Protect, Preserve, Promote and Enhance


To protect, preserve, and promote and enhance First Nations people’s inherent rights, languages, customs and traditions: this was the goal of the founding members of the Southern Chiefs Organization, established in 1999. 30 years later, the organization’s independent political forum works to improve the quality of life for the southern region first nation’s membership through community planning and regional focused solutions.

Grand Chief Jerry Daniels spoke with Business Elite Canada about creating solutions for an improved quality of life for the 24 First Nations members in Southern Manitoba and beyond. Daniels shares a unique perspective for SCO, as he is an independent business owner (his company is Innovative Educational Business) and a member of several boards and councils at the local, regional, and national levels. In 2012, Grand Chief Daniels became a key organizer of Idle No More, a grassroots movement for indigenous sovereignty, indigenous rights and respect for the treatie, environmental degradation and economic and social inequality.

At the time of the interview in late August, SCO was hosting its Anishinaabe Land-Based Education Conference in Winnipeg, MB. The conference takes a holistic approach to education by incorporating indigenous customs and traditions. The conference serves to re-engage peoples with their natural world and connect the dots between various sectors of our society in order to achieve healthier outcomes for people, land and all living beings, while creating Indigenous-led curriculum design, as is but one example of the work the SCO does.

“The SCO has many projects going on from social enterprises to labor-for-hire. SCO has established an Economic Development Corporation, to improve of the economic, social, and political well-being of our Nations,” says Grand Chief Daniels. “Cultural engagement and indigenous identity are factors in today’s society. Cultural engagement has proven to aid against mental health symptoms, and other factors plaguing indigenous culture.”

“To this end, The SCO has established a health program, which created a Non-insured health benefits navigator for community members who are having difficulty accessing non-insured health benefits,” continues the Grand Chief. The SCO Health Unit was established in 1999 in response to the high rates of disease
occurring within the Southern First Nation communities through a resolution by the SCO Chiefs-in-Summit. Since then, the SCO Health Unit has continued to provide key support areas requested by member First Nations in the areas of: advocacy, advisory, facilitation, communication, policy development, and research. The SCO Health Unit also strives to keep apprised of current health issues and concerns.

“Also under the health category is health research and engagement, which addresses health priority issues,” says Grand Chief Daniels. “SCO has established a Violence Prevention Program called “Protecting our Women” and safety-planning program called “Mino-Pimatisiwin”, created to address the systemic barriers faced by incarcerated indigenous women. SCO also has a justice, environment, and special projects programs.”

The Violence Prevention and Safety Panning Policy Area focuses on empowering Indigenous women and to change socially constructed attitudes and misperceptions about Indigenous women as they continue to perpetuate violence and create institutional barriers in accessing resources. Through this dedication, SCO anticipates systematic changes by policy makers to prevent barriers, end violence and promote equitable rights for Indigenous women.

One of Grand Chief Daniels’ main pillars is social improvement through economic development. A major accomplishment in this realm is the development of the Economic Development Corporation. Through an auspicious strategic joint venture, the Economic Corporation and a company called Working Warriors have committed to working together to bridge the gap between the workforce and Indigenous Communities.

“Since 2015, Working Warriors has given indigenous job seekers the ability to access thousands of jobs across Canada while their communities gain a secure, customizable tool that holds a plethora of data to allow for comprehensive community readiness planning,” according to the company. “It also serves as a pay-to-access engagement tool for businesses, organizations, schools and governments seeking a skilled workforce, indigenous knowledge keepers and volunteers.

“Founded by Running Deer Resources (RDR), Working Warriors was developed after nearly a decade of research and engagement with indigenous communities. Lead by RDR President Jamie Saulnier, development was undertaken with the understanding that meaningful engagement with Indigenous communities and ensuring economic growth of Indigenous communities will benefit and contribute to Canada’s overall economic growth.”

Looking forward, SCO will continue to “To build and support community specific economic development projects,” in keeping with the organization’s mission.

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