Serving the needs of First Nations communities

Category: Aboriginal business Startup Success stories

Going back to 1970, Virginia Bruneau recalls her father having a passion for his people. Being on the school committee and a counselor for Cold Lake First Nation, he and some colleagues went on a strike to get a new school for the community. The movement gained momentum, and three other reserves followed suit, giving recognition to Virginia’s father. In the end, all four reserves were approved for brand new schools. Seeing how much passion her father had for his people, and recognizing that anything can be accomplished with enough effort, Virginia realized that there is a solution to every problem.

Acting on your passion

Today, Virginia’s inherited passion to serve her people has led her to search for a solution to the water and infrastructure crisis on First Nations reserves. She began by partnering with environmentalists Hermina & Charles Relland as well as Crystal Steinhauer to create Tu-Kanatan Inc. – a research and consultation business serving the First Nations people of Alberta, on First Nations lands, with housing and water infrastructure concerns. Sadly, Hermina Relland has since passed, but her husband Charles has kept her legacy alive by continuing to work on the initiatives she was passionate about, including Tu-Kanatan Inc.

Virginia presents her organization’s services to Chief and Council on each reserve and gives them the option to participate. The next step would be to sit down and assess each community’s needs to create the best solution for each particular reserve. With $4.2 billion set aside by the Federal Government for water and housing projects for First Nations people, Tu-Kanatan Inc. is prepared to be the third party entity to disperse this money using comprehensive solutions to solve water and infrastructure crises.

"Clean, running water and quality homes that would last 50 to 100 years. That’s the kind of homes I want and see for our First Nations people. I want to have our homes for our next generation and generations to follow."

– Virginia Bruneau

Filling a need and getting noticed

Virginia has a tip for anyone who would like to start their own business: “It starts with a passion and then you come up with a plan. Find the need and go for it!”

Virginia and Crystal attended our annual Aboriginal Entrepreneur workshop to get the support and resources they needed to further their initiative. They have recognized our team as being very essential to getting their initiative noticed within First Nations communities.

Although the company is still fairly new, Virginia, Charles, and Crystal take pride in what they have achieved so far. Since the beginning, they knew their venture would require a lot of work as the issues they are looking to solve represent a national crisis. After narrowing down their focus and deciding to start in Alberta, their biggest current challenge is securing funding to provide their services.

Securing resources and finding clients

The team is currently working on fundraising and looking for investors to raise the $50,000 equity they need for a loan that would help launch their business into the next stage. They have faith that their venture will succeed because their hearts are in the right place; they want to see First Nations people succeed and reserves be developed. They do not want to go backwards or stay at a standstill anymore, but instead push forward and see these communities flourish.

Virginia, Charles, and Crystal have distributed their proposal and letter of intent to Alberta’s First Nations reserves, and are now in the process of doing the follow-up calls. They were thrilled to be invited to National Chief Perry Bellegarde’s office to speak with Kerry Black, Senior Policy Advisor, Assembly of First Nations. Kerry has expressed an interest in what Tu-Kanatan Inc. has to offer.

We are excited to see their story unfold and wish them the best of luck with this great initiative! 

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About the Author

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Sammy Zoerb

Business Link

Sammy enjoys being the “quarterback” of the Indigenous Services (IS) team by handling the logistics and coordination of many different events. She is also excited to grow her client base by building relationships with Indigenous entrepreneurs and providing advice and support to ensure their success. When she isn’t taking her kids to hockey practice and dance class, Sammy enjoys taking her family to cultural events.

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