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Canada's Apartheid, by John Stackhouse
Stories
Introduction
  Nov. 3

Welcome to Harlem on the Prairies
  Nov. 3 (Saskatoon, SK)

Crystal's choice: The best of both worlds
  Nov. 5 (Mississauga, ON)

How the Mi'kmaq profit from fear
  Nov. 6 (Cape Breton, NS)

The healing power of hockey
  Nov. 7 (The Pas, MB)

Norma Rae of the Okanagan
  Nov. 8 (Westbank, BC)

Comic genius or 'niggers in red face'?
  Nov. 9 (Regina, SK)

Praying for a miracle
  Nov. 10 (Lac Ste. Anne, AB)

To have and to have not
  Nov. 12 (Moosonee, ON)

Trouble in paradise
  Nov. 19 (Tofino, BC)

A cut of the action
  Nov. 26 (Wabigoon, ON)

The young and the restless
  Dec. 3 (Ashern, MB)

The wireless warrior's digital dream
  Dec. 10 (Ottawa,ON)

'Everyone thought we were stupid'
  Dec. 14 (Salluit, QC)

First step: End the segregation
  Dec. 15 (Last in the series)

 

A cut of the action

Story by John Stackhouse. Photos by Patti Gower.
The Globe and Mail, November 26, 2001

Part 8 of 8: The way Wabigoon does business


Wabigoon locator Some Dryden people may be unsettled because the old rules no longer apply, but those on the reserve are not about to apologize. In the space of a few years, their community has built one of the largest and most sophisticated tree nurseries in the region. It has achieved a success rate, both in profits and in the survival rate of its crop, that most of its competitors can only envy.
The 40 people who rely on the operation for some, if not all, of their annual income have seen their lives transformed, judging by the new vehicles and toys in front yards that were once so barren of prosperity and hope.

In the old days, those people might have settled for a handout. But Erika Mitani has noticed more and more Wabigoon residents looking for a new deal. "People are very willing to work, and very eager to work. And they're happy when they work."

The culture has begun to change. No one gives a second thought now to all the rules for employees at the nursery, says Mitani's young management partner, Roddy Brown. People realize what it takes to keep the place ticking.

Outsiders are learning the same thing.

Brown tells the story of a customer who called on a mobile phone from deep in the forest to order tens of thousands of seedlings. He was asked to do so in writing, but didn't and then showed up anyway looking for his seedlings.

When told by Brown there was nothing the nursery could do, the man erupted in anger, made some unfortunate cracks about lazy Indians and stormed out the door.

Later, however, he called back to do something Brown rarely experiences - he apologized, and then sent the nursery staff a case of beer as a peace offering. Not only had he made a mistake, he said, he was beginning to like the way Wabigoon does business.

Unfortunately for Ruben Cantin, the growing ties between his community and the outside world cut both ways.

Voting in band council elections is no longer limited to people who actually live on a reserve, which many of the Wabigoon First Nation's 450 members do not. In the most recent campaign, the chief's opponent made a special effort to cultivate the off-reserve vote - and was rewarded with victory.

THIS STORY AT A GLANCE (Parts 1 to 8):


Photo Essay
Sowing and Reaping


1. 'It turned a lot of people into hard workers'
An isolated community tries to take control of its economy and forests

2. A road that moves back in time
A reserve with a nursery that looks like a new-age sports arena

3. The new native entrepreneur
'It kind of makes you wonder what will happen when all this is gone'

4. The tree nursery
The science of silviculture and motivating people

5. 'I don't look at them as different any more'
The nursery's immigrant chief who married a Japanese-Canadian

6. The chief's sell
People wondered, `Why are they offering this to us? It's a big corporation. What do they want?'

7. 'No doubt there's been a cultural barrier historically'
Weyerhaeuser moves in with plans of expansion
8. The way Wabigoon does business
'People are very willing to work, and very eager to work. And they're happy when they work.'


 
 

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