The following story was published by the Saskatoon StarPhoenix on September 24, 2012.

BY JASON WARICK, THE STARPHOENIX

First Nations people must stop thinking small and look at business opportunities across North America and beyond, says the head of a U.S. “Indian Enterprise” organization.

“I believe there are opportunities in the billions in business,” said Gary “Litefoot” Davis, a member of the Oklahoma Cherokee and CEO of the National Centre for American Indian Enterprise Development.

NCAIED President and CEO delivered the opening keynote address at the 2012 Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations “Trading Place” Economic Development conference in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Canada.

“The most important thing as warriors that we can do is to come together and make money, because that’s the language the world speaks.”

Davis was one of several speakers, which included Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Monday at Prairieland Park for the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations’ Trading Place conference, which also runs today.

Davis parlayed an acting and music career into a business empire that includes his work promoting First Nations enterprise. He said there should be no distinctions between U.S. and Canadian First Nations people, referring to “that border we didn’t put there.”

If indigenous groups pool their resources and investment dollars, they could reap substantial benefits, he said. Too many bands focus solely on their own reserve, or the immediate vicinity, he said.

Davis also emphasized the need for First Nations to separate business from politics.

He held up a U.S. dollar to illustrate his points.

“They take this here in Canada. They take it in Europe. Opportunity exists everywhere,” he said.

“We are a sleeping giant, but some of you don’t even know you’re sleeping.”

Davis will deliver a similar message in a speech at the White House in Washington on Thursday.

“Look at who you are. Look at why the Creator put you here,” he said. “Are you living up to your potential? We have it in us to do these things.”

Kennedy told the conference that Saskatchewan should be moving toward cleaner energy.

He said the province has tremendous potential for wind and solar power, and suggested it relies too much on coal-burning power plants.

He said such energy is too expensive for taxpayers and harms the environment.

Saskatchewan is one of the most coal dependent regions per capita in North America.

“The issue is the illusion that you have cheap coal here,” he said “Coal is heavily subsidized and it’s imposing far greater costs on the people of Saskatchewan. If you took the whole community costs, it would be much cheaper to power this province on wind and solar.”

The “catastrophic” environmental impact isn’t part of any economic equation, he added.

“This is one of the costs of coal that they don’t tell you about when they say that it’s 11 cents a kilowatt hour. I would bet you … that every fish in Saskatchewan has dangerous levels of mercury in its flesh because of coal-burning power plants.”

Kennedy is serving as a senior lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council in America.

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