Stop me if you heard this one. There are too many chiefs and not enough Indians. As funny as that may be there is a ring of truth to it. Cultures have historically turned to comedy in times of distress. We are no different. In fact, we are funniest when our cultures and lands and our people are under attack and dying.

Let me modify the saying to reflect today’s reality. It may not be as funny though. There are too many chiefs who try to be businessmen and too many businessmen trying to chiefs.

Look around in the community; how many businesses are band-run? How many stories have you heard of someone trying to start a business only to be refused a loan or resolution and then the same kind of business pops up a while later without the would-be business person. Now look on the regional or national level. How many are run by the political system? All of them. Let us look at fiscal reality. The money for programs from the governments are ever dwindling despite the fact that billions are being pumped out of Iyiyuuschii.

Cree government has a responsibility to the people and they need money to run the programs. If it is not through taxes then where does the money come from? Logic would say “State” run businesses. I applaud the efforts of many of our political/business leaders. They have marked the trail for us to follow and expand on. But a line has to be drawn somewhere. I would feel very uncomfortable if my chief was mandated to negotiate with a company that might jeopardize my rights as a Cree while he/we have shares in a company that would benefit from the exploitation. A code of ethics has yet to be drawn up. Are you a chief or a business person? As chief or holder of an elected position you have taken on a job where your mandate comes from the people not from the dollar. A lot of times those mandates come into conflict. The Canadian example has former PM Brian Mulroney embroiled in lawsuits and counterlawsuits with the Airbus affair. What that reflects is that it would be unthinkable for the Prime Minister to get involved in the Crown corporations.

I don’t want to seem ungrateful or disrespectful to the quasi-business people. As I’ve said, I applaud the efforts of the people who have taken the initiative and set up businesses for the benefit of all. It was hard given the situation we were in. If that is the reality we have to live with, do the politicians have to have their fingers in all the pies? The line between business and politics has to be drawn somewhere. Ask yourself, am I a politician or a businessman?

If you’re both, you can’t do both very well. Sink or swim is a term I’ve heard along the way. If you’re not swimming you’re sinking. There are and have been astronomical losses to a few of OUR companies. In the real market economy would that have been tolerated. If so, for how long? More people have to be given an opportunity to start businesses. To start swimming. To contribute. But I don’t think it should be too easy. Nothing should be given.* It has to be earned. How many great business ideas die because of poor execution or politics? Too many. As for those sinking, come to shore. There are others ready to swim.

* but that’s another editorial.

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