Treaty Day a huge success for Woodland Cree – August 12, 2005.

August 12, 2005

Treaty Day a huge success for Woodland Cree

Sushi met moose and bannock at Woodland Cree First Nation’s Treaty Day 2005 Aug. 10. Held every year in honor of the signing of Treaty 8 in 1899, this year’s festivities drew more than 600 people in a day of celebration that was marked with the disbursement of annuities and ammunition.

Performances by the Cadotte Lake Native Dance Troupe and the Hawk Valley Dancers as well as a talent show and spectacular fireworks display rounded out the day.

Treaty Day had its own unique flavour this year. For the past year, Daishowa-Marubeni International (Peace River Pulp) (DMI) and Woodland Cree have been at work forming a business partnership.

Dinner guests at Treaty Day were treated to authentic sushi served alongside bannock, potatoes, roast moose and bison steak. The dinner, sponsored by DMI, was reflective of the relationship between the multinational Japanese corporation and the First Nations community.

Their successful joint venture, Peace River Logging, was formed in June of 2004. The company now operates two $1 million Peterson Pacific portable chippers and all of the associated logging equipment required to feed the chippers. They contribute nearly a quarter of the total volume of hardwood required by the mill each year. It ’s been a good relationship for both parties.

Mark Kobayashi, Takashi Harada, Mikio Tanaka, Mike Winrow and Steve Luchkow represented DMI at the festivities, along with a list of other dignitaries from industry and government. “It’s been a real pleasure to be a part of this festival atmosphere,” said Kobayashi, DMI president, who traveled from Vancouver for the event. “When people celebrate together, the atmosphere is the same, whether it’s in Japan or northern Alberta. I feel very at home here today.”

“When the company moved to portable chipping in 2003, it was a priority to enlist the support and contribution of the Woodland Cree,” said DMI Operations Business Leader Steve Luchkow. The joint venture company, Peace River Logging, started with one portable chipper in 2004, added another recently along with other harvesting equipment and now operates two complete lines of harvesting / chipping equipment. The company currently employs 19 people.

“One of the goals of the joint venture company is to provide employment opportunities for the Woodland Cree,” explains Luchkow. “Peace River Logging currently employs four people from the Woodland Cree Band and is working hard with the band councilors to increase this number.”

Optimism is bright on both sides. Woodland Cree Chief Joe Whitehead Jr. said the joint venture has been so successful the band is open to additional industry partnerships.

“We would look at any additional opportunities to partner with DMI and other industry leaders,” said Chief Whitehead. “DMI is leading the way and this partnership has been very important to us.”

The Woodland Cree chief and DMI president believe that by working together jointly to ensure the operation is efficiently run, Peace River Logging will offer rewards to both parties.

Both organizations have made significant cash and in-kind contributions to the joint venture. DMI recognizes that, in order for it to operate over the long term, it needs to provide what the Aboriginal people require in terms of economic and employment opportunities. The joint venture company can provide training opportunities to the band members to help them learn new skills, be it in mechanics, harvesting and chipping operation or in business administration. “Hopefully, it will provide opportunities to develop skills that could be used in other ventures and other parts of their business,” said Luchkow.

“A joint venture arrangement has much more potential for success than DMI taking the lead and merely hiring First Nations people,” he said. “We want them to be a part of it. We want them to enjoy all of the benefits that can come from owning and running a successful business.”

Kobayashi concurs. “We need to grow with the community, and securing a business relationship that is mutually beneficial is a good start. We feel fortunate to be able to contribute to the success of the Woodland Cree and the local Peace River and area community.”

Woodland Cree First Nation is located approximately 75 kilometres northeast of Peace River.