Over nearly 60,000 acres sweeping between what is now the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, the Onion Lake Cree Nation is home to 4,200 of the band’s 7,081 members. Located 50 km North of Lloydminster, Canada, it is the only reserve whose land straddles the two provinces. Onion Lake is of the Treaty Six Territory which was signed by Chief Sakaskohc at Fort Pitt in 1876. It was only in 1914 which Makaoo and Sakaskohc amalgamated to be one band.
The mission of the Onion Lake Cree Nations (OLCN) is to work in collaboration with and in an OLCN Integrated Approach with our citizenship and leadership. The OLCN bases its approach on ‘OLCN Nehiyaw’ perspectives to effectively implement relevant, effective, government and governance in achieving innovative solutions to achieve self-reliance, economic self-sufficiency, and community wellness.
To further this mission of participation in the broader economic landscape, and ownership and control of assets, OLCN created the Onion Lake Group of Companies Corporation (OLGCC). Through consultation, procurement strategies and other factors enabling growth, the Indigenous economy will significantly contribute to the Canadian GDP, potentially exceeding $100 to $150 billion in the next 10 to 15 years. Investments by Indigenous infrastructure and Indigenous businesses like OLGCC illustrate the growth of this market and the ability to generate wealth for the community, while maintaining a strong image of professionalism and effective management of assets.
With its genesis in 1985, the pioneering Northbridge Industries was the first company in the group, which was successful in creating employment for members and provide services for the community. This led to the creation of Onion Lake Enterprises, Makaoo Mall Development, Onion Lake Gas Cooperative and Beretta Pipeline and Construction.
In 2004, Northbridge Industries was renamed to Onion Lake Business Development Corporation with the focus to establish new businesses and employment. In the last 10 years, six more companies were developed; Askiy Apoy (Fluid from the Earth) Hauling; All Nations Building Supplies; Onion Lake Wells Servicing; Onion Lake Vacuum & Pressure; Onion Lake SGI; and OL Net Services. Onion Lake Business Development was renamed to Onion Lake Group of Companies Corporation in 2022 to reflect the shift from a non-profit corporation to a Limited partnership/ General Partnership.
“In the last year our approach to sustainability has been compiling information with feasibility studies and business plans, to ensure we have the right information for important decision-making initiatives,” says Tom Chief, Chief Executive Officer. “Our strategic priorities are based on self-sustaining opportunities that focus towards organizational, environmental and economic growth for our Nation.”
“At OLGCC we manage the businesses of the Nation and provide guidance and recommendations on economic development opportunities for the community, while maintaining our focus on our people and sustainability,” says Chief.
OLGCC has created a diverse portfolio of companies, all 100 per cent First Nation owned. “We are very proud that majority are managed by our very own band members,” says Chief. “We categorize our companies in two areas: Oil and Gas Industry and Commercial/ Retail Industry. Our managers dedication and our Nation’s support is the main contributors to our business successes.”
OLGCC Companies consist of:
- Onion Lake Oilfield Services
- Askiy Apoy Hauling
- OL Wells Servicing
- OL Vacuum & Pressure
- All Nations Building Supplies
- Beretta Pipeline and Construction
- Makaoo Mall Travel Centre and Grocery Store
- Onion Lake Enterprises.
- Onion Lake Gas
- OL Net Ltd.
- Onion Lake SGI MVD
OLGCC has had many successful private sector partnerships since its inception. One such example is OL Pharmacy (2005) which has supported the provision of pharmaceutical services locally to OLCN members and surrounding communities.
Onion Lake has been in Oil Production since in 2003 with International Petroleum Corporation, and Summit Earth Services is a joint venture partnership called Turtle Islands Earth Services (2021) with Onion Lake, Beretta Pipeline and Construction.
Of these partnerships, Chief says, “Our mandate has never changed when it comes to partnerships. We first look at what opportunities can this partnership bring for our members or benefit our companies in the long-term, transparency to information, good relationships and strong communication is important in any partnership, but that partner must recognize and understand that Onion Lake has their own voice and our own way of doing things.”
The OLGCC Board of Directors report to our Shareholders (Chief and Council) Quarterly. “Communication and having dialogue are important to our Nation to ensure we are on the same path going forward,” says Chief. “We also package information of our Companies to distribute at membership meetings or other community events.”
OLGCC also works with training centers and education to prepare our members for upcoming employment opportunities by recruiting members in apprenticeship and try to place them within our companies. “We like to take our students in hopes to mentor under our companies and develop a career within our companies. It has always been our mandate to hire and invest in our members,” says Chief.
The benefits of capital and economic development in OLCN has been enormous. The primary achievement of the OLGCC has been the steady and consistent employment and income for many members and families. Over 90 per cent of OGLCC employees are band members—a source of great pride.
“We work hard retraining some of the community income by providing local services to our members and reinvesting it back into our people and it is the greatest benefit of it all,” says Chief. “We assist with contributions to help with maintaining our infrastructure and contribute sponsorships to our sports teams, elite athletes, and community events.”
“Self- reliance is definitely something we are working towards. We are driven to ensure capital is secure for future ventures or expansion of our companies,” says Chief. “Onion Lake is always presented with business opportunities, investments, and partnerships. It is our services at OLGCC where we are able to contribute and provide assessments and recommendations that are at the best interest of the Nation.”
For more information, please visit www.onionlake.com