Nation2Nation forum panelists Miriam Schilling (from left)

Nation2Nation forum panelists Miriam Schilling (from left)

Nation2Nation forum successfully sparks dialogue

Williams Lake’s first Nation2Nation forum attracted around 100 people from all over the province.

Williams Lake’s first Nation2Nation forum attracted around 100 people from all over the province.

“They came from Fort St. John, Terrace and quite a few from Vancouver,”  organizer Lisa Mueller said Thursday after the one-day event, held at the Pioneer Complex, was over.

“I knew we would get a diverse group of people, I usually do, but it definitely exceeded my expectations attendance-wise.”

Mueller and her team at All Nations Consulting and Coaching, create the forums to stimulate conversations about Aboriginals doing business.

Guest speakers at the forum included Williams Lake Indian Band Chief Ann Louie and Councillor Willie Sellars, as well as former Haisla Chief Ellis Ross, Minister Donna Barnett, Melanie Debassige from the BC Assembly of First Nations, McLeod Lake Indian Band Chief Derek Orr and Lana Eagle from the Association for Mineral Exploration BC.

“The Nation2Nation Forum was great, well attended and will hopefully open some eyes that First Nations are open for business,” Sellars said. “Building relationships is key to moving forward and the forum was a great way to start the dialogue.”

Sellars also thought the reception and feedback was very positive from everyone in attendance.

“Lisa Mueller did a great job with the event. It was very exciting.”

Mueller said her team will now do follow-ups with everyone who attended to see if there is any interest in smaller conversations in more intimate workshops.

“We will also work with our supporters and sponsors to see if they are interested,” Mueller added. “These conversations are always broad and when there are 100 people in the room everyone’s questions don’t always get answered. We want to make sure we keep the conservation going between First Nations and Nations with industry and business and everyone that’s going on in the area.”

Tl’etinqox Chief Joe Alphonse spoke at a similar forum in Terrace and Kitimat and afterwards invited Mueller to put one on in Williams Lake.

“I felt there was a need for it here,” Alphonse said. “A couple of weeks ago we were wondering if we should go ahead, but we wanted to test the market here in Williams Lake and see what the response was going to be.”

It’s a discussion that has to take place in the Cariboo-Chilcotin, Alphonse added.

“We have to change the way we all do business and this is a chance to bring in people that have the experience, have crossed barriers and tried different approaches and how it has worked for them,” Alphonse said. “It gives us a chance to learn from them.”

Describing the forum as a big success, Alphonse said there is another topic to tackle in the future — the Tsilhqot’in title lands.

“This one was about business and opportunities. We just need to keep coming through each other’s doors. Every time we have a forum like this it brings more business to Williams Lake.”

From his community he keeps trying to promote Williams Lake as much as he can, Alphonse said.

Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association CEO Amy Thacker said she enjoyed the forum.

“I thought it was fabulous,” she said. “It was a great day with a variety of speakers and insight and a broad mix of people in the room with fresh perspectives and very honest dialogue.”

The forum attracted a cross-section of people from industry, elected officials, First Nations and non-First Nations, and people who had personal businesses who came to hear about future solutions, Thacker said.

“I think Lisa and her team did a great job pulling it together,” she added. “I would love to see some ongoing outputs from it and see future conversations from the seeds that were planted today for our region.”