If you love the blues, then you would have loved to hear George Leach play his guitar. The Waswanipi Youth Centre was filled with locals and out-of-towners to see this marvelous man play his many guitars August 12. The night was embellished with awesome talents, powerful speeches and incredible Traditional Gourmet Cuisine. If you were at home, you missed a high-calibre performance by George and partner Doug Smith, which delivered the audience of about 150 people a musical show that was filled with heart-spirited, power-filled, rock-jammin tunes. The Waswanipi 5th Annual Business Development Conference’s GALA was a true success.

My encounter with George began very early in the day on August 12. He is truly a wonderful person at heart, charming, respectable, and kind to say the least. I discovered that George Leach was a Lillooet native from Sta’atl’imx Nation in British Columbia. He has been playing music for eight years professionally. He is a father to six-year-old daughter Semiah, and wrote a song named after her, and writes and produces all of his songs.

His debut album, released in 2000, was entitled Just where I’m at. It won him “Best Male Artist of the Year” and “Best Rock Album” at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards. He was also nominated for “Best Song Writer”. Leach has performed on APTN’s Main Stage, in New York, Calgary, Montreal,

and Ottawa and recently at the Festival INNU Niramu 2004 prior to Waswanipi. Leach captured the people with songs such as “Indian Blues”, “Semiah”, “Indian Time” and “Crossroads”. He moved the audience from a rocking plateau to a slow melody with ease. Leach could not fully explain his passion for the music to me.

George has won a leading role in a Steven Spielberg movie. He will be playing a medicine man and he also will need to learn the Lakota language for the role. He was talking the language to practice playing the role. We wish him success on his new movie.

In the limited time, we, the conference committee and volunteers spent with George, we found out more about him, as one of my volunteers would put it, “mey-atak-shu” meaning, “he’s nice a guy” in the Cree language. The Waswanipi 5th Annual Business Development Conference hosted its last night as a formal and prestigious night for local entrepreneurs and is considered to be our most popular event. The night began with performances from Angelina and Joylene Brien, sisters from the community of Mistissini. They wowed the audience with their vocal talents. Joylene, only 5 years old, and Angelina nearly 18, sang a duet from Celine Dion’s “I’m Alive”. Although, she is only five, she certainly touched the audience with her spirited enthusiasm. Great performance from Joylene and Angelina!! They were definitely a sweet treat.

Keynote speaker Tulshi Sen spoke on “Globalization and its Emotional and Economic Effects on First Nations Entrepreneurs in the Field of Tourism.” He took the crowd on a journey from one end of the world to Waswanipi, talking about how Waswanipi and its rich culture can be shared with the world.

The Waswanipi Development Corporation held the Waswanipi 3rd Business Achievement Awards. Our Honorary Entrepreneur was once again “Waswanipi Grocery Reg’d – Emily Gull” and Entrepreneur of the Year “Karen’s Dépanneur -Annette and Henry Gull”.

I would like to thank our sponsors for their financial contributions: Waswanipi Youth Council, Cree Outfitting & Tourism Association, Eenou Drilling Inc and Hydro Quebec. Also to all the organizations and businesses that purchased tables at the gala, thanks to:

The Cree First Nation of Waswanipi, Waswanipi Mishtuk Corporation, Jamie’s Mobile Music, Karen’s Dépanneur, Cree Trappers Association, Welfare Department, Waswanipi Youth Council, Waswanipi Cree Model Forest, Eenou Drilling, Eeyou Economic Group, and River’s Restaurant. Also a big thank you for your hard work going out to Albert Ottereyes, for winning “Most Motivated Conference Volunteer” Until next year, Semandoo Jaswaymuk -God Bless You.