Authors: Lana Garcelon, Derek Rope, Marla Orenstein with Colleen Collins, Janet Lane, Sean Lessard

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Indigenous communities are increasingly forming alliances with natural resources firms to create economic opportunity and enhance self-sufficiency now and into the future. They are relationships that continue to evolve.

Although early industry and Indigenous partnerships often provided limited economic benefits, the approach did not represent true collaboration nor provide opportunities for meaningful improvement.

Today, the picture is changing. There is a rise in meaningful partnerships that generate success on many levels. There are numerous cases where natural resources firms and Indigenous communities have built successful partnerships where both parties’ values and economic aspirations are acknowledged and aligned, and that incorporate a larger economic interest.

However, too often these stories remain untold.

The Canada West Foundation and its Indigenous partners want to highlight these stories of success. Our goal is to provide examples of success – and the many different ways to get there – in an attempt to help others build sustainable partnerships. By better understanding a variety of reciprocal relationships between Indigenous communities and natural resource firms, we can see how a variety of factors come together to produce success.

> Visit project page: Success in the Making

To undertake this project, the Canada West Foundation has partnered with Name to Place, a First Nations-owned research firm that specializes in community-based research and programming design, and Medicine Rope Strategies, an Indigenous-owned consulting firm that builds engagement strategies and relationships between natural resources companies and Indigenous communities. Our approach is mindful of authenticity, culture, relationships and ethics in storytelling.

We recognize that success comes in different shapes, sizes and forms. Our intent in this project is not to prescribe or evaluate success, but to enable different groups and individuals to share their successes, in whatever forms they may arise. We want our audience to know that success cannot be confined to a checklist, and that all forms of success can and should be celebrated.

Anticipated outcomes

We believe the results of this project will foster a deeper understanding of the complex relationships between Indigenous communities, resource companies and government decision-makers.

For Indigenous communities, the project will highlight some pathways that grow self-sufficiency and economic sustainability in ways that are aligned with community values.

For resource companies, the project will provide greater understanding of ways to build relationships and create conditions for the approval of new projects, and the achievement of objectives for ongoing projects.

For federal and provincial governments, the project will identify where policy actions inhibit or support the strategic outcome of achieving full participation of Indigenous individuals and communities in the economy.

For the general public, the project will present a more accurate picture of today’s reality, by dispelling the myths of dependency and showing how Indigenous communities are increasingly self-sufficient – and how this enhances Canadian economic prosperity.

This project in the context of reconciliation

As part of Canada’s reconciliation objectives, the federal government has set out a number of principles respecting Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples. These principles recognize Indigenous peoples as key decision-makers, and set out commitments to transform how federal laws, policies and operational practices respect the constitutional commitments made to Indigenous peoples.

The project – and the concept of economic reconciliation – also support the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC). Section 92 (ii) of the TRC’s findings calls for businesses and the corporate sector to “Ensure that Aboriginal people have equitable access to jobs, training and education opportunities in the corporate sector, and that Aboriginal communities gain long-term sustainable benefits from economic development projects.”

In telling these stories, our goal is to enhance the understanding of Indigenous communities, corporations, and government decision-makers about how successful partnerships have been forged between Indigenous communities and natural resource firms in Western Canada.


This report, the first released as part of the larger project, summarizes the findings of several roundtables held in Western Canada. Roundtables are an effective way to bring people together to share experiences and ideas, and to discover commonalities that create rich dialogue. We convened four roundtables³ with senior Indigenous leaders and industry leaders, in Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, and Winnipeg. Altogether, the roundtables engaged more than 70 people.

Participants at the roundtables included:

> Representatives from Indigenous organizations that promote, advocate and represent the equitable inclusion of Indigenous people, community and businesses on a provincial and national scope.

> Leaders of Indigenous communities across Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

> Representatives of companies that develop natural resources, from positions that included management, procurement and supply, and Indigenous engagement.

At each roundtable, participants were asked to describe and/or define from their perspective what success looks like in Indigenous-resource partnerships. The discussion was frank and wide-ranging as participants shared their experiences. The information shared by participants resulted in the identification of common emerging themes. The themes will continue to evolve and be explored as this project progresses.

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