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“ Not all Indigenous people want to be social workers or teachers, neither do they want to be construction workers or back hoe operators,” Monique Fry says in exasperation.

Since 2004, when she joined as an undergraduate student, Monique has been a member of the Indigenous Opportunities Committee of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce. The Calgary Chamber of Commerce has had a standing committee on Indigenous issues for about 20 years, one of the longest standing Indigenous committees of a Chamber in the province.

As a member of the committee for over a decade, Monique has become the cultural mediator, the go to person for issues of protocol in working respectfully with First Nations Elders. Please see the Elders Protocol Video in which Monique explores with Indigenous Elders, the processes for supporting a generative working relationship between Indigenous Elders and non-Indigenous groups.

A trusting and collaborative relationship has developed between Monique and the Chamber. So when Monique suggested that they should expand the scope of their small business awards to improve their support and engagement of Indigenous businesses by offering an Indigenous Small Business Award during Small Business Week, they were good to go.

The Indigenous Awards program is in its third year and the two previous successful businesses have both been both women owned and operated. Spirit Staffing, the 2015 winner, provides employment services for Indigenous people. It has helped many indigenous individuals begin and develop their careers including Monique’s husband, whose first job after completing his degree was though Spirit Staffing.IMG_2766

Check out the website of Moonstone Creations, winner of the 2016 award, for beautiful colorful Indigenous crafts from across Canada. Or better yet, head to Inglewood to experience the vibrancy of the artifacts in person and shop!

Monique hopes through programs like this, the Chamber can help build bridges between Indigenous entrepreneurs and the mainstream economy. She sees the potential for stronger relationships between the Chamber and Community Futures Treaty Seven.

Now is the time for Indigenous Businesses to put in their application for the 2017 awards. Share this opportunity with your favorite Indigenous entrepreneur!

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