you that don’t know, Rama First Nation is a Chippewa (or Ojibway) First Nation located on the shores of Lake Couchiching, approximately one and a half hours drive north of Toronto. We are a proud, progressive First Nation community and one of three First Nations in the Chippewa Tri-Council; together the Tri-Council nations were historically known as the Chippewas of Lakes Simcoe and Huron. In 1836 our lands were illegally taken by the government and we were forced to move; however, our history is somewhat different than many other First Nations in that we had to purchase our lands. We chose land near to the Rama Weirs, an ancient fishing weir system which we were caretakers of, located at the narrows between Lake Couchiching and Lake Simcoe. Historically we were well known for our hospitality and healing, sharing knowledge and medicines. Together with our Tri-Council nation partners we recently settled a land claim and continue to build our land base.
We have a long history as entrepreneurs and are committed to developing a diverse and sustainable economy for our First Nation through various economic development initiatives, including those such as the St. Eugene partnership. Our most well known development is Casino Rama, Ontario’s most successful commercial casino.
The Samson Cree are located in central Alberta, near Hobbema, in Treaty 6 Territory. With over 5,000 citizens living on the reserve, Samson is one of Alberta’s largest First Nations. Samson Cree have a long history of entrepreneurship as well, including the development of Canada’s first Aboriginal-owned financial institution, Peace Hills Trust. Other initiatives range from Samson Oil and Gas to the Samson Lake Louise Mall. The Ktunaxa Nation (‘k-too-NAH-ha’) have occupied the lands adjacent to the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers and the Arrow Lakes of British Columbia. Their Traditional Territory covers approximately 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles) within the Kootenay region of Southeastern British Columbia, and historically included parts of Alberta, Montana, Washington and Idaho. The Ktunaxa Nation – our partner – is made up of five First Nation communities in Canada. The Ktunaxa Nation have identified four pillars for achieving strong, healthy citizens and communities, including land and resources as well as economic development.
St. Eugene’s is located on the St. Mary Indian Reserve in Ktunaxa Nation Territory, just outside of Cranbrook, BC.
The Oblates established the first mission at St. Eugene’s in 1873, and the first Kootenay Indian Residential School was built in 1890. Ore was discovered there in 1893 and the St. Eugene Mission flourished, including the development of a mine, a hospital and the first flourmill in the region. In 1910 the Dominion Government started the construction of the 40,000 sq.ft. Kootenay Indian Residential School concrete block building, at the St. Eugene Mission which would later become the St. Eugene Resort. The Residential School operated for 60 years until 1971. Approximately 150 to 200 pupils attended the Residential School per year, from the Kootenays, Okanagan, & Southern Alberta regions; more than 4,500 children in all attended the School. For the children attending the Mission, the years spent there resulted in the breakdown of many families and consequent lack of parenting skills for generations of parents, and the emptying of a rich culture that had endured for more than 10,000 years. The students were prohibited from speaking their native language at school and subject to harsh punishment for doing it, and kept from contact with their family for most of the school year. In terms of abuse, the children attending the Kootenay Indian Residential School faced the same fate as other Aboriginal children in other Indian Residential Schools in Canada. St. Eugene’s was returned to the Ktunaxa in the 1990’s at which time the Ktunaxa people had to decide what to do with St. Eugene’s.
Following an extensive community consultation process, the Ktunaxa decided that St. Eugene’s would be reclaimed by the Ktunaxa and become a tool to secure a brighter future for the people. Respected Ktunaxa Elder Mary Paul said, “ Since it was within the St. Eugene Mission (Kootenay Indian Residential School) that the culture of the Kootenay Indian was taken away, it should be within that building that it should be returned”. With that, the Ktunaxa undertook to develop what is today the St. Eugene Golf Resort and Casino of the Rockies.
Here are a few images of St. Eugene’s from the time it was a Mission, to the building of the large Barn structure, the construction of the Mission, and the later development of the resort.
Today, St. Eugene’s is truly a world-class resort featuring: A full service three diamond hotel with 100 rooms in the newer Lodge wing and 25 deluxe rooms in the historic Mission building, An award winning 18-hole championship golf course An all-year round heated outdoor swimming pool and hot tub, Fitness centre with sauna, Four restaurants and lounges, 4,000 square feet of meeting rooms, A year round pavilion with capacity to hold up to 300 people, And the Casino of the Rockies, the only Aboriginal owned casino in BC.
St. Eugene’s golf course was designed by acclaimed architect, Les Furber. It has appropriately been described as a masterpiece in an incredible setting. The golf course opened in 2000 and won immediate accolades from golfers. In 2001 it was named one of Canada’s top 3 new golf courses by Golf Digest Magazine. St. Eugene’s outstanding staff have done a tremendous job managing the golf course in a manner respecting the surrounding environment. St. Eugene’s is home to more than 150 bird species, and is home for the endangered great blue heron, the bald eagle, badger, townsend long-eared bat and the painted turtle. We are very proud that St. Eugene’s is an Audubon Society Green Leaf Eco-Rated Member. Several years ago St. Eugene’s worked with an Elder Advisory Group to rename each golf hole with a Ktunaxa name which is highlighted on the course.
As I mentioned, there are four restaurants and lounges at St. Eugene’s including the Purcell’s Grill – one of the Kootenay region’s best restaurants, which proudly features locally sourced food.
In 2011, we added a rather amazing pavilion which can host large groups of up to 300 people. With this addition, we are the venue of choice for weddings, concerts and other large gatherings in the area.
The Casino of the Rockies is a 20,000 square foot casino featuring: 234 slot machines, including progressive jackpot machines wide variety of table games, including Texas Hold’em Poker Off-track betting Fred’s Saloon licensed restaurant
The Ktunaxa opened the golf course in the Spring of 2000, and the Casino and the Hotel in 2003. The hotel and golf course were operated by Delta Hotels, and the Casino was operated by Lake City Casinos. In 2004, the resort was in financial difficulties due to a number of factors including construction cost overruns and delays, and a general downturn in tourism in 2003. The Ktunaxa were looking for business partners to invest in the business and help ensure the Resort’s success. Samson approached Rama to discuss a potential joint venture in the summer of 2004. Both First Nations had demonstrated strong business leadership and were interested in the brilliant potential of this First Nation owned business. The history of the land carried both sadness but also great vision and hope for the Ktunaxa, and the sheer beauty of the well appointed resort showed great promise. Talks began and in t he fall of 2004 a partnership was formed between the Ktunaxa Nation, the Samson Cree and the Chippewas of Rama First Nation. In the eight years since, the partners manage the resort ourselves and we have had a complete turn around financially, in spite of the slow comeback of the national and international economies.
So why has this partnership been so successful. In addition to having a strong senior management team at the Resort, there are three key factors underlying our success: building on the diversity of our partnership; our strong First Nation focus; and the strength of our relationships. I wanted to share with you some photos from our Grand Opening in 2004 as I think they speak volumes regarding what is so wonderful and unique about this collaboration. Our partnership includes First Nations from the Great Lakes region, from the Prairies, and from the Mountains. Our histories and our cultures are very different. Our languages are vastly different. Our Creation Stories vary. Yet this diversity is celebrated in our St. Eugene’s partnership. The diversity of the First Nation partners is a strength for the business.
We remain consistently focused on maintaining a First Nation presence and focus at St. Eugene’s. While, as business people our primary goal is to create revenue to further strengthen our communities, we do so with a strong focus on promoting First Nations people, our languages, our histories and our cultures. The entire St. Eugene’s resort, from the lobby where you register to the golf course where you relax and enjoy the stunningly beautiful scenery, reflect First Nations history and culture. The Ktunaxa Interpretive Centre provide guests with a good sense of Ktunaxa history, language and culture. Our Board of Directors, Senior Management Team and staff are constantly working with new ideas to further strengthen the First Nation presence within St. Eugene’s. One of the key goals of the Ktunaxa, which was strongly shared by Samson and Rama was the commitment to create First Nation employment and training opportunities. In addition to being the 3 rd largest private employer in the Kootenay Region, we are proud that over 17% of our staff are First Nation people. St. Eugene’s is constantly working to increase that number and to retain our First Nation employees, providing opportunities for advancement and careers.
In addition to being the 3 rd largest private employer in the Kootenay Region, we are a leader for the region in other areas as well, including environmental management. Our Board of Directors is made up of representatives of each of the 3 First Nation Partners. The Board has incorporated First Nation cultures and values into their policies and business practices of St. Eugene’s. As Partners, every time we gather we take the time to share our culture. We have shared Creation Stories at our Annual General Meetings, and have visited each other in our respective territories. Underlying it all, our partnership is based on strong relationships and on the principle of respect.
As Chiefs of our respective First Nation Partners, we take the time to meet and talk. We try to do this on a regular basis. We share our concerns and our hopes for St. Eugene’s and work to continue to strengthen our relationships. We remain mindful that at the end of the day, some day in the future, St. Eugene’s will return to the Ktunaxa. I know that, thanks to our partnership, it will be a stronger and even more vibrant, sustainable economic engine for the Ktunaxa people and the region. In our experience, partnerships that are based on strong, healthy and respectful relationships are well worth the investment. Thank you for this opportunity to share our story with you. Chi Miigwech.
St. Eugene Golf Resort Casino: A First Nation Partnership Success Story
Chief Sharon Stinson Henry, Chippewas of Rama First NationBanff Centre Wise Practices in Indigenous Community Development - Partnering and Collaborative Approach September 15, 2012
A Unique First Nation PartnershipSeptember 15, 2012 St. Eugene Golf Resort Casino Partnership 2
Chippewas of Rama First Nation Rama Seniors Centre and Extended Care Facility Rama Early Childhood Education Centre Mnjikaning Kendaaswin Elementary School Mnjikaning Arena and Sports KiSeptember 15, 2012 St. Eugene Golf Resort Casino Partnership 3
Chippewas of Rama First NationSeptember 15, 2012 St. Eugene Golf Resort Casino Partnership 4
Our First Nation PartnersSeptember 15, 2012 St. Eugene Golf Resort Casino Partnership 5
St. Eugene MissionSeptember 15, 2012 St. Eugene Golf Resort Casino Partnership 6
St. Eugene’s History • St. Eugene Mission • Kootenay Indian Residential SchoolSeptember 15, 2012 St. Eugene Golf Resort Casino Partnership 7
The Ktunaxa’s Vision Since it was within the St. Eugene Mission (Kootenay Indian Residential School) that the culture of the Kootenay Indian was taken away, it should be within that building that it should be returned. Elder Mary Paul, 1984September 15, 2012 St. Eugene Golf Resort Casino Partnership 8
St. Eugene’s Throughout TimeSeptember 15, 2012 St. Eugene Golf Resort Casino Partnership 9
St. Eugene’s TodaySeptember 15, 2012 St. Eugene Golf Resort Casino Partnership 10
St. Eugene’s TodaySeptember 15, 2012 St. Eugene Golf Resort Casino Partnership 11
St. Eugene’s TodaySeptember 15, 2012 St. Eugene Golf Resort Casino Partnership 12
St. Eugene’s TodaySeptember 15, 2012 St. Eugene Golf Resort Casino Partnership 13
St. Eugene’s TodaySeptember 15, 2012 St. Eugene Golf Resort Casino Partnership 14
The PartnershipSeptember 15, 2012 St. Eugene Golf Resort Casino Partnership 15