Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Reserve Indian Business

There are some successful business people out in the Indian Reserves but sadly there are a lot of failures too. In our Reserve we have a on-Reserve population of about 3500 to 4000 people. The neighbour town has 600 people. There is another town next to that with another 600 people. These 2 towns border on the Reserve. The towns have all the amenities you would expect; a paper mill, 2 banks, 2 groceries, dollar store, police station, mechanics, pawn shops, 2 hardware stores, 3 licensed premises, 4 restaurants, insurance companies and a variety of other services. In the Rez there are a couple of gas stations, a hard ware store, a convenience store, and a number of social agencies and a couple of specialty businesses. You would think there would be a craft store or something in the Reserve, but nope.

I would have thought that a larger community would be able to sustain a number of businesses and the smaller communities would feed the bigger place. In this case the Reserve feeds the smaller towns. The small towns get fat on the Reserve :-). But you know, we don't begrudge them. We support the town. We just don't realize how to support ourselves.

Let me illustrate the Indian factor. I had a restaurant in the Reserve and had a host of problems with people. Still I tried to open another business in the Reserve, a sports club. It was a licensed establishment. It is very difficult to get a license in the Reserve, but I was successful. I rented space in our local arena for $3,500 per month. Hired local guys and gals and did all the leasehold improvements. Very costly venture. I had people come in and count the empties to calculate my sales. Had gang members attack me. Had the Chief tell his relatives not to come to the club. Had numerous windows broken at a cost of $450 a piece. Had to contend with threats on a regular basis. Some people were upset at a licensed premises on the Reserve while others were upset it wasn't owned by the Band. After 3 years I closed the club. My cousin had the same experience, he opened a garage. The Band sent their vehicles to town. That's just the way it goes. It is quite funny as there were French people who owned only gas station and grocery store in the Reserve for decades and no one balked at that. They ended up selling their store (and Land!) to the Band. The land they were on was Band land. The Band bought it's own land back. The French people were given the land by the Church. A long story.

I admire people who make a go of it on the Reserve. Even the non-Indian person. It is a rough go there.

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