National Treasure #81: Darcy Bear

At 48, Darcy Bear is in his seventh consecutive term as Chief of Whitecap Dakota First Nation.  His tenure has transformed the reserve near Saskatoon.  

Chief Bear was elected to Council at the age of 23.  He came into leadership of a reserve that had no policies and no money, but Bear didn’t allow his youth, inexperience, or the dire conditions to disparage his resolve. He began by ascertaining the size of their debt, created a financial management plan, approached the bank for debt consolidation, and stuck to that plan.

“As a young person, it would’ve been easiest just to walk away,” says Bear. “But as leaders, you accept responsibility to find solutions going forward. Anyone can identify a problem. A leader needs to identify a solution.”

Once their finances were in order, Bear addressed the reserve’s under-developed infrastructure. Twenty minutes from Saskatoon, the reserve was still without water, sewer, and modern heating. From 1996 to 2004, Bear enhanced the community with a school, water and sewer infrastructure, waste disposal, three phase power, high speed internet, and cellular service. Critical to these efforts was the community adopting the Whitecap Land Code, which removes the oppressive Indian Act land management process and replaced it with a law and policies that allowed Whitecap the flexibility and tools to “move at the speed of business.” When the basic needs of the community were met, Bear turned his attention to economic development. – Treaty 4 News

Today, reserve unemployment has dropped from 70% to about 5% – and I’m guessing he’s not done yet, even though he already has his lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business.

The provincial government selected Whitecap Dakota First Nation Chief Darcy Bear to chair the SaskPower board of directors in late November.

This marks the first time in history that an indigenous person has been appointed to such a position for a Saskatchewan Crown corporation.

The appointment is one of many honours Chief Bear has received in recent years. In 2011 he was presented with the prestigious Saskatchewan Order of Merit, one of the highest honours available for a Saskatchewan resident, and in 2012 he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. Bear also won the 2016 Aboriginal Business Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award.  – Star Phoenix, 22 Dec 2016

Oh, yeah, and he has an honorary degree from the University of Saskatchewan.  Here’s the biographical information from that 2015 citation.

 

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4 Comments

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4 Responses to National Treasure #81: Darcy Bear

  1. Laurna Tallman

    So much goodness. This is a story I will tell to others.

  2. Alison

    Interesting! And news to me. It will make me dig further into both him and the Reserve. Someone to watch for sure.