FNEDN Executive Director Shaun Soonias speaking at a business summit in Lloydminster.  Photo by Joel Willick.

An annual Economic partnership summit in Lloydminster on Thursday looked at ways to grow business deals between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.

Organizers say successful events in the past have given them hope the fifth Economic Partnership Summit will lead to real and concrete business deals.

The day started off with attendees reading from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action. Specifically Call to Action 94, which called on the business sector to be an active participant in reconciliation.

“If we don’t change how we communicate and work with our neighbours things may not change and improve,” said organizer Milton Tootoosis who is also a Poundmaker First Nation band councillor. “There is an urgent call to change how we did things in the past.”

The one day summit featured representatives from communities and organizations from around the region.

Tootoosis says building successful partnerships between these Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities is vitally important to economic prosperity for everyone.

“We are trying to expose our Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in this region to the idea that partnership is the way of the future because no community can do it on their own,” he said.

Shaun Soonias, Director of the Saskatchewan First Nations Economic Development Network, echoed those sentiments.

“We need to let our guards down, get to know each other and through these processes we will find many opportunities we are not currently exploring,” said Soonias.

The summit used to be known as the Indigenous Economic Partnership Summit, but Tootoosis says they changed the title to encourage non-Indigenous communities to attend. He says some communities mistakenly thought the summit was just for Indigenous communities.

“I think it worked because I see more non-Indigenous people here than years before,” said Tootoosis. “If Indigenous people win, everybody wins.”

The summit featured several keynote speakers highlighting successful business partnerships. The speakers included Shaun Soonias, Lac la Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson and SIGA President Zane Hansen.

After the keynotes the summit was opened up for all of the attendees to network and have an opportunity to strike deals and partnerships on the spot.