T7 FNYES & YES National – Entrepreneurial conferences for Indigenous youth!

Oki, tansi dear readers,

It sure has been a minute since my last post, hasn’t it? I’ve been keeping busy, but felt I’ve been neglecting this part of my life – so I am going to change that and get back into it! I have been keeping busy networking however, and hope to bring you some new posts soon!

Today I bring you a quick post on two great conferences directed at Indigenous youth interested in entrepreneurship here in Alberta and Canada . I have had the great fortune to be a delegate at both of these conferences and want to encourage other Indigenous youth who are interested in entrepreneurship to keep an eye out for sign up information. In fact, the deadline for the first conference I’ll talk about in this post is at the end of July here in Treaty 7 – read on to find out about my experience last year and for sign up information/links. Also included in this post is information on a National conference for Indigenous youth interested in entrepreneurship that I also attended last year and in 2014…and had a great time at!

Treaty 7 First Nations Youth Entrepreneur Symposium 

Last summer, I was looking for things to keep me occupied after graduation, that would also contribute to my growth as a woman interested in the business world. I stumbled across the Treaty 7 First Nations Youth Entrepreneur Symposium on social media. I decided to sign up, wait and see what happens, not really knowing what I was signing up for. A really great thing about the conference I would mention too – you don’t need to be a member of any Treaty 7 bands (Bearspaw, Bloods/Kainai, Chiniki, Piikani, Siksika, Tsuu T’ina, or Wesley), you just need to meet the age requirements (ages 18-35 accepted) and be an Indigenous youth residing in the Treaty 7 area (basically anywhere south of Banff, Alberta – in beautiful Blackfoot Territory). The sign-up process took probably less than an hour, maybe even less than a half-hour. The conference will take place from August 20-25, 2017 this year and the deadline to sign up is fast approaching – applications close on July 31, 2017. You can find the application by following this link to their Facebook page. Just click on the SIGN UP button.

After I applied, a few weeks later, I was making arrangements to make my way out to the Stoney Nakoda Resort on the Stoney Nakoda Nation (home to the Bearspaw, Chiniki, and Wesley people), to take part in this week-long conference with 20 or so other youth from around the Treaty 7 area. The organizers (Community Futures Treaty 7) are great in that they provide this pick-up service; pick-up spots are available along the way from Southern Alberta in Cardston, all the way to Calgary, to get you out to Stoney Nakoda in Kananaskis country. The transportation is also free of charge and included in your delegation. You can also choose to make your own way out to the resort if you so wish. Here’s a picture of the resort I found online – it’s a beautiful place, too bad I didn’t snap a pic (picture credit: http://www.hotel-r.net):

Once you arrive at the resort, you will have some downtime, and you will also meet the rest of the delegates. Accommodations are shared, but included in your delegation as well. You will be placed into groups with your peers to work on projects throughout the week that will ultimately give you the confidence to present a business plan in a real-live “Dragon’s Den” type presentation at the end. The judges are all business professionals with years of experience, and they will give you great feedback once your presentation is done. It was sure nerve-wracking, and there were times during the week we struggled – but in the end, all of the groups were prepared and did a great job! Many of us were completely out of our comfort zones, but being with your peers from across Treaty 7 provides you with some comfort. The friendships you will make throughout the week will always be there, especially since the other youth are all from the same area you are from. That is what I really enjoyed about the program – connecting with other Indigenous youth from the place I call home that are inspired and interested in bettering our respective communities through entrepreneurship.

The workshops throughout the week will give you the skills required for the presentation at the end of the week, but will also provide guidance when creating your group’s business plan. These are skills that you can then carry with you for the rest of your life, applying them to your future business ideas to make them come to life. You are also provided with opportunities to refine your leadership skills; last year the N.A.P.I. (Native Ambassador Post-secondary Initiative) program joined us and provided us with a day-and-a-half-long workshop in personal leadership. We also heard from past delegates who were now running their own businesses. It was really inspiring to hear about what the past delegates are up to, and how the workshops/sessions we were going through had helped them in their successes.

The week wasn’t only about work though! We also had a ton of fun, by partaking in white-water rafting, playing a friendly game of “Fear Factor” in the resort’s pool (where I ate a few crickets :P), and of course by hearing from a number of great speakers from the business world. You are also fed really well the whole time you are there, and the Stoney Nakoda resort is a beautiful facility. Here are a few pictures from the week – I was having so much fun though, I didn’t have a chance to take many! These pictures are from part of the “Fear Factor” games held, our NAPI session on personal leadership and just before our white-water rafting trip :



I strongly encourage anyone who is wanting to learn more about the world of entrepreneurship who fits the requirements for the conference to sign up. The conference is in it’s 19th year this year, and many of the youth who have attended in the past now own there own business – Melrene Eagle Speaker of Native Diva Creations (who we had a chance to sit down with) was a past delegate and business is booming for her! She just finished another great year at the Calgary Stampede. The link for the Facebook page of the conference can be found here; follow it to find the sign-up link on the Facebook page! And remember – deadline is July 31st! All delegates receive a stipend upon completion as well, and a certificate for successful completion of the program – you can then use that stipend to invest in your business!

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You can also find more information about Community Futures Treaty 7 here – they do many other entrepreneurship centered events throughout the year here in Calgary and Southern Alberta! Follow them on Facebook to stay tuned for future events, many of which are low-cost or free to the public, and always focused upon Indigenous entrepreneurship.

YES National – Young Entrepreneurs Symposium

The next conference I want to share with you readers is the National Young Entrepreneurship Symposium (YES) (find Facebook page by following link), open to Indigenous Youth across Kanata (Canada) who are 19-30 years of age. The conference is held in a different city each year by the New Relationship Trust, a B.C. organization, and brings together Indigenous youth interested in entrepreneurship from all over Turtle Island/Kanata. Last year, the conference was held in Tkaronto (Toronto), Ontario and I was lucky enough to be selected to attend; this was my second time attending the conference, which was held in Calgary, Alberta in 2014 the first time I attended. Here’s a picture I took of my moccasins in the Big Smoke, off the balcony of my hotel in Downtown and me participating in the largest group selfie on the first day of YES 2016 :P:


This conference is all about energy! You will compete with your team of 8-10 youth from various First Nations/settlements/villages around Kanata, and you will definitely be pushed out of your comfort zone through out the 4 days you are at the conference. Your team will compete for 3 cash prizes that can be used to further your entrepreneurial projects. The competitions change every year, which I think is the best part of this conference – it keeps on changing, therefore every year you go, you can expect to be exposed to something new. Here’s what I am talking about when I say energy – team spirit is especially important, and you will be awarded points on just how well your team does not only in competitions, but also in team spirit/team effort. Here we are, dancing away for points in 2016 (lol – it was actually a video initially), our daily team look in 2014 and our team photo for social media that we created in 2014 (go Dandy Lions!):



In addition to the competitions throughout the week, delegates also learn from various speakers – some of who are very well-known in the Indigenous community. The speakers include film actors, TV actors, activists, and others who are trail blazing for our communities, including past YES delegates. The speakers that I have had the pleasure of hearing from during the 2 times I have attended this conference have always inspired me to continue on my path while helping others, as they all have. Here’s a picture of me and my good friend with some of the cast from Blackstone (an Indigenous drama that aired on APTN) in 2014 as well as my team from 2014 looking snazzy for the banquet:


I think the best part of YES National is learning about the experiences of other Indigenous Youth from across Kanata, however. The friendships I have made at YES I know will last a lifetime and I am so thankful for the opportunity to have met some of these amazing youth, who are doing great things in their communities and for the Indigenous community at large. I really enjoyed learning more about the nuances between our cultures, as well as the similarities. The best part of YES is the connections you will make, and knowing that you have people who care about you from all four directions.

Many of the youth will attend YES over and over again, and the best part of attending in 2016 was being placed on the same team again as one of my team members from 2014! Re-connecting with other youth I met in 2014 was also a highlight, and I am so thankful for our paths having crossed again. I really hope that I will be able to attend this year’s conference as well, so fingers crossed! I am so very thankful for the opportunity however to be a 2x delegate, and hope that I can attend at least a few more times before I turn 30! Here are some shots from the week and from the banquet dinner that occurs on the last night when the winners are crowned:


There are several ways that you can be a delegate for YES – you can ask your Band to sponsor you, find a sponsor other than your band (such as an organization you are known to), or pay the delegation fees yourself (includes hotel, flight, meals and registration costs). While the cost can be pricey, it is so very worth the days you will spend participating in the conference; you will have many experiences throughout the week that you just can’t put a price on. There are also a number of wait-list spots for the conference, by which if a sponsorship becomes available, it will be given to those who are on the wait-list. However, delegates are encouraged to find their own sponsorship prior to attempting the wait-list. For more information you can find contact information for the conference here. You can also find the Facebook page for YES here.

This year’s conference will be held in November from the 27th to the 30th in the beautiful unceded Coast Salish Territory now known as Vancouver, British Columbia. If you are interested in sponsoring a deserving youth to go to the conference, but maybe not have an individual in mind, please follow this link to find out more information on sponsorship opportunities – please know that it will be greatly appreciated by the youth who will benefit from your sponsorship. Cost of sponsorship depends on province of travel origination and ranges from $1500 – $2500, but this includes:

  • Sponsorship covers Travel Accomodations, Meals and Registration fee for one delegate
  • Logo placement on YES 2016 Sponsor signage at event
  • Logo included in YES 2016 program
  • Opportunity to insert promotional material in delegate kits
  • Website sponsor recognition

YES is forever indebted to the sponsors, and the youth who have attended YES always speak of it as a life-changing experience. I know for me, it has had that effect, and I encourage anyone who is looking for a way to give back to Indigenous youth to consider providing sponsorships for this unique gathering of bright, Indigenous minds. I truly believe that entrepreneurship is a way for our communities to begin to heal, and to reach sovereignty, and gatherings like this reaffirm that position. The talented youth I have met at these conferences also reaffirm that, and provide the need/demand for conferences like this. I am excited to see what this year will bring, and I am hopeful that I will be in attendance!

Thank you for reading my long over-due post. If you are interested in the above conferences, take a chance and sign up! You never know who you will meet, or what you will learn!

Again, thank you readers for sticking around. Look out for my next post – I had the great fortune of being able to travel to Tkaranto a few times after YES 2016, and I definitely made the most out of it! I visited a few Indigenous owned businesses I was recommended, and I wasn’t disappointed. My next blog post will talk about my adventures in the Big Smoke and the wonderfully authentic Indigenous businesses I visited there. Until next time – stay beautiful readers, and thank you for your never wavering support of this blog! Even when I don’t keep up with it! I’ll leave you with a little snapshot of some of these bannock/berry treats I got to eat there at the new restaurant in Tkaranto known as NishDish. Kitakitamaatsin (Until we meet again):