Whitecap model in economic development
After the Whitecap Dakota First Nation won the CANDO award for economic developer of the year Thursday night, the humble community of only 245 members is excited to be an inspiration to various communities all across Canada.
“We are very happy that we are moving forward, that is what we want to see, but we can’t go around and boast,” said Chief Darcy Bear of Whitecap Dakota. “There is no doubt that economic development excites me; that’s always been my strong point and there is always satisfaction when you see one project complete.”
But the Whitecap community has seen many projects completed, Bear outlined in his nomination platform Thursday afternoon at the Radisson Hotel, where the other finalist, Ontario’s Attawapiskat First Nation, also made a presentation. Not only is the community in the process of building an elaborate Casino, but Golf Digest magazine recently praised its Dakota Dunes as the best new golf course in Canada.
Ray Wanuch, executive director of CANDO (Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers), said these projects are great examples of economic development initiatives from First Nations people.
“They are competing with the best of the best and they are making money,” said Wanuch. “I think those stories are equally as great and they come from all over the place.”
Vaughn Sunday, director of economic development at the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne and Ontario director of CANDO, went even further to praise Whitecap’s accomplishments. He said the second-largest First Nations group in Canada, residing in Ontario, is working on developing a land code and bylaws for business registration, marital dispute and asset division — all areas Whitecap has already implemented.
“I believe Whitecap is a model First Nation for all of Canada, regardless of the fact that they are small,” said Sunday. “If you look at their government structure, their profitability, they are just a model and with strong leadership — Chief Darcy Bear has a national reputation.”
He explained how Bear’s leadership spreads throughout Canada, from his perspective as a practising economic developer.
“Those good news stories go across the country and people like Darcy will say, ‘This is how we did it,’ so people in other places across Canada can save themselves some mistakes and take short cuts by working on (Whitecap’s) experience and using them as a model for what we should be doing in the rest of Canada.”
But once one project is complete, he said he immediately pulls the next challenge off the shelf and gets started.
Ideas currently on the shelf include the addition of nine more holes on its acclaimed golf course and creating a twin arena complex.