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Onion Lake Band Opens Service Station

Betty Ann Adam

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      MARCH 1989      p08  
The March 10 grand opening of Northbridge Industries' Sunline Centre marked one more solid step toward economic self-sufficiency for the Onion Lake Indian Band. Chief Wallace Fox of the Band spoke with the quiet assurance of one who has been steadfastly implementing plan and is seeing the desired results, as he talked about the latest stage of the Band's economic development.

The Sunline Centre in Lloydminster, is a full service gas bar-convenience store, open seven days a week with an automotive shop staffed by four mechanics, including Journeymen mechanics Mike Simmons, the shop supervisor, and George Dillon.

It is independently owned by the Onion Lake Band and was constructed through Northbridge Industries, the Economic Development Corporation of the Band.

Northbridge Industries is controlled by a five-member board of directors who oversee the operations of the corporation. Band members make up the board, which is headed by President Peter Chief. The board is answerable to Chief and Council of the Onion Lake Band. Meanwhile, day-to-day operations are handled by general manager Randy Wallace and about a dozen employees, most of who are band members.

Fox explains that the Band recognized a need for an economic base some years ago and has worked towards building a solid one ever since. The long-range plan includes training and increased employment for the Band. They want to minimize welfare dependency. Fox says "We had to create our own (Economic base) because we couldn't depend on government to do it for us. Our initiatives are heading us in the right direction".

With the devolution of Indian Affairs, the various branches and support services will decline. The band sees the need to prepare now for the full control they'll have one day. For this reason economic development is very important. Fox says, it is natural that this is more important to the bands themselves than to Indian Affairs, whose role has been more to distribute federal money than to help Indians find ways to earn more themselves.

The course of action is clear to Fox. Join the private sector. Become a part of it and enlist the support of other members in it.

Fox says they are definitely getting that support from the private sector. The band's three-year relationship with Husky Oil has resulted in Husky's supplying oil and gas to the Sunline Centre. As well, the Community Futures Corporation of Lloydminster has played a key role in making this venture possible.

Prior to the opening of Sunline Centre, the Onion Lake Band had already made steps toward their goal of improved quality of life for band members. In May of 1987 they opened their band-funded Health Centre on the reserve. It is financially independent of the federal government. In the fall of 1987 they opened the Ekweskeet Centre, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre.

The Onion Lake Band's plans don't end with the opening of Northbridge Industries and the Sunline Centre. They intend to begin construction on a truck stop mini mall on the reserve May 1st.

Fox is committed to making the project succeed. "One way or another," he said, 'that one's going to go. With or without Indian Affairs' help." The truck stop will feature a restaurant, propane sales and a bulk fuel station, while the mini mall will include a food store and dry goods.

Negotiations for the project continue.

Chief Wallace Fox (Centre) with Husky Oil Representatives

Chief Wallace Fox (Centre) with Husky Oil representatives Bob Good (left) and Bob Ingram (right).

Grant Whitestone pumps fuel

Band member Grant Whitestone pumps fuel for motorists and economic self sufficiency for the Onion Lake Band.

Sunline Centre employees, Chadwick Waskewitch & Darlene Cannepotato

Sunline Centre employees Chadwick Waskewitch and Darlene Cannepotato greeted customers with a smile and a rose for each woman.