Members of both the community of Fisher Branch and Peguis joined together to celebrate the grand opening of the One Stop Gas & Convenience Store located in Fisher Branch on July 12.
The early afternoon event took place on the grassy field just outside the gas station, with over 100 people in attendance. A free lunch was provided for all.
Peguis Development Corporation’s general manager, Patrick McKay, presided as emcee and invited special guests to offer a tobacco ceremony, smudge and sing songs as an offering of blessings.
McKay then invited members from both communities to speak, after introducing key individuals, including previous One Stop owner John Plett, Fisher Branch Chamber of Commerce member Tannis Yuzwa, RM of Fisher Councillor Clint Webb, Peguis Chief Glenn Hudson and his council members, Annette Spence, Wade Sutherland Glennis Sutherland and Mary Tyler Bear.
“Today we have embarked on a venture that has been in the plans for quite some time.” Hudson smiled at the crowd.
“(This) stems back to our treaty land entitlement. This is what has been put in place for us.”
Hudson explained that Peguis is the largest First Nation in Manitoba with over 12,000 members. “It is also the largest in terms of our trusts. The treaty land entitlement is meant for expansion of our treaty, and that expansion not only comes with population, it also comes with a land base and through our treaty land entitlement, we look at acquiring land and properties.”
He explained that while there’s always a need for funding, this new venture would help his community to continue their focus on economic development.
“Part of that comes with the opportunities that we set out in our treaty, Treaty number one. For those that may not know Peguis was the very first to sign treaty here in Canada. Part of that treaty it was to live in peace and harmony and work together as people, not only first nations people, but non-first nations people, in settling this country of Canada. Now you’re seeing what our forefathers have put in place in terms of that treaty, and realizing what it is that they envisioned for working together.”
Fisher Branch councillor, Clint Webb, spoke on behalf of his community. Offering regrets from his Reeve, Shannon Pyziak, who was out of town.
“The council of the RM of Fisher, along with the committee members of the Local Urban District of Fisher are excited for this new ownership. We believe this act will be a tremendous asset to our community, we look forward to working with you,” Webb said.
McKay also invited up John Plett, whom he said represented the family that sold the property to Peguis.
“We have worked with Peguis community in general for about 40 years already, in business. They have been a great support to us and we want to be a support to them. We’ve always promoted community and working with the community, and this should just enhance it as we work together more and more,” Plett said.
“We’ve started something. I didn’t realize that we are the first business that has sold to Peguis in this area and again, we’re entrepreneuring and hopefully this will just grow,” Plett concluded.
During his speech, Hudson expanded upon the history of his community and the work he had done to get his community to where it is today.
“Historically, the rivers and the lakes were our transportation systems, and we were always adjacent to those transportation systems as far as our business, our bartering, our trade, our ventures and whatever it is that we’ve done, and today we have the highway network. That’s one of the things that we focused on, is where we can garner the most business as far as those transportation routes are concerned,” he said.
“I know in working with the RM, we certainly are going to have a long relationship,” Hudson said. “This is just the beginning.”
Hudson explained that when he first became Chief of Peguis, he sat down with one of the community’s Elders.
“I was sharing with him what provisions of our treaty land entitlement had in there and our aspirations to own property away from Peguis and he said, ‘You know what? That will never happen in my lifetime.’”
“Today that individual is still alive,” Hudson continued. “That Elder is still here. It has taken, in that case 11 years to own property here in the RM of Fisher and you’re going to see that more and more, not only with development at Peguis, which we’re currently undertaking, but the business beyond.
With the recent acquisition of One Stop Gas & Convenience Store located in Fisher Branch, the First Nation community is unable to offer Treaty Gas and Tax Fee Discounts until the lands have been designated Reserve Status.
Forthcoming information will be made to the community and surrounding areas as to when they will be able to offer the discounts to our customers.
“We need to look at helping ourselves as a people and not relying on government in terms of what it is that they owe us,” Hudson said.
“We’re going to do things ourselves and work with our partners, the RM of Fisher, and certainly work with businesses out there, and have that bright future for our youth. And the future of our community, of partnership, and of working together. I think that’s so, so important.”
After all the prayers, blessings, well-wishes and speeches, Hudson invited up the youth and elders in attendance for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Helpers handed out small scissors and helped the ribbon cutters, ensuring everyone had a piece of the red fabric to take home with them.
Hudson also acknowledged the RCMP during his address.
“When the RCMP were created, they were created to protect the Indians settlement,” he explained. “They (now) protect this (entire) country and I am glad to see them here today. We all play a critical role in terms of brightening our future together.”
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Hudson shared in raising the flag with all in attendance that wanted to participate.
“As first nations people, we certainly want to encourage our youth to take education and develop (certain) skillets, but today we look to our partners, the non-first nation people, to work with us. That’s something that I value a lot in terms of my leadership and Chieftainship in terms of working together and how we move forward together because it’s only going to offer greater and better things as a society, overall.”