Fostering Economic Development in Indigenous Communities

Fostering Economic Development in Indigenous Communities
Image Courtesy: Cadmus Delorme

In his interview with Indigenous-SME Business Magazine, Cadmus Delorme, CEO & Founder of OneHoop, described how his leadership as Chief of Cowessess First Nation focused on fostering economic self-sustainability through renewable energy, agriculture, and land efficiency initiatives. Cadmus explained that First Nations in Canada are not just stakeholders but rights holders, with reconciliation involving both quasi-jurisdiction and economic empowerment. During his tenure as Chief, Cadmus emphasized the need for cultural rejuvenation and political sovereignty alongside economic growth, ensuring that the First Nation’s business development considered future generations while maintaining pride in Indigenous heritage. This approach allowed Cowessess to excel in renewable energy, revive agriculture, and improve property management. Cadmus’s experiences inspired him to create OneHoop, where he aims to help Indigenous people reclaim control over their economic and political future. Through OneHoop, Cadmus advocates for a stronger presence of Indigenous voices in economic opportunities and calls for true partnerships with non-Indigenous businesses that support equity and decision-making power for Indigenous leaders.

Cadmus Delorme, a Cree and Saulteaux, is the former Chief of Cowessess First Nation in Southern Saskatchewan. Cadmus graduated from Cowessess Community Education Centre in 2000. He later moved to Regina to pursue a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Certificate in Hospitality, Tourism and Gaming Entertainment Management from the First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv), and a Master of Public Administration from the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy. He has also received an ICD.D. designation from the Institute of Corporate Directors and its affiliate institution, Kenneth Levene Graduate School of Business.

Cadmus, during your tenure as Chief of Cowessess First Nation, you prioritized economic self-sustainability along with renewable energy, agriculture, and land efficiency initiatives. Could you share how these priorities have shaped the development and future business opportunities for Cowessess First Nation?

First Nations are rights holders in Canada, not shareholders or stakeholders. When reconciliation is truly implemented First Nation’s will have two main relationships with Canada, quasi- jurisdiction and economics. When I was Chief, economic-self sustainability meant we must assess current business and find new markets. This could not be efficient without balancing cultural rejuvenation and political sovereignty. As Indigenous people our economic growth must complement our pride, heritage, and keep in mind seven generations ahead. Our governance structure must create consistency, low-risk, and confidence. Once all is implemented, this will shape the development and business growth for a First Nation. We became a powerhouse in renewable energy, re-established agriculture, created property management, and more once we aligned all mentioned above. 

Fostering Economic Development in Indigenous Communities
Image Courtesy: OneHoop

After significant achievements and facing hard moments as Chief, what inspired you to found OneHoop, and how do you envision leveraging your experiences to guide the mission and objectives of this new venture?

When Reconciliation is truly implemented Canada and First Nation will have two main relationships: quasi-jurisdiction and economics. When I was Chief, I found economics had a ceiling. The ceiling was internal as majority of First Nation did not lack talent but lacked resources to lift to talented levels. Secondly, many First Nation leadership have gotten strong in social impact but struggled in economic impact. Externally, many non-Indigenous business wanted partnership and alliances, but many have ceiling when it comes to true equity ownership, decision making, and sharing of the profit. There are a lot of strategic alliances where there is a fixed payment and percentage per project and normally are one-off projects. First Nation deserve to be at all equity ownership levels and alliances should be true partnership with dual decision-making responsibilities. Also, some Indigenous governing bodies (Chief and Council, Tribal Council, Metis Leadership, Inuit Leadership) seek advisors to help and non-Indigenous business, corporations, and government require Indigenous advisory services. These advisory services is why OneHoop was created. We will provide advisory and expertise services to assure Indigenous world view is provided equality in business growth and empower #92 Business and Reconciliation in the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action. 

Fostering Economic Development in Indigenous Communities
Image Courtesy: OneHoop

The historic agreement returning jurisdiction over children in care to Cowessess First Nation marked a significant milestone. From your perspective, what are the key components needed in community-based solutions to effectively address Indigenous child welfare?

First Nation did not relinquish rights when it comes to assuring families can succeed. Since 1951 the provinces and territories have driven jurisdiction when it comes to child/family services. First Nation know what is needed to help strengthen/heal the family clusters and to drive this began with asserting jurisdiction. Once jurisdiction was established, highlighting what institutions are needed was next to assure jurisdiction is supported. This includes where the First Nation sees the province/territory governments and federal government help, what judicial system will be used, who will drive the organization and more. Once these are identified, the strategies, policies, and implementation stages will create effective Indigenous world-view driven child/family services. This is not an easy journey as many have opinions and changing of lead drivers from government to First Nation can only happen with uncomfortable conversations. 

With your extensive involvement in sports and receiving numerous awards, including the First Nation Sport Award and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, how have your achievements and role as an athlete influenced your leadership style and community engagement?

When it comes to leadership one has one enemy and that is the thoughts between the ears. I have gained confidence and built trust in my own strengths and weaknesses through experience in sports, education, and pushing myself to limits I sometimes find uncomfortable. Through my immediate family’s lived experience, I give gratitude to all around me. My wife, children, and parents are my motivation to walk a life built on values and integrity. I understand I am somewhat a publicly known person and assure the pattern of decisions I make would help heal residential school witnesses and youth. That is my style of leadership and through listening/reading many self-discipline books, I created an ability to understand what influences people. I find areas we agree on and use that to build motivation and patterns when it comes to community engagement. I lead with showing my heart before I ask for their hand. 

Fostering Economic Development in Indigenous Communities
Image Courtesy: OneHoop

Looking forward, how do you see the role of Indigenous leaders like yourself evolving in promoting economic development and self-sustainability? What advice would you offer to young Indigenous individuals aspiring to make an impact in their communities?

I see the end goal of reconciliation; it will have two main relationships between Indigenous people and Canadians and that is quasi-jurisdiction and economics. We all must adjust our compass when it comes to understanding truth. Truth comes from the brain and reconciliation comes from the heart. I believe I can walk in both world views, the western-Canadian world view, and the Indigenous world view. They are both beautiful and the more we understand both world views and how they can co-exist is when we make an impact in the Canadian social and economic opportunities. It also will provide the resources to lift indigenous people to talented places we all strive for when it comes to reconciliation.  

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