Past Speakers

Dawn Madahbee Leach

Dawn is a proud member of the Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation on Manitoulin Island in Northern Ontario where she has served as a member of her community’s Council. Since 1988, she has been General Manager of the Waubetek Business Development Corporation, an Aboriginal Financial Institution that provides fi nancing and economic services to Aboriginal entrepreneurs and First Nation communities throughout North-East Ontario. Waubetek also delivers an Aboriginal business program to Aboriginal people in Southern Ontario and aquaculture services to Aboriginal people in Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Under her leadership, Waubetek has proudly invested $75 million in 2,216 Aboriginal businesses who experience a business success rate of 94%. A graduate of the University of Waterloo Economic Development Program, Ms. Madahbee also holds a degree in Political Science with a minor in Law from York and Laurentian Universities. Dawn is the fi rst Aboriginal woman in Canada to head up a regional commercial lending institution. In 2004, Dawn was recognized as a “Mover and Shaker” for economic development in the Northern Ontario Business newspaper. She was also celebrated as one of Laurentian University’s 25 Alumni during the university’s twenty-fi fth anniversary. She also contributed chapters to two published book compilations: 1) “Changing Lives: Women of Northern Ontario”; and 2) “Governance in Northern Ontario – Economic Development and PolicyMaking” by Segsworth and Conteh with her chapter “First Nations Inclusion: A Key Requirement to Building the Northern Ontario Economy”. She has been a speaker at international forums in Australia and Europe on Indigenous economic development.

Dawn currently serves on various Boards and committees including the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board where she is Interim Chair; the Board of the Peace Hills Trust Company; the Board of the Northern Policy Institute (a northern Ontario think tank); and the Board of the North-East Local Health Integrated Network. She is a former Chairperson of the Northern Ontario Development Corporation, and former Director of both the Ontario Development Corporation and Innovations Ontario. Dawn is the owner of Indigenous Business International, a company that provides assistance to Indigenous peoples on sector strategies and corporate partnerships.

Sharing her knowledge on the Aboriginal economy, she was instrumental in the development of the National Aboriginal Economic Benchmark Report (2012) and the follow-up National Aboriginal Economic Progress Report (2015). She also co-chaired the development of the “Anishnawbek Nation Economic Blueprint” which is used today by several First Nations in Ontario. She also guided the establishment of the internationally renowned “Great Spirit Circle Trail” Aboriginal tourism organization based on Manitoulin Island in Northern Ontario.

She believes strongly that economic development and following the Anishinabek traditional values are the keys to addressing the challenges that her people face. She is a northern style traditional dancer on the powwow circuit. Dawn is happily married to the National Hockey League legend Reggie Leach and is the proud mother of Crystal Madahbee.

Orene Askew AKA O-Show

Orene Askew aka DJ O Show is from the Squamish First Nation in Vancouver. DJ O Show is the Head Instructor at the School of Remix, teaching students with an inspired approach to pursue their dream of becoming a DJ. In addition to DJ’ing, she is an inspirational speaker, traveling across Canada and the US to bring ambition and drive to youth, encouraging them to make any dream they have into a reality. In 2015 DJ O Show won a BC Aboriginal Business Award for Outstanding Business Achievement and was nominated for Young Entrepreneur of the year by The North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce. O Show has played many shows which include We Day Vancouver, The Honda Celebration of Lights, The Vancouver International Film Festival, The Americas Masters Games, and Vancouver Eco Fashion Week. Coming from a diverse background, O Show is driven by her passion. Her mixes make people happy and always keep the dance fl oor packed. With an outgoing personality and friendly demeanor, O Show is one of the easiest DJ’s to work with.

Peter Lantin, President of the Haida Nation

Kil tlaats’ gaa, Peter Lantin was fi rst elected President of the Haida Nation in 2012 and was re-elected in December 2015 for a second 3-year term. The Council of the Haida Nation is the political body of the Haida nation. As the primary spokesperson on behalf of the Haida Nation, kil tlaats’gaa is responsible for fulfi lling the Council of the Haida Nation’s mandate, which is to “strive for full independence, sovereignty and selfsu ciency of the Haida Nation”.

With over 20 years experience in governance and administration, kil tlaats’gaa has served as chairman of the Gwaii Trust Society, an $80-million community trust fund, and Chief Operating O cer of Tricorp (Tribal Resources Investment Corporation) for 7 years. He will be sharing his experiences as being a young leader throughout his professional career and wishes to share these experiences with the YES delegates and encourages youth leadership in all areas within governance, business and community development.

Kil tlaats’gaa is 41 years old and calls Old Massett, Haida Gwaii home with two daughters, Taylor and Brooklyn.

Ryan McMahon

Ryan has blended the best practices of life skills, leadership programming, cultural teachings and Indigenous world views to create presentations grounded in fun, challenging & practical pedagogies that engage & activate communities. He tailors each presentation to the goals of the host community. When not on stage and when not in a studio, Ryan can be found helping Indigenous Youth communities in the area of Leadership & Empowerment.

Ryan is the CEO of the Makoons Media Group – a digital media company that focuses on telling Indigenous stories to worldwide audiences. In October 2013, Ryan founded Indian & Cowboy, the world’s only listener-supported Indigenous podcast media network. Creatively, he has grown the Red Man Laughing & Stories From The Land podcasts into major players in the Canadian digital media space

Ryan became the 1st Native comedian to ever record a full mainstream comedy special with CBC TV titled UnReserved, and later that year made his debut at the prestigious Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal, QC where he was named to the New Faces list at the festival. His full-length CBC comedy special, Red Man Laughing, aired nationally on CBC Radio 1 in 2015.

He has a serious side too, as evidenced in his 2016 documentary, Colonization Road featuring Canada’s colonial past told through interviews, comedy & rantings, with its world premiere at the 2016 ImagineNATIVE Film & Media Arts Festival in October 2016.

Ryan has written for the Globe & Mail, VICE, CBC, CBC Aboriginal, APTN among others, and has earned his degree in Theatre & and is a graduate of the prestigious Second City.

Kanata Conroy, In-House Counsel, Intact Insurance Company

Kanata Conroy is a member of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, originating from Tyendinaga and living in Ottawa. Kanata is a civil litigator, who has worked inhouse at Intact Insurance Company for 5 years. Kanata’s primarily area of practice is personal injury matters, such as motor vehicle accident litigation. Kanata attended law school at the University of Western Ontario and graduated in 2010 with a J.S.D. Tory Writing Award. While attending law school, Kanata spent her summers working at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, with the Ethics O ce and Institute of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health. Kanata has continued her interest in healthcare by volunteering at The Ottawa Hospital.

Santee Smith

Tekaronhiáhkhwa Santee Smith is a multi-disciplinary artist, producer and director from the Kahnyen’kehàka (Mohawk) Nation, Turtle Clan, Six Nations of the Grand River. At the age of two years old, Santee was creating dances and after an injury that left her with two broken legs, she went on to complete six years of formal dance training at Canada’s National Ballet School. After leaving the ballet world, Santee went onto postsecondary education completing Physical Education and Psychology degrees from McMaster University and a Master of Arts in Dance from York University. While she was working on her Masters she also produced her fi rst choreographic work entitled Kaha:wi based on her family creation story. In 2005, Santee Smith founded Kaha:wi Dance Theatre (KDT) as vehicle for her artistry which she would grow into an internationally renowned company sharing Indigenous artistic voice globally. Her body of works include 12 full productions and over 9 short performance works. Santee has appeared on numerous television and documentary shows, and special events like the upcoming Opening Ceremonies of the North American Indigenous Games 2017.

Stevie Salas

A guitar player, writer, producer, and composer, Stevie Salas has recorded on over 70 di erent albums with artists as diverse as George Clinton, Justin Timberlake, Buddy Miles, T.I., Mick Jagger, and Rod Stewart. Having sold over two million solo albums around the world, Stevie has been cited as one of the top 50 guitarists of all time.

Dreaming of a career in music, Stevie left the small town of Oceanside, California in 1985. Eight months later he was discovered by funk music legend George Clinton as the lead guitarist for Clinton’s albums. Stevie received his fi rst major label producer credit with “Was (Not Was)” when he co-produced the UK hit “Out Come the Freaks” from the Album “What up Dog?” Rolling Stone Magazine listed “What up Dog?” as one of the top 100 records of the decade.

In 1988, Stevie was asked to join Rod Stewart on a world tour as lead guitarist. Skipping cities in a private jet to sold-out stadiums led to Stevie signing the largest record deal Island Records had ever paid for a new artist. Stevie’s fi rst record, “Colorcode,” is still a cult classic in the UK and Europe, and his second solo album, “Back from the Living,” ousted the Rolling Stones and Aerosmith for “Best Album” in Japan. From 2006 to 2010, Salas served as music director and consultant for American Idol and 19 Entertainment, nurturing Kris Allen, Adam Lambert, Chris Daughtry, and their respective touring bands for subsequent American tours.

An accomplished composer, Stevie is credited with providing the score for several fi lms including Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and the 2009 fi lm Darfur. Over 50 of Stevie’s compositions have been released on major labels.

A Native American, Stevie has been involved in prominent projects that support indigenous communities, including serving as the Advisor of Contemporary Music at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. For his e orts in support of Native American culture, Stevie received the Native American Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.

Stevie is continually making his mark in television by working as the Executive Producer on several successful venture. He co-hosted Arbor Live!, a musical variety show featuring aboriginal artists for 3 jampacked seasons.

He’s currently working on a PBS documentary entitled Rumble and episodes of Catch the Dream Bios with Adam Beach.

In 2014 Stevie wrote When We Were the Boys, a memoir about Stevie’s fi rst tour with Rod Stewart. The book met with outstanding reviews and was #1 for 8 weeks on Amazon’s book chart.

Michelle Thrush

Michelle Thrush has been working professionally in fi lm, television and theatre for over twenty years – having experienced her fi rst fi lm role at the age of seventeen. At the age of twenty-one, Michelle pursued her dream of acting professionally.

Ms. Thrush has currently over forty professional credits in the entertainment industry and is an award winning actress with many noted accomplishments.

Her latest achievements include:

  • Ms. Thrush won Best Alberta Actress 2012 2013 2015 and two nominations in 2016
  • 2012 Rosie Award for Best Performance by an Alberta Actress
  • Appointed 2012 Alberta Aboriginal Role Model of the Year
  • 2011 Gemini for Best Performance by an Actress in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role for her character Gail Stoney from the hit APTN dramatic series “BLACKSTONE”
  • 2009 Best Supporting Actress in San Francisco at the “American Indian Film Festival”
  • In 1999, she received the Best Supporting Actress at the First Americans in the Arts Awards in Los Angeles for her role opposite Jack Palance in the comedy western “EBENEEZER”

Michelle’s other television credits include being a regular on the popular APTN Showcase series “MOCCASIN FLATS”, as well as starring as Kate in two seasons of the comedy hit “MIXED BLESSINGS”. Well known for her recurring role as Sylvie Lebret in the hit CBC series “NORTH OF 60.”

Kristine Crook, Entrepreneur/Social Activist

Kristine Crook is a proud member of the Tahltan Nation in northern British Columbia. Kristine is a Power Engineering graduate from BCIT. She has found success early in her career in real estate after purchasing her fi rst home in 2004 she went on to establish a successful business in renovating, flipping properties. In recent years, her focus has shifted to the beauty industry and she is now an established lash artist and is currently building her business as a permanent makeup artist. Kristine spends much of her free time working with multiple charitable organizations including Big Brother & Big Sisters and Moms Against Hunger. Since 2009 Kristine has been an ambassador & board member for Hope Africa Kabale Society. She avidly travels the world focussing on her spiritual growth and connection.

Jennifer David

Jennifer David is an NVision Insight Group (formerly called Stonecircle Consulting) partner, board member and senior consultant who has worked in the fi eld of Indigenous communications and consulting for more than 15 years. Prior to consulting, Jennifer was the Director of Communications for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. She started her own communications consulting company as a youth entrepreneur. A member of Chapleau Cree First Nation, Jennifer has degrees in Journalism and English literature from Carleton University. As a skilled and experienced communicator, planner, writer and facilitator, Jennifer brings energy, creativity and professionalism to every project, driven by her commitment to the promotion of Indigenous communities and cultures. She is currently a board member of Makonsag, an urban Aboriginal Head Start/ preschool program in Ottawa.

Chastity is sole proprietor to her own consulting business, Chastity Davis Consulting and founding partner of the Raven Institute. She is also a board member at the Minerva Foundation and Chair of the Ministers Advisory Council on Aboriginal Women. Chastity will be completing her MA in International and Intercultural Communications in Winter 2016, has a BA in Professional Communications and a Diploma in Marketing Management and Professional Sales. Chastity has spoken at several international, national, and local events on the importance of building bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. She dedicates her work to her 2 nephews, niece, and 9 year-old brother, as they are the future generations.

Mary Jane Loustel

Mary Jane leads the IBM Canada strategy to advance Indigenous participation in the technology sector. In her work, she leads four key areas of development: Employment, Business Partnership, Community Relations and Community Investment. A Chartered Accountant, with a Bachelor of Commerce degree, Mary Jane also holds a Masters degree in Native Studies on the topic of entrepreneurship and economic development in which she focused on women entrepreneurs and business value systems. Mary Jane enjoys her professional and community work. In 2015, she co-founded SHE Day, a one day event in which Winnipeg women network, share leadership experiences and build alliances. Mary Jane currently serves as on the Winnipeg Police Board, the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business and for the community organization Ka Ni Ka Nichihk. As a leader, Mary Jane believes in forging new pathways and in her work she creates opportunities for enriched social and economic engagement.

Chastity Davis

Chastity Davis is a mixed heritage woman of First Nations and European descent. She is a proud member of the Tla’amin Nation, located in Powell River just o the beautiful Sunshine Coast of BC. Chastity strives to keep her sacred First Nations culture, traditions, and values incorporated into her modern day life. She feels it is her life purpose to facilitate the building of bridges between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people and has dedicated her professional and personal life to do so.

Chastity is sole proprietor to her own consulting business, Chastity Davis Consulting and founding partner of the Raven Institute. She is also a board member at the Minerva Foundation and Chair of the Ministers Advisory Council on Aboriginal Women. Chastity will be completing her MA in International and Intercultural Communications in Winter 2016, has a BA in Professional Communications and a Diploma in Marketing Management and Professional Sales. Chastity has spoken at several international, national, and local events on the importance of building bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. She dedicates her work to her 2 nephews, niece, and 9 year-old brother, as they are the future generations.

Deborah Richardson, LL.B, BA

Deborah Richardson, LL.B, BA is a seasoned intergovernmental a airs executive and Indigenous relationships expert. A business-savvy lawyer, with nearly two decades of private, not-for-profi t and public sector experience, Deborah is a true visionary and dealmaker with an abundance of wisdom and experience in addressing inter-governmental a airs matters at all levels of government. Her caring, collaborative style and ability to nurture relationships have demonstrated wide-ranging impacts in the fi eld of Indigenous a airs Canada-wide. A forward thinking, fi scally responsible leader, she has been able to e ectively motivate large, diverse teams in rendering her ability to deliver, transform, connect and inspire.

Her distinguished career began as an articling student in a criminal law fi rm in Ottawa then she jumped into the fi nance industry where she worked as a business banker before becoming Manager of Diversity for the Royal Bank of Canada.

Over the years, Deborah Richardson has been on the forefront of Indigenous A airs, spearheading many wide-ranging initiatives benefi ting Indigenous youth, addressing poverty in the Far North and improving social conditions in Indigenous communities. Her professional foray into Indigenous A airs began as Executive Director of the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto in 1999. She used her fi nancial and operational expertise to build the Centre into one of the strongest Aboriginal organizations in Toronto. Much sought after for her operational experience, she then served as Director of Operations and Aboriginal Business Development for the OI Group of Companies located in Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. Beginning and since 2004, Deborah has held progressively senior positions in the federal and provincial public service including Regional Director General for Indian and Northern A airs Canada, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Aboriginal Relationships and Ministerial Partnerships division of the Ontario Ministry of Aboriginal A airs, and the Assistant Deputy Minister at the Ring of Fire Secretariat at the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines. In 2013, Deborah took a two-year leave of absence from the provincial government to pursue an Executive opportunity in the private sector with a company based out of Akwesasne First Nation called Ishkonigan. She is currently the Deputy Minister of Ontario Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation since her appointment in January 2015. She has been recognized as a Top Leader under 40 (in 2008) and was selected for the Governor General in Leadership Program.

Deborah is a proud Mi’gmaq woman with strong ties to her home community of Pabineau First Nation on the north shore of New Brunswick. She lives with her husband Bob, and her daughters Jasmine and Fiona. She also has three step children: Katherine Faith, Gri n and Miigwans.

Jean Paul (JP) Gladu, President & CEO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB)

JP is currently the President and CEO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) based in Toronto. Anishinaabe from Thunder Bay JP is a member of Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek located on the eastern shores of Lake Nipigon, Ontario. JP completed a forestry technician diploma in 1993, obtained an undergraduate degree in forestry from Northern Arizona University in 2000 and holds an Executive MBA from Queens University.

JP has over two decades of experience in the natural resource sector. His career path includes work with Aboriginal communities and organizations, environmental non-government organizations, industry and governments from across Canada.

In JP’s current capacity at CCAB, he speaks extensively not only across Canada but internationally as he shares the challenges and successes of Aboriginal business in Canada today. In 2014 he addressed delegates at the World Indigenous Business Forum in Guatemala; in 2015k, he presented at both the Sodexo Quality of Life Conference and the Corporate Leadership Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Building a Community of Practice Conference in New York City.

Currently, JP serves on the Colleges and Institutes Canada (previously ACCC), the Northern Policy Institute, Canadian Foundation for Economic Education, is an advisory member to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, a committee member to the Provincial Forest Policy Committee and was recently appointed to Ontario Power Generation’s Board of Directors. In 2014, he was identifi ed as a Diversity 50 Board Ready Candidate from the Canadian Board Diversity Council and a recipient of the Community Service Award – Transformation Awards from Diversity Magazine.

As a father to his young daughter Chloe, along with a passion for his community, his culture and traditions; JP brings the past, present and future to the table, moving non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal business toward sustainable partnerships and shared economic prosperity.

Suzette Amaya, Owner Of SAMAYA Entertainment/Producer of ThinkNDN

Suzette Amaya describes herself as “very diverse in talents.”

“I never sleep. I’m nocturnal,” she says with a laugh. “I’m not afraid of doors that don’t open. I thrive for the doors I can push open. I love challenging myself, and with success comes confidence.”

Suzette was born and raised in East Vancouver, BC, and belongs to the GwaSala-Nakwaxda’xw Nation. She is the owner of SAMAYA Entertainment, produces and hosts the radio show ThinkNDN, and works as a support worker with the Bloom Group Service Society in Vancouver. She is also a former Big Brother Canada contestant.

Suzette’s advice to YES delegates is to “not be afraid to follow your dreams. Believe in yourself. Be fearless!”

“There are endless possibilities for Aboriginal youth in business. We are the fastest growing population in Canada. Any young person who wants to follow their dreams is a guaranteed success, and when you become successful you are not only helping yourself, you are helping your people.”

Gabriel Ayala, Musician

Classical guitarist Gabriel Ayala knows the importance of staying true to your roots.

A member of the Yaqui people of southern Arizona, Ayala has recently played for the Pope and at an inaugural ball for the President of the United States, but just as important to him is connecting with Aboriginal communities in the U.S. and Canada.

“You need to remember where you came from,” said Gabriel, who lives a traditional lifestyle and does not drink or do drugs.

Gabriel says the key to success is thinking of yourself as a product: “I think of myself as a corporation instead of just someone in the entertainment industry. This way I am thinking about how to promote myself, how to manage myself, and how to get my product, which is music, out there.”

Gabriel thinks the potential for YES delegates is “endless, as long as they believe in themselves going forward.”

“You define what success means to you, and then go out and attain it. If that means being a billionaire, you go out and make it happen. My definition of success is breaking down stereotypes when it comes to Aboriginal music. The more I find success as a mainstream musician, the more I am reaching my goal.”

Ashley Callingbull, Actor/Everything

Ashley Callingbull is a 23-year-old Cree First Nations woman from the Enoch Cree Nation in the province of Alberta. She is currently enrolled at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in the Television Program.

She is very devoted to her culture and people, and takes pride in her Native Cree heritage, and has shown this through her volunteer work with community elders and First Nations youth.

In June 2010, Ashley placed 2nd Runner Up in the Miss Universe Canada 2010 Pageant. She is the first Cree First Nations Woman to achieve this goal.

Ashley is a motivational speaker and role model for many educational institutions, workshops, conferences and award ceremonies around the globe.

Inez Cook, Owner of Salmon N’ Bannock

Inez Cook is extremely passionate about showcasing traditional First Nations food in a modern way.

Inez is a co-owner of Salmon N’ Bannock, a Vancouver bistro that serves wild local fish, organic and free range meats, bannock and other culinary delights inspired by a variety of First Nations traditions.

“I believe in my product and what I’m doing. It’s an amazing feeling to have all First Nations staff members, and a workplace we come to each day with pride. Our customers are coming here for the experience,” said Inez, who is a member of the Nuxalk First Nation and grew up in Vancouver.

For the YES delegates interested in opening a restaurant, Inez recommends exploring catering first. “You can get creative, do many different things, and there is a lot of money in catering. Make a name for yourself that way, and then you will end up with enough money to open a restaurant.”

Inez recommends young entrepreneurs take advantage of the wealth of resources available to them, including YES.

“YES is a phenomenal opportunity for bright, creative people to come together. It’s an amazing chance to learn and network.”

Chris Coutinho, CEO, Paystar Logistics

Like you, seasoned entrepreneur and company development expert Chris Coutinho has seen the word SUCCESS defined many ways over the years. Is it a definitive financial number ($1,000,000)? Is it when all the “goals” have been met? Or is there a different story to tell?

From selling blue jeans on the black market in Russia as a 17 year old high school student, to the greatest lesson he ever learned from an old Mexican fisherman, to making a million dollars before he was 30 and losing a million after he was 30, Chris will share his experiences with you, and help generate a radically new view of SUCCESS.

Chris Coutinho is CEO of Paystar Logistics, a truly unique logistics company working with outstanding companies like Wal-Mart, FedEX, Kohler, and ROSS Stores. He lectures at UNC and Davidson College, as well as at Entrepreneur Conferences across the US, Canada and Central America – the latest in Costa Rica last month. Paystar is his third company, having helped start and grow Triple A Student Painters to 4,000 employee multi national corporation, and then AvidXchange to one of the fastest growing tech firms in Charlotte, NC.

Adrian Duke, Skyturtle Technologies

Adrian Duke is a young entrepreneur following his dream.

A descendant of the Muscowpetung First Nation, Adrian has attended YES three times as a delegate. He is currently the CEO and Co-Founder of Skyturtle Technologies Ltd., a high-tech water slide design firm that specializes in creating water slide roller coasters.

“The potential for young Aboriginal entrepreneurs is growing every single minute. The First Nations way of life has always been close knit, community based and very supportive. The Aboriginal entrepreneurship community is no different,” said Adrian.

He believes the first step for YES delegates towards success is to “speak up and have an open mind.”

“You all have something to meaningful to contribute so put yourself out there, take chances, and try something new. This opportunity is yours to take so give it your all and you will be rewarded.”

And Adrian intends to keep moving forward: “So long as I keep moving and pushing ahead, I am confident that new opportunities and challenges will present themselves, and I will be ready.”

Sarah Erasmus, Erasmus Apparel

Sarah Erasmus has seen her unique northern clothing designs worn all over the world.

The Erasmus Apparel store is based in Sarah’s hometown, Yellowknife, and incorporates northern design elements such as moose, eagles, floatplanes and mines.

“We wanted to create northern themed clothing that you are proud to wear everywhere else,” said Sarah, who is from Ndilo, a community outside Yellowknife, NT, and is a member of Yellowknives Dene and part Hupacasath of the Nuu-cha-nulth First Nation. Her store sells t-shirts, hoodies, accessories, hats and more.

Her advice to YES delegates is to “try things out of your comfort zone.”

“I started out designing one t-shirt in my parent’s basement. I decided to buy the equipment I needed to expand and go for it 100%. Now I have over 30 designs.”

She stresses that teamwork is vital for success: “Anything is doable for YES delegates if they commit to working hard and being a team player. You will not be able to do it by yourself. You will need friends, business partners, and other people to support your vision.”

Terry Goodtrack, CEO, AFOA Canada

Mr. Goodtrack has spent almost twenty years in senior finance and management positions with high profile Aboriginal organizations in Canada. He has demonstrated leadership and made a significant contribution to the field of Aboriginal finance and management, while raising the standards of Aboriginal finance and management practices.

He is currently the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Aboriginal Financial Officers Association of Canada.    Prior to this position, since 2004, Mr. Goodtrack was the Chief Operating Officer of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, with responsibility for $7 million in operating funds and a $515 million healing fund. His expertise has been critical in assuring that the Foundation met the highest standards for the management of public funds.

Brandi Halls, LUSH North America

Take a beauty enthusiast, cross it with an animal activist and eco-warrior, and you’ve got Brandi Halls, 33, Director of Brand Communications for LUSH North America.

Kicking off her career in the Public Relations department in 2003, the company’s rapid expansion saw Brandi pitching, promoting, planning and attending upward of 60 LUSH openings across North America.

In 2008 Brandi relocated from her hometown in Vancouver, BC to New York, NY to open and lead LUSH’s North American Press Office.

In October 2012, Brandi took on a yet another new challenge with a relocation back to Vancouver, BC as the Director of Brand Communications for LUSH North America.

Today she acts as the company spokesperson and is responsible for leading a dynamic team of brand ambassadors whilst developing and implementing communications strategies to drive the brand forward with an innovative and fresh approach.

Inez Jasper, Musician

Inez is a Sto:lo singer songwriter with powerhouse talent and universal appeal. As one of Canada’s top Aboriginal musicians, her blending of traditional native sounds with a love for contemporary hip hop and R&B, brings the best of her culture to the mainstream world.

Exploding onto the Canadian music scene in 2006 and releasing her hit album Singsoulgirl in 2008, this proud Sto:lo, Ojibway and Metis artist has been featured at myriad high profile events across the country including the 2009 Aboriginal Tourism BC Awards, “Native Rocks” at Winnipeg’s Pyramid Cabaret and a headlining performance at AMP Camp (Canada’s prestigious Aboriginal Music Program), not to mention feature spots on national television programs like “Beyond Words”.

After releasing her solo album, “Singsoulgirl”, Inez took home Best Album Cover, Best New Artist, Best Pop Album and Single of the year for “Breathe f. Magic Touch” at the 2009 Aboriginal People’s Choice Awards in Winnipeg, MB. She was also nominated for a Juno and a Western Canadian Music Award.

Jean LaRose, CEO of Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN)

Jean LaRose is a First Nations citizen from the Abenaki First Nation of Odanak. He was raised in Ottawa where he studied Journalism at Algonquin College and obtained his Bachelor of Arts in Social Communication at the University of Ottawa. He later began study for his Masters in Public Administration at L’Ecole Nationale d’Administration Publique.

He was named Chief Executive Officer of APTN in November 2002. The network has moved to a digital, high-definition platform and now employs over 130 people. APTN was one of the host broadcasters for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games and carried over 10 hours per day of Olympic events in English, French and in eight Aboriginal languages.

Mr. LaRose sits on the Board of Directors of the National Screen Institute, the Board of Directors of On-Screen Manitoba and the Nisga’a Commercial Group. He was awarded the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Media and Communications in 2011.

Keith Martell, CEO, First Nations Bank of Canada

Keith Martell, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for the First Nations Bank of Canada, sees a world of potential for young Aboriginal entrepreneurs.

“There are two things working in their favour. The first is the growing Aboriginal population – Aboriginal youth will be an integral part of the future economy. The second is that the large but aging baby boomer generation is beginning to leave many opportunities open for the next generation to fill.”

Originally from the Waterhen Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan, Keith has spent his career mastering the financial industry. He uses his experience to the advantage of his bank’s shareholders and organizations such as the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s important to remember successful entrepreneurs are good at what they do because they enjoy what they do. Too often, I see people going into certain professions solely to make money, and it doesn’t work,” he said.

“Another thing to remember is that no-one can do it all on their own. Figure out what you are skilled at, and then get others to help with your weaknesses.”

Erin Meehan, President, ESS North America Compass Group

Erin Meehan is President of ESS North America, a division of Compass Group Canada, a role she was appointed to in 2010.

In 2002, Erin was appointed President and CEO of ESS Gulf of Mexico, a position she held until 2007. In early 2008, she was named President of ESS Canada. With this appointment came a move from Louisiana to Calgary, Alberta where she resided until 2010.

Erin is currently based at the Canadian headquarters of Compass Group where she leads a diverse team committed to providing vital support and foodservices to remote locations such as offshore oil rigs, coastal logging camps and large projects in the Alberta Oil Sands.

She holds a Bachelors degree in Accounting from the University of Southwestern Louisiana, a Master’s degree in Taxation from the University of Denver and a Master’s of Science degree from Revans University in England. She is also a Certified Public Accountant.

Laura Milliken, Big Soul Productions

Laura J. Milliken is the President and CEO of Toronto-based television and film production company, Big Soul Productions Inc. Originally from Kettle and Stony Point in Southern Ontario, Laura founded the company in 1999 with actress Jennifer Podemski. Together they created and produced many award-winning films and television series, including Moccasin Flats and The Seventh Generation. Laura went on to continue the business as a sole owner and has since created, produced and directed a multitude of productions all with the mandate of advancing the Aboriginal voice and perspective in screen-based media.

Clarence Nyce, CEO, Haisla Business Operations Inc.

Clarence (Khum-miam) is Haisla and belongs to the Blackfish Clan.

Clarence came to Haisla Business Operations Inc. with undergraduate degrees in History and also in Political Science, as well as working on his Masters in Political Philosophy.

He has been employed as a Band Manager, the private corporation of Alcan as the Supervisor Compensation Programs, and with INAC. Prior to HBO Inc., he was also heavily involved with the delivery of capacity building programming.

Miles Richardson, O.C., President of Miles Richardson and Associates

Miles G. Richardson, O.C., is a citizen of the Haida Nation and Canada. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of Victoria in 1979. From 1984 to 1996, he served as President of the Haida Nation.

Mr. Richardson was a member of the British Columbia Claims Task Force, which, in June of 1991, made recommendations to the Governments of Canada, British Columbia, and First Nations in BC on a mutually agreed process to conduct treaty negotiations.

In October 1995, Mr. Richardson was nominated by the Summit and appointed as a Commissioner to the BC Treaty Commission.

Mr. Richardson is one of the original members of the David Suzuki Foundation and has been a board member since 1992. In 2007, he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada. Currently, Mr. Richardson owns and operates his Miles Richardson and Associates.

Rochelle Saddleman, 2G Group

Rochelle Saddleman is a member of the Okanagan First Nation,  was born and raised in Vernon, BC and now resides in Prince Rupert, BC.

In 2011, Rochelle earned her Bachelors of Business Administration from the Okanagan College in Kelowna, BC, specializing in Management and Human Resources operations.  With a new dream in mind, Rochelle joined the 2G Group of Companies where she has since become an integral part of the company’s strategic planning and project development team.

Dennis Thomas, Takaya Tours

Dennis Thomas takes pride in being a creative, innovative inspiration to Aboriginal youth.

A member of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation in North Vancouver, Dennis began working for his community in 2007 as the 2010 Coordinator for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Since then Dennis has pursued business with his Nation and became the Project Manager for Economic Development.

Dennis has attended YES twice, and has won both the regional and national competition.

“I think the sky is the limit for YES delegates,” said Dennis. “From my personal experience attending YES, if you are confident in what you are doing, you will see results. This type of conference can produce CEOs, entrepreneurs and professionals in the business industry.”

Dennis’s advice to YES participants is to “always have an open mind and be creative, because a lot of the YES challenges require ingenuity and thinking outside of the box.”

Event Information

Young Entrepreneurs Symposium (YES) 2018 will be held Monday, November 26 to Thursday, November 29, 2018.


Edmonton, AB
Location Announcement Coming Soon


Nov 26 – Nov 29, 2018

For more details contact

Marie Alaimo

Senior Project Officer