We write to inform and correct the many inaccuracies found in the above noted Ponoka News letter to the editor on Sept. 3 titled Resident questions Hobbema economy.
When the writer stated he first drove through “Hobbema” he could not believe the level of poverty. It appears he may not know where “Hobbema” actually is. Hobbema is actually a small provincial hamlet in Alberta located along Highway 2A surrounded by four First Nations Reserves (Samson, Ermineskin, Louis Bull and Montana First Nations).
Hobbema is the name of a Dutch artist that the president of the Canadian National Railway admired. After putting down rail track in the late 1880s in the Maskwachees area he named the area Hobbema. (Maskwachees means ‘hills of the bear’ and is the traditional name used by the Plains Cree for the area now known around Ponoka and Wetaskiwin).
The writer of the article states the new buildings in “Hobbema” were “All of course built with government money including the new RCMP detachment building”. He also states there is currently a building boom in the entire Wetaskiwin, Ponoka and surrounding area being “financed by private funds”.
For the record, the cost for the design and construction of the new RCMP building located on the Samson Cree Nation Reserve was financed 100 per cent by the Samson Cree Nation through a private bank.
In respect to the costs for the design and construction of education facilities located on First Nations Reserves throughout Canada, it is the responsibility of the Federal government under Treaty, legal and fiduciary obligations to provide schools. In relation to the new schools of the four reserves, many of the Nations have made significant financial contributions beyond the Federal government level in order to enhance their schools.
In relation to the Samson High School, Samson Cree Nation made their own contribution of over $3 million.
Also, for the record, costs for nearly 90 per cent of all of the houses, administration buildings, municipal type buildings, daycares, recreation centres, infrastructure, water wells and related capital projects built over the last 30 years on the four reserves, totaling in the hundreds of millions of dollars, has been financed directly by the four First Nations themselves with their own funds. This can be easily verified by review of the Nation’s financial statements.
The writer talks about the reserve system not being fertile enough to nourish private enterprise. Over the past 25 years the Maskwachees Nations have individually established very successful businesses in a wide range of industries. Samson Cree Nation alone owns and operates 100 per cent of Peace Hills Trust Company, Peace Hills Insurance Company, Samson Lake Louise Mall, St. Eugene Mission resort, Samson Oil and Gas, Samson Management Ltd., responsible for the management of commercial and residential property operations and Samson Tribal Enterprises responsible for our agricultural and cattle operations, all employing hundreds of Aboriginal and non Aboriginal people.
In addition, the Samson Mall is home to gas station/convenience store, grocery store, a law firm, convenience store/water distribution centre, Cree museum, Subway franchise and two insurance companies. There are numerous independent business owned and operated by Nation members including electrical and construction contracting, lumber yard, catering, homecare and many, many others.
For many decades, the Maskwachees Cree Nations has contributed significantly to the economies of the surrounding cities and towns.
Contrary to the writer’s opinion that communal ownership of property has never fostered private enterprise and is supposedly at the root of “Hobbema’s” problem, we say we can take great pride in our economic accomplishments and successes.
It is unfortunate that the social problems that exist within our Nation (as well as elsewhere) attract all of the media coverage distorting people’s view of our community and culture.
We all need to make an effort to learn more about each other: after all we are not going anywhere.
Chief Marvin Yellowbird
Samson Cree Nation