Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce

The Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce has been a leader in the Manitoba business community for 16 years. According to chair Darrell Brown, the Chamber began when “a group of Indigenous business owners decided that we needed our own chamber of commerce. It had been many years in discussion, and in 2004, 35 of us business owners petitioned the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce to sponsor us and that’s how we got started.” Since that time, the Chamber has grown into a network of over 200 Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations dedicated to supporting one another’s success through networking, education, leadership, and advocacy, all while being guided by the seven sacred teachings of love, respect, courage, honesty, wisdom, humility, and truth. Today, Brown says the Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce has “earned the respect of the public and private sector. First Nations, band councils, companies both mainstream and Indigenous all recognize and see the work we’re going.” As a result, the Chamber is able to open doors and start conversations that few businesses could alone. A key focus for Brown and the Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce is to promote Indigenous business procurement at the federal, provincial, and municipal levels as well as in the private market. Both federal and provincial governments have Indigenous procurement policies and initiatives that have historically been ineffective or inefficient. Despite these challenges, procurement remains a powerful tool for building the Indigenous economy. The Aboriginal Chamber helps foster Indigenous business procurement through efforts such as their speed networking event held last April. At the event, 40 businesses participated in several fifteen-minute, one-on-one meetings with various procurement officers. “That kind of event is really beneficial to our membership and helps potential partners understand our capabilities as Indigenous business owners,” Brown said. In addition to connecting Indigenous businesses to procurement officers, the Chamber also works to foster growth through business creation. “If there’s not an Indigenous business that meets the procurement need and there should be one, we start talking to band councils and First Nations. We’re a conduit for those opportunities.” I N D I G E N O M I C S 1 0 T O W A T C H L I S T J U N E 2 0 1 9 | I N D I G E N O M I C S I N S T I T U T E ‘ S A B O R I G I N A L C H A M B E R O F C O M M E R C E “We need a nationwide framework on how we can all work together.” Darrell Brown Beyond procurement, The Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce has been successful in improving the marketplace for Indigenous businesses through their advocacy work. They recently became an associate of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce where they will provide an Indigenous perspective on business and policy issues at the national level as the first Indigenous chamber member and as a member of the policy committee. In this capacity and others, the Chamber is able to “provide a forum for the Indigenous business community to develop policy positions and programs which contribute to the social, economic, and physical equality of life in Indigenous and all communities in Manitoba and Canada.” The Chamber’s advocacy efforts also extend to providing a platform to highlight the success of Indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs. “Many people don’t know the brilliant things that are going on with some of these Indigenous businesses and Indigenous business leaders until we provide that platform. That’s the challenge. Getting the word out that we’re here, that we’re here for business and we’re successful in business” Brown said. The Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce recognizes that more than ever before, developments within Canada and the Indigenous economy such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and treaty settlement have pushed Indigenous businesses and Indigenous well-being into the limelight. Now is the time to work together to rise up and take advantage of the many opportunities available to Indigenous businesses through procurement, duty to consult, and the advocacy efforts of Indigenous activists and allies. Brown’s message to other organizations seeking to build the Indigenous economy is one of working together in this critical moment. “We need a nationwide framework on how we can all work together. We need to start talking. Together we would be so much stronger than just looking out for our regional interests.” The Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce, guided by Indigenous teachings, exemplifies Indigenomics by fostering inclusion and creating opportunity through solidarity. Their advocacy work and efforts to highlight Indigenous business success further the narrative of Indigenous economic power, and their focus on procurement is a key strategy to building the $100B Indigenous economy and to holding the government accountable to economic reconciliation.