Local People, Local Solutions: A Guide to First Nation Co-operative Development in Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan First Nations Economic Development Network (SFNEDN) and the Saskatchewan Co-operative Association (SCA)

Year: 2015

First Nation peoples are facing a wide range of challenges as they seek to secure the future of members of the communities, including future generations. In seeking to create sustainable communities, economically, socially, and politically, First Nations must also try to develop ways to circulate financial resources as frequently as possible within their communities, rather than see the money used at other businesses outside the community.

Communities have four options to consider, they can: choose to foster the development of individual entrepreneurs, form alliances with “Corporate Canada,” develop the capacity of Aboriginal governmental organizations (band councils), or encourage the development of co-operatives that both function in the marketplace to serve their members’ needs and work together, with clear lines of accountability. Each type of economic activity has its place in a strong economy, with no single type of activity able to meet all economic challenges on its own.

A co-operative is one accommodating approach that First Nation communities can come together collectively to meet the economic needs of a community. Co-operatives are not a new form of organization within Canadian First Nation communities. Co-ops exist in many sectors of the Canadian economy such as fishing, energy, forestry, housing, financial services, consumer goods, and arts and crafts. Co-ops fill an important role in economic capacity-building, providing skills development, business development, mentoring, and employment.

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The purpose of this guide is to increase your understanding of co-operatives and co-operative business development, and to assist you in deciding whether a co-operative is a good fit for your community in pursuing economic development.

There are several reasons the Saskatchewan First Nations Economic Development Network (SFNEDN) and the Saskatchewan Co-operative Association (SCA) believe this guidebook may be of interest:

  1. There are similarities between First Nation and co-operative values
  2. The co-operative structure is flexible to fit communities’ needs and goals
  3. A co-op can be made to suit the cultural desires of the community
  4. A co-operative is twice as likely to survive as a corporation because it accommodates communal expectations
  5. First Nations communities may find that co-operative business offer more options
  6. The co-operative business model is a useful and needed part of the mix of economic activity for Aboriginal communities

Table of Contents

About Co-ops
What is a Co-op?
Benefits of a Co-op
Co-operative Development Timeline
Analyzing Co-ops as Marketplace Businesses
7 Co-op Principles
Shared Values of First Nations and Co-ops
Types of Co-operatives
Aboriginal Co-ops in Canada
First Nations in Canada: The 1st Co-operators
Co-op Development: Creating Your Path
Profile: Cree 8 Worker Co-operative: Flying Dust First Nation
Profile: Muskoday Workers Organic Co-op
Pofile: Neechi Foods Co-operative, LTD.
Profile: Amachewespimawin Co-operative Association
Benefits and Challenges of Developing a First Nation Co-operative
Co-operative Development: Recommended Steps
Co-op Talk
Co-op Development Meeting
Conduct a Feasibility Study (Also Called a Viability Study)
Develop the Framework
Organize the Enterprise
Hold the Initial General Meeting
Appendix A: Incorporation Package
Appendix B: Sample Co-op Bylaws
Appendix C: Components of a Business Plan
Aboriginal Co-operatives in Saskatchewan
Sources Consulted
First Nations in Saskatchewan
Tips from the Elders