History of Kitsaki
LLRIB is committed to pursuing business opportunities to improve the economic fortunes of their band membership for a very long time. The Chief and Council of that period noticed that if they were not involved in the ownership of a business then job opportunities in the North went to people who lived in the South. And so the decision was made to change that situation and the change was called Kitsaki Development Corporation (KDC).
The development of KDC went along with the philosophy of Chief and Council at the time, that it needed to become directly involved into business because, unless the Band was involved, its members were the last hired and the first fired. Having a company like Kitsaki allowed the Chief and Council more control and provided a vehicle for Band members, who wanted to get involved in the wage economy, to work for a Band controlled entity. At that time, it was still viable to trap and fish, but it was becoming less so each year. They recognized that their people would need to get jobs to support their families as trapping and fishing became less viable. If they controlled a business, then they had a bigger say in the training and employment of Band members. Chief and Council followed Bill Hatton’s principle’s for community development that looked at: profitable companies, control through ownership and jobs. Chief and Council recognized that this would be a long-term strategy and that they would not be able to employ every Band member. The principle was that if a Band member met the minimum qualifications for a job, they should get that job. After Kitsaki started it provided a service to the mining industry and later brought in partner’s and gave other northern communities the opportunity to provide profits, jobs and training for other northern people.
Senator Myles Venne was the leader with the fire in his heart to make change. He believed in business and partnerships and harnessing the free enterprise system to benefit band members. He knew that change did not happen overnight and that if we were patient, we could benefit from economic development. Senator Venne is a charismatic visionary and we remain grateful to him for his contributions.
Former chief Tom J. McKenzie was our first chief with a university degree. Tom knew the importance of education and consistent solid business leadership. Under Tom’s leadership the Kitsaki began to diversify and identified transportation and food processing as areas that would be of future importance. These remain important segments of Kitsaki.
In 1987 former Chief Harry Cook became chief and shortly thereafter, Kitsaki and Trimac formed Northern Resource Trucking Ltd. We entered the mainstream of business and we have been growing ever since. Harry Cook taught us the virtues of hard work. He maintained a high commitment to staff at both the band and at Kitsaki. He did not change administrative staff he only challenged them to reach higher. He encouraged the Kitsaki board of directors to continue to support and diversify Kitsaki. He worked with his councils with skill and always fostered a spirit of cooperation and hard work.
Chief Cook believes that there are always opportunities and it up to us to step up and take advantage of those opportunities. Under Chief Cooks leadership many new businesses were started and employment opportunities increased. Kitsaki received many awards for business contributions. More importantly Kitsaki grew to employ hundreds of La Ronge band members and other aboriginal people and became listed as one of the 100 largest corporations in Saskatchewan.
Chief Cook Searson became a councilor of the La Ronge Band in May 1997. She immediately took a special interest in economic development. She educated herself about each of the businesses that Kitsaki was involved with. She traveled across Canada speaking about economic development and encouraged other first nations to focus on economic development as a way to improve the lives of their band members. She continues to work tirelessly on behalf of the band membership to build economic development opportunities and to improve the lives of our band members. In 2004 Tammy as we had come to know her became Chief Tammy. She became the president of Kitsaki and president and board member for most of our other businesses too. She has stepped into the job running challenging the rest of us to keep up. Kitsaki has impacted the lives of thousands of people over the years. We employ over 600 people full time and hundreds more on a seasonal basis. We have paid out over 100 million dollars to our employees; we have paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars in charitable donations, served millions of meals, Trained hundreds of people, harvested millions of pounds of wild rice. We employ wild rice harvesters, scientists, truckers, insurance agents, golf pro’s, and accountants. We have Cree, Dene, Dakota, Metis and people descended from the four corners of the world in our businesses.
Kitsaki continues to look for expansion opportunities through the creation of new businesses or the acquisition of mid-sized successful businesses to further grow and diversify the Kitsaki portfolio.