Rent-to-Own Program Holds Its Own

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					May 2000 – Number 2

Rent-to-Own Program Holds Its Own
by Raymond Lawrence

M     ove over 25-year mortgage, and
      make room for the five-year
      rent-to-own plan.
   In 1996-97, the Mistissini Cree
First Nation in Northern Quebec
launched a progressive housing pro-
gram that gave them more room to
move. Matthew Wapachee, the Cree
Nation’s Director of Housing, says
they are on their way to creating a self-
sustaining program that addresses
community needs.
   The program works in harmony
with other existing First Nations and
national programs. Without it, the
First Nation’s current 500-dwelling
backlog would not be fully addressed
for at least 20 years. When the program
began, log houses built in the late
1960s and early 1970s were dilapidated,               This issue of Circles of Light              over a five-year term with five-percent
and many were condemned. The                    focuses on the theme of accessing                 interest. There’s a minimum $5,000
community needed to act quickly;             capital. Aboriginal businesses need access to        down payment required,” he says.
and did. To date, 24 families (who        investment and loan capital in order to grow and
                                           prosper. Many factors limit this access, including        “Under the program we cap costs,
will begin taking full ownership
                                       the Indian Act restriction on using reserve land and       especially construction costs, in order
beginning 2001-02) have moved
                                        property as collateral. Other restricting factors can     to make it feasible. Whenever a home-
into new homes as a result of
                                         include Aboriginal entrepreneurs’ geographical           owner wants to exceed that cost, it
the rent-to-own program. Many
                                       remoteness, lack of personal equity, lack of familiarity   comes out of their pocket. We encour-
more families have adequate
                                          with the banking and financial environment, and         age personal investment. People have
housing as a spin-off result.
                                             limited access to mainstream sources of lender       built houses at the value of $160,000
    “We had people on our waiting              and investor support. The stories in this issue    under this program but we cap it
list. We had our log houses that               look at this overall challenge, and new ways       at $116,000.”
were deteriorating and were being                  to meet Aboriginal businesses’ need
                                                                for capital.                         “The home-owners decide on the
condemned by public authorities
                                                                                                  type of house they want and they
in studies to determine if repair was
                                                                                                  decide who the contractor will be, but
appropriate,” says Wapachee. “We                 had no alternatives. The rent-to-own
                                                                                                  with the contractor, the costs are
had to come up with a new program                program deals with no banks. The Cree
to address the issue of ownership and            Nation of Mistissini finances all costs
                                                                                                                “Rent-to-Own Program...”
we had to deal with our backlog — we             and the individual pays the band back                                 continued on page 4

           Indian and Northern    Affaires indiennes
           Affairs Canada         et du Nord Canada
Co-op System Helps Keep the Far North Competitive
by Raymond Lawrence

A    dventure seekers may disagree,
     but one of the Arctic’s greatest
     challenges is keeping the cost of
     goods within reasonable limits.
   During the winter, when ice prevents
ships and barges from moving north,
air freight prices can have a dramatic
impact on the cost of goods. Bulk
purchasing during the summer is the
only way to keep prices down. That’s
when less expensive means of trans-
portation are available, like shipping
goods on barges. But what retailer could
afford to do this?
   The co-operative system in the
far North offers a solution. “During
the summer shipping season, most
co-ops buy roughly 40 percent of the
merchandise that they’ll sell in retail
that year. We finance those purchases
with something like an operating
line,” says Greg O’Neill, General
Manager of the Arctic Co-operative
Development Fund. “In about a
10-month period, the co-ops will
usually repay their loans, so it’s
like a revolving loan fund.”
   In Nunavut and the NWT, there                “The number one thing that                  From the time it started up, the Fund
are 37 independently incorporated            you have to look at is — we’re             initiated a surcharge on the finances
co-operatives, and one in northern           a co-operative organization. The           called a share capital assessment. This
Manitoba. The Fund is mandated               38 co-ops that we lend money to            is an additional charge on the loans
to lend money only to them. Because          are supported by a federation called       that is neither income nor revenue.
of its financial limitations, the Fund’s     Arctic Co-ops Ltd. which is also           “It’s an amount the co-ops pay that
administrators prefer short-term loans.      owned by the member co-operatives,”        goes directly into their share capital
For larger expenses, the Fund provides       O’Neill says.                              in the fund,” O’Neill explains. “So
bridge capital for initial costs, and will                                              an amount they pay goes directly into
                                                 “The best way of using the funds
assist the co-ops to secure long-term                                                   building up the share capital, and
                                             we had available to support the opera-
loans with other lending institutions,                                                  the resources that the fund has...they
                                             tions that the co-ops were into, was
such as the Business Development Bank                                                   own themselves.”
                                             to help finance their resupply. In doing
of Canada. The Fund also provides
                                             that, we were able to help them grow          About 62 percent of all interest paid,
long-term developmental financing
                                             in the size of their operations in their   has been returned to the members in
on a case-by-case basis. The Fund’s
                                             business. Our first year in operation      their share capital. Since 1986, the Fund
long-term development financing port-
                                             we did about $2 million in resupply        has returned $8 million of $12 million
folio is $13 million.
                                             financing, and then $14.2 million in       in interest paid by members, as “patron-
   The Fund had $10 million in               1999,” O’Neill says. “From the interest    age refunds” to their share capital.
equity to begin with; its assets now         earned, we’ve been able to build up
                                                                                          For more information, call the
total about $29 million. The original        the size of the fund so we’ve been able
                                                                                        Arctic Co-operative Development
equity contributions came from several       to increase the size of the loans that
                                                                                        Fund at: (867) 873-3481 or e-mail:
federal government programs, includ-         we can provide and allocate more
ing DIAND’s, with support from the           financing to developmental lending.”
territorial government.

Fashion Designer Built Up Business Selling
One Outfit At A Time
by Lisa Nidosky, Saskatchewan Region

W     ith $25 in her pocket and a lot
      of hopes and dreams, Saskatoon-
      based Aboriginal designing
hopeful, Eva Lizotte, was able to turn
a hobby into a career. Lizotte’s jour-
ney into the world of fashion began
10 years ago while travelling the
pow-wow circuit with her sister.
   “There was one day that I wanted
to dance, and I, of course, didn’t have
a regalia because I was working in an
office, so I wasn’t really prepared for
that. And basically overnight, I created
a buckskin dress. I hand-sewed it, and
I cut it all up just from memory, and
my sister said, ‘That’s what you should
be doing.’ And that’s what I proceeded
to do,” says Lizotte.
   Soon, dancers and people attend-
ing the pow-wows were asking her
to design their regalia and outfits.
   Lizotte says it took a long time
to get established. Her funding came                         Eva Lizotte began her career
from making and selling one outfit                             in fashion 10 years ago.
at a time. As she got more clients and
exposure, the money was easier to come
by. Her advice to new designers is
not to overextend themselves because             To improve her skills, she travelled       lot of times where you’ll wonder why
trying to get “too big, too fast” can         to various communities and spoke              you’re doing it, but just remember
prove fatal to new businesses. She also       with Elders who taught her about the          the gratification you get within your-
suggests new designers do some research       significance of colours and designs.          self...Put your heart and soul into it
into organizations, such as Aboriginal                                                      and just be true about it and it’ll work.”
                                                 Lizotte was the only Saskatchewan
Business Canada and band offices, that
                                              woman nominated and accepted                     Due to her perseverance, Lizotte is
can tap into economic development
                                              to attend the Canada/U.S. Business-           now able to give back to the community
funding to help them get their foot
                                              women’s Trade Summit in 1999. At              through her business, Kihiw Crafts and
in the door.
                                              the summit, her fashions caught the           Fashions. She went from being a one-
    Lizotte says no words can describe        eye of some powerful and influential          woman enterprise to supplementing
the feeling she gets when she sees            people. As a result, Lizotte was invited      12 stay-at-home families who work out
someone wearing one of her designs.           to the White House in Washington,             of their homes, helping her create
“It’s when a little boy or a little girl is   D.C., to co-ordinate a fashion show           her designs.
wearing a jacket or a shirt I’ve created,     and showcase her designs.
                                                                                               Lizotte’s clothing is now being dis-
and they are so anxious to wear it, and
                                                 Lizotte says the fashion industry          tributed all across Canada and exported
they don’t want to take it off. I’ve had
                                              can be a tough, costly business that          into United States. She is planning to
parents tell me that their child wore
                                              requires a lot of hard work and deter-        expand distribution into the United
their jacket for two weeks before they’d
                                              mination. “There’s a lot of work              Kingdom, France and Italy some time
take it off. ”
                                              involved; there’s a lot of dedication         in the future. Q
                                              you have to put in to it. There’s a

“Rent-to-Own Program...”
continued from page 1

capped,” he says. “We’re there to tech-       and the other on interest revenue.           built will rise without increasing
nically oversee the program and to            With the interest revenue, because           the First Nation’s requirement for
ensure that the contractor fulfils their      of the lack of funding available for         external funding. Other programs
obligations.”                                 renovations, we’re trying to create a        address different income brackets
                                              renovation fund for people under             and situations, including Elders’
   “We want to create a revolving
                                              the rent-to-own program. That                specific needs. Q
fund for the program to be self-
                                              would be in the form of a loan with
sufficient,” says Wapachee. The First                                                      Raymond Lawrence is a freelance writer
                                              an interest charge.”
Nation will soon have its initial                                                          of Ojibway and European ancestry.
investment back, plus close to a half            Current payments run close to
million dollars in interest revenue.          $750 a month for the rent-to-own
“What we’re trying to do is create            program. Under this program,
two funds, one based on principle             the number of houses that can be

Business Plan Helped Teacher Turn Entrepreneur
by Raymond Lawrence

S    everal years ago, while teaching
     high school, Lynn Wiman noticed
     that the Walpole Island First Nation
                                              Papertrail. For Wiman, operating
                                              capital is crucial as she allows
                                              customers 30 days to pay. Her
invested a fair amount of money in            suppliers, on the other hand,
school supplies — money that went             do not necessarily extend the
straight to non-Aboriginal businesses.        same treatment to her.
   As a First Nation member, Wiman               Located in the mall
decided that she could fill that niche        on Walpole First Island
by developing her own on-reserve              territory, Chippewattomii
supply company, even though she had           Papertrail consists of
no business experience. The mother            a main floor for walk-in
of three young girls then hired a con-        business and a second
sultant and started the groundwork            floor for storage. “My store isn’t big
to prepare her business plan. It was          but I purchase an in-store inventory
a time-consuming process. But she             of $50,000,” Wiman says. She adds
found that the Walpole Island First           that she wishes she had started with
Nation band operations, and several           $80,000 in operating capital, as she
other nearby First Nations in southern        had not allowed for growth.
Ontario, would definitely be inter-
                                                 She was 25 when she started her           first seven months I fell short of that...
ested in supporting her business.
                                              business, and between raising children       but I never felt like giving up.” She
   She spent a year and a half talking to     and teaching, she had precious little        believes her character is her greatest
a lot of possible clients, gathering finan-   time. “I was young and I really thought      asset, as she is personable, friendly and
cial information on their office supply       teaching was what I wanted to do. I          enthusiastic about getting to know
spending. With this worked into her           had a tough decision because I realized      her clients.
business plan, she smoothed the way           I could not do both. This was some-
                                                                                             “I think it’s the greatest thing in the
to accessing the capital she needed.          thing I had looked into, and everything
                                                                                           world,” she says about working for
                                              just fell into place. But it’s taken me
   She cashed in her teaching pension                                                      herself. “The way I see things now, it’s
                                              a year to establish a real client base and
to generate $25,000 for the 10 per-                                                        succeed or fail.”
                                              to establish my credibility.”
cent minimum equity requirement.
                                                                                              For more information, telephone
Tecumseh Development Corporation                 I’m in debt for eight and a half more
                                                                                           Chippewattomii Papertrail toll-free
and Aboriginal Business Canada pro-           years, succeed or fail. I’m not making
                                                                                           at 1-888-815-7775. Q
vided the remaining capital she needed        a penny — I pay myself a salary,” she
to purchase inventory, cover operating        explains. “My initial projection was
costs and launch Chippewattomii               for $1,000 a day in sales but during the

Dana Naye Ventures Assists Yukon First Nations
With Hands-On Approach
by Diane Koven

S    tarting a new business is difficult
     enough. But for many Aboriginal
     people in the North, starting a
small business can be a daunting exper-
ience. Besides the million-and-one
other details involved in a start-up,
the first and overriding concern is
how and where to find the financing.
Traditional banks are sometimes
reluctant to lend money to small,           joining DNV in 1987 as office manager,     in Whitehorse and 12 people in
non-traditional, often geographi-           Chambers has worked her way up the         Anchorage, Alaska. Chambers also
cally isolated businesses, so where         ladder, holding a variety of positions     chairs RAB Energy Group.
do they turn?                               along the way. “I get personal satisfac-
                                                                                          Although Chambers has no plans
                                            tion helping people,” she says. “Here
   Dana Naye Ventures (DNV), an                                                        to slow down in the near future,
                                            at DNV, we are always looking at new
Aboriginal Capital Corporation (ACC),                                                  she does hope to retire someday
                                            services and products and ways that
has been filling the gap in this area                                                  in Champagne, Yukon.
                                            we can help First Nations people. First
since 1985. Serving all communities
                                            Nations people like to come into our          For more information, telephone
in the Yukon and several in northern
                                            organization and deal with us — we         (867) 668-6925. Q
British Columbia, DNV’s mission state-
                                            are very hands-on in our approach.”
ment is “to help Yukon communities
and Yukon people become more self-              Enthusiastic and abundantly ener-
reliant by promoting the creation of        getic, Chambers is not only General
new businesses and expansion of exist-      Manager of DNV, but also a Director,
ing ones. DNV supports only those           and recently appointed Treasurer,           Helpful “Access
                                            of the National Aboriginal Capital
businesses that will have respect for
Yukon people and not contaminate            Corporation Association (NAACA);           to Capital” Tools
the environment.”                           First Vice-President of the Council
                                            for the Advancement of Native
                                                                                          on the Net
   Recognizing its many clients’ unique
                                            Development Officers (CANDO);
requirements, DNV does much more                                                       Aboriginal entrepreneurs can make
                                            and a partner in her family’s exca-
than simply lend money. The company                                                    use of two helpful “access to capital”
                                            vating and contracting business,
offers management advisory services;                                                   tools on the Internet.
                                            Territorial Bobcat. “I enjoy what
trains clients in how to write a business
                                            I am doing now,” she says. “Sitting        At
plan and how to use business-related
                                            on national boards, I have the             you’ll find the Aboriginal Resource
computer programs; and provides a
                                            opportunity to meet people from            Guide. The Guide is a user-friendly
variety of business workshops and
                                            all across the country and made            tool to help you enhance your capa-
entrepreneurial development courses.
                                            many good contacts.”                       city to use the services of financial
There is also a Youth Business Program
                                                                                       institutions to your best advantage.
to help young people between the               Among the many companies that
ages of 15 and 29 start, buy or expand      DNV has helped, is NORTHERM (also          At (the Canadian
a business, whether it be part-time,        known as RAB Energy Group). This           Bankers Association Web site),
seasonal or year-round. The mentor          business began in Edmonton in 1985,        click on the “Tools and Resources”
program enables youthful entre-             moved to Whitehorse later that year,       section under the topic, “Serving
preneurs to learn from successful           and established an interior storm          the Needs of Small Business.” There
business people.                            window manufacturing plant in the          you’ll find a brochure of Frequently
                                            Yukon. Through a series of mergers         Asked Questions about regulations
   The general manager of DNV,
                                            and expansions, including the establish-   surrounding on-reserve lending.
Elaine Chambers, loves the work she
                                            ment of a vinyl window manufac-
does. Born and raised in Whitehorse,
                                            turing plant in Alaska, NORTHERM
she is a member of the Champagne
                                            is now a 100-percent Aboriginal-
and Aishihik First Nation and the
                                            owned company. It employs 22 people
mother of two teenage girls. Since first

Royal Bank Backs Innovative
Aboriginal Banking Initiatives
by Wendy MacIntyre

A     s Royal Bank’s National
      Manager of Aboriginal Banking,
      Keith MacDonald knows the
                                               says. “We first tried it with
                                               an Inuk businessperson
                                               as a pilot project. Within
ropes when it comes to accessing               a few days, the person
capital. “Capital flows to where there         running the program
are opportunities,” he emphasizes.             called me and said —
“If we can help develop opportunities          How do we do more
in Aboriginal communities, money               of this? — It was a
is going to flow there.”                       wonderful experience
                                               on both sides.”
   Based in Calgary, MacDonald over-
sees a wealth of innovative Aboriginal            Another Royal Bank
banking initiatives designed to meet           initiative involves partnering
particular communities’ economic               with Aboriginal Capital
needs. The programs cover the                  Corporations (ACCs) to help              Keith MacDonald is Royal Bank’s
country: from an Aboriginal entre-             facilitate loans for projects         National Manager of Aboriginal Banking.
preneur training program for Cree              that most banks would consider
Nation economic development officers           high-risk, like new business                Bank of Commerce will combine
in Quebec (designed and delivered              start-ups. By lending to ACCs or            resources to work in partnership with
together with Concordia University)            Community Future Development                Aboriginal businesses and organi-
to $50,000 in support of a Canadian            Corporations, Royal Bank is able            zations to maximize communities’
Executive Service Organization (CESO)          to increase their loan capital pool         economic development potential.
program that makes CESO business               for funding new enterprises.
                                                                                              This initiative will be tried out
advisers more accessible to Métis
                                                  One of Royal Bank’s newest               as a pilot project in three different
communities and enterprises.
                                               Aboriginal banking ventures follows         community settings: urban, rural and
   Royal Bank started its Aboriginal           up on a recommendation of the               remote. “If it works, we can expand it
banking program about six years ago.           Royal Commission on Aboriginal              across the country,” MacDonald says.
“We had a number of bankers across             Peoples that financial institutions
                                                                                              Royal Bank is also a founding
the country involved because they had          work together on improving Aboriginal
                                                                                           sponsor of CESO’s Masters of
an interest and a passion for this             people’s access to capital. Through
                                                                                           Business Administration (MBA)
market,” MacDonald explains. “There            the lending circle concept, Royal Bank,
                                                                                           program which assigns MBA students
were a lot of good things happening            the Business Development Bank of
                                                                                           to specific economic development
in various parts of the country from           Canada, and the Canadian Imperial
                                                                                           projects in Aboriginal communities.
B.C. to the Atlantic region, and in 1994,
                                                                                           At least 12 universities have made
we decided to pull things together;
                                                                                           working with an Aboriginal commu-
to co-ordinate and develop products
                                                                                           nity an elective course in their MBA
and services to meet the unique
                                                                                           program. “These MBA students are
needs of Aboriginal communities
                                                                                           the future business leaders of this
and businesspeople.”
                                                                                           country,” says MacDonald. “When an
   One breakthrough program is                                                             MBA class goes into an Aboriginal
financial/risk management training                                                         community, the experience also helps
that Royal Bank provides to Aboriginal                                                     breaks down any stereotypes they
community economic development                                                             may have. This program goes a long
officers. After the training, these officers                                               way to opening up doors.”
can better advise Aboriginal people
                                                                                              For more information,
on what banks are looking for when
                                                                                           telephone Keith MacDonald at
they review loan applications.
                                                                                           (403) 292-3764, or e-mail him at
   “We decided it would be best if we                                             Q
could get Aboriginal officers into our
internal training program,” MacDonald

Lending Agency Helps Beef up Aboriginal Economy
by Raymond Lawrence

T    here’s some risk involved in
     financing developing Aboriginal
     agricultural enterprises to the
                                           capital...a source of capital that
                                           understood how things worked
                                           on-reserve, that would be more
point where they yield significant         direct, and that people would have
economic benefits. But the Indian-         a sense of ownership in,” he says.
Agri Business Corporation (IABC)            “It was felt that agriculture was always
knows the odds when it lends.              ignored in terms of economic devel-
                                           opment and that an agriculture lending
   The corporation also knows that         agency should be formed to assist
First Nations people will one day reap     First Nations farmers and ranchers.”
the rewards of the still largely unhar-
nessed potential of the agricultural          They found there was no long-
economy.                                   term planning for finance; loans were
                                           granted but operating costs not con-
    But start-up loans are not easy        sidered. Before lending money, IABC
to come by. For lenders, the risk of       therefore looks at the whole picture
default is greater than with other types   so that new entrepreneurs don’t invest
of loans, and they make them very          everything in getting set up, only
little money. As a result, First Nations   to find out later they can’t cover their              Scott Drummond is General
people were not finding the capital        day-by-day operating costs.                                Manager of IABC.
they needed through mainstream
lending organizations because reserve         “The way it’s worked out is 90 per-
land cannot be used as collateral.         cent of our loans are for cow-calf
                                           operations which are perfectly suited       over 200 head and he owes us less
   Spurred on by this obstacle, the        to reserve situations,” Drummond            that half his loan. So here’s someone
42 First Nations of Alberta took           explains. Starting a small beef cattle      who worked hard and reinvested in
action to put agriculture back on the      breeding operation costs less than          his business, building up his net worth,”
economic map. “Originally...a group        other branches of farming and ranch-        Drummond adds.
of seven First Nations felt they had       ing, as the animals free-range for
land and agriculture potential that was                                                    “One thing this company needs
                                           more than half the year. Moreover,
not being taken advantage of...there                                                   is more capital, and it’s the same with
                                           cow-calf operations are not manage-
were some band farms and that was                                                      all the similar companies across the
                                           ment-intensive so they demand less
about it. In terms of individuals, they                                                country,” he emphasizes. IABC’s interest
                                           of the operator’s time. Most cow-calf
couldn’t borrow money from banks or                                                    rates are slightly higher as a result of
                                           operators have other employment in
credit unions,” says Scott Drummond,                                                   its emphasis on developmental lending,
                                           addition to their ranching operations.
General Manager with the IABC.                                                         but as the corporation becomes more
                                               Many people working in agricul-         self-sufficient, rates should drop.
   In 1979, the federally-run Alberta      ture are gradually increasing their
Indian Agricultural Development                                                           “One long-term goal is to estab-
                                           disposable incomes, but some opera-
Corporation was providing First                                                        lish more relationships so we can
                                           tors are reinvesting in their businesses,
Nations with technical advice on                                                       do some transferring between our
                                           increasing their net worth. “I have one
farming and ranching, but more                                                         clients and mainstream financial
                                           fellow up north who borrowed money
was needed. “What they found                                                           Canada,” Drummond says. “The long-
                                           from us for 15 cows, and he now has
was the greater need by far was for                                                    term goal is to increase access to
                                                                                       capital for all our clients, ourselves
                                                                                       included.” Q

Mission Capital Ventures Into New Territory
by Raymond Lawrence

M    ission Capital is daring to
     dream. Its ultimate goal is an
     Aboriginal venture capital
corporation to help Aboriginal entre-
preneurs in Quebec access the vast
lending pool available.
   But in order for that to happen, a                                                                largest provincial venture capital group,
more comprehensive, realistic, mutually                                                              but that has now changed. Not only
respectful relationship between First                                                                is the group interested in seeing First
Nations and non-Aboriginal people is                                                                 Nations opportunities in which it
needed, says Jean Vincent, President                                                                 could invest, it now supports the idea.
and General Manager of the Native
                                                                                                        Mission Capital is among 22 projects
Commercial Credit Corporation. The
                                                                                                     from across the country, sponsored
next steps would be colossal. But pro-
                                                                                                     primarily by Industry Canada under
vided everything falls into place, First
                                                                                                     the Canada Community Investment
Nations entrepreneurs in Quebec stand
                                                                                                     Plan (CCIP). Established in 1996, CCIP’s
to benefit dramatically.
                                                                                                     goal is to gather information on equity
   “In Quebec...we have the biggest                                                                  financing and risk capital through the
venture capital corporation in Canada                                                                22 projects, sharing lessons learned
                                                       Jean Vincent, President
with money to invest in projects. It is a                                                            through both success and hardship. The
                                                  and General Manager of the Native
big network, and with them you could               Commercial Credit Corporation.                    eight major partners associated with
find the smaller investors,” Vincent                                                                 Mission Capital in contributing to
explains. “They also have a lot of spe-                                                              Aboriginal business development and
cialized funds such as in high-tech or      venture capital organization would, it                   economic success in Quebec are: Le
forestry. In Quebec, the problem isn’t      believes, be more inviting for Aboriginal                Mouvement Desjardins, Le Fonds de
money, it’s a question of project,          entrepreneurs. “If we have our own                       Solidarité des travailleurs du Québec;
a question of team, and a question          venture capital corporation, then we                     Hydro-Québec; Native Benefits Plan;
of market.”                                 could define our own criteria.”                          the law form of Gagné Letarte; Price
                                                                                                     Waterhouse Coopers; Industry Canada;
   Mission Capital’s objectives are            For the past two and a half years,
                                                                                                     and the Native Commercial Credit
to identify the Aboriginal businesses       Mission Capital has been working with
that require venture capital, and alert     several Aboriginal and mainstream
them to opportunities for obtaining         organizations on this goal.                                For more information, visit the
that capital. The organization is also                                                               Native Commercial Credit Corporation
                                               “They are each interested in this
making the venture capital corporations                                                              Web site at Q
                                            project and they are there to help us,”
aware of Aboriginal entrepreneurs’
                                            Vincent says. The idea of creating an
needs and cultures, and supporting the
                                            Aboriginal venture capital corporation                    Circles of Light is published by the
development of networking between
                                            initially met with reluctance from the                    Department of Indian Affairs and Northern
the two. At the same time, Mission                                                                    Development.
Capital contributes to the provincial                                                                 Production: Anishinabe Printing
economy by helping to create quality                                                                  Managing Editor: Wendy MacIntyre
                                                        The image, “circles of light,”                French Editor this issue: Denise Sirois
jobs and successful businesses.
                                                   symbolizes a new era of co-operative               Please address all letters, comments
   “In Quebec we have a lot of major                                                                  and requests to: Circles of Light, DIAND,
                                                efforts to build stronger Aboriginal commu-
                                                                                                      Communications Branch, Room 1901
venture capital institutions and they’ve       nities and economies. These circles of light           Les Terrasses de la Chaudière
told me that they are interested in          reflect a powerful belief in the future of Aboriginal    Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H4
looking at some Native projects,” con-      people. The image also refers to the rising sun as        Telephone: (819) 953-9349
firms Vincent. Currently, the major         a symbol of new beginnings. The five rays of the          Published under the authority
problem is a lack of business opportu-      sun represent the five challenges Aboriginal people       of the Minister of Indian Affairs
                                              are undertaking in economic development —               and Northern Development
nities of the scale that would capture
                                              skills and experience, access to capital, lands         Ottawa, 2000
the interest of a venture capital group.
                                                   and resources, markets and economic                QS-6145-002-BB-A1
Mission Capital does not think this is                                                                                                   Printed on
due to the lack of ideas. A First Nation                        infrastructure.                              recycled paper

          Indian and Northern   Affaires indiennes
          Affairs Canada        et du Nord Canada

                                      Po r t r a i t
                                                         It’s Up To You
                                                                     Ron Jamieson
                                                                    Bank Executive
by Fred Favel
I was very suspicious of being the executive sitting in the corner, who happened     sales manager, the youngest person to achieve that level in the company. He
to be red.                                                                           travelled throughout Canada and the United States. Then his wife told him
                                                                                     about a newspaper ad for a Canadian Securities course. He drove to Toronto to

          e drives a Ferrari, wears tailored suits and presents a dashing profes-    enrol, and sat in the parking lot for four hours reading the information. When
          sional image to everyone he meets. He was Canada’s first Aboriginal        he arrived home, he announced to his wife: “This is what I’m going to do.”
          chemist, first Aboriginal registered stockbroker and first Aboriginal
bank vice-president, and he sits on a multitude of boards and coun-                             He passed the course, left a good job and company car, and went to
cils. Meet Ron L. Jamieson, Senior Vice-President, Bank of                                          work as a stockbroker. He found the business tough, but he per-
Montreal, a Mohawk from the Six Nations of the Grand River,                                            severed. “I was in the market through the best part of the
Ohsweken, Ontario.                                                                                       ’80s. And went from broker, to manager, to vice-president
                                                                                                            to president in 12 years.” It was in this period that
Ron Jamieson was born September 26, 1948 at the                                                               Jamieson became involved in economic development,
Brantford General Hospital near the Six Nations com-                                                           working with Aboriginal groups across Canada
munity of Ohsweken, where, he proudly states, he                                                                through his Aboriginal Investment Services and as a
has lived for his entire 51 years. His elementary                                                                board member for Industry Canada. He served a
school was one of 13 in the community. “They were                                                                term on the Six Nations Council, started both their
federal schools and we had very few Native teachers...                                                            planning and economic development committees,
we were not allowed to speak our language at all.                                                                 and still found the time to open a restaurant, The
Either at school, or going to and from school, it was                                                            Village Inn at Six Nations. At its peak, the restau-
not allowed, in fact the penalty was the strap.” He                                                              rant employed 20 full and part-time staff.
encountered problems with other students on the
reserve. He had been away while his father worked in                                                            In 1992, the Bank of Montreal contacted him to discuss
Michigan, and he was lighter-skinned because of his                                                            Aboriginal banking. Jamieson was not impressed.
mother’s Irish ancestry. His classmates did not see him                                                      “Don’t forget, I was still living on the reserve. I had tried
as one of them, so there were a lot of minor scraps. When oto                                              to raise money for my own business on the reserve. My wife

he complained, his father replied unsympathetically, “You’ll credit:                                    and I needed a mortgage. No bank ever talked to any Indians,
have to go out there, and do what you have to do.” However, it Sarkis, T                             as you well know. So when I heard that the Bank of Montreal
was a good childhood, with summers spent swinging from a rope oronto                             was starting Native banking, I thought that it was pretty hokey. I told
into the Grand River with its strong currents — an activity that was                          them I wasn’t interested, but they persevered.”
banned, but irresistible to the boys on the reserve.
                                                                                     The Bank of Montreal contact, Al McNally, called him about two weeks later.
After completing elementary school, Jamieson went to Cayuga Secondary School,        “He said, ‘Ron, let me buy you breakfast and we will talk about it.’ Well, I’ll tell
an hour’s bus ride from home. He desperately wanted to be a chemist, and spe-        you, my real attitude was, if I can get a free breakfast out of a banker, I will prob-
cialized in industrial chemistry, qualifying as a lab technician on graduation. “I   ably be the first Indian that ever did it.”
got married when I graduated,” Jamieson says. “I was 16 and my bride was 13. In
fact, we needed special permission...but Rebecca and I are very determined people,   Jamieson signed a seven-month part-time consulting agreement with the Bank
and despite the ages, I’d have to say we were quite mature.”                         of Montreal. The bank was obviously impressed and offered him the position
                                                                                     of Vice-President of Aboriginal Banking. Although the bank’s emphasis was on
Jamieson got a job at York Farms, a canning factory in Brantford, in the quality     hiring Aboriginal people, Jamieson was adamant that it would also have to do
control lab, making 80 cents an hour. Both their fathers died shortly after the      business with the Aboriginal community.“They said, you’re in charge — go make
young couple married, which brought additional responsibilities. On his death        it happen...We had no bank branches in Aboriginal communities; today we
bed, “her father made me promise that I would keep her in school. He recog-          have 19, soon to be 21. We’ve gone from 100 Aboriginal employees to 500, who are
nized how bright she was.” Soon there was a child, and Jamieson was working          in every level of the bank right across the country and we’re the first bank ever to
100 hours a week to make ends meet, while his wife went back                                          do on-reserve mortgages without the involvement of any govern-
to Grade 10. Jamieson continued to work while she finished                                            ment, we have gone from the last place in the
her high school, as well working part-time. She later went on                                         Aboriginal community to, I’d have little doubt, first place on
to earn a B.A. and a Master’s degree in education. Their mar-                                         every score!”
riage is now in its 35th year.
                                                                                                     Ron Jamieson has made it to the top echelons of the banking
Jamieson’s next job at an auto company continued his lab work                                        industry, as well as excelling in his diverse careers along the way.
in quality control. He worked a more civil 40 to 50 hours a week,                                    What is his philosophy on success? “You really have to set your
for a few more dollars, but he had come to a dead end. “I hated                                      sights on something. And hopefully, you have positive family
it. Because at that level, unless you have a doctoral degree in                                      support around you, but it really comes down to you and your
chemistry, you are the’re not doing anything new.”                                       goal. They can support you, but at the end of the day, it is up to
                                                                                                     you as an individual to get there — no matter what!”
Then he got interested in technical sales. When he moved to
another firm as head of its lab, the management agreed that as                                       Fred Favel is an Aboriginal writer and communications
soon as a sales position came up, he would be considered. A                                          consultant.
company shuffle gave him an opportunity to move directly into
a sales manager position. Within two years, he was national