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Economic development among First Nations : a contingency perspective



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This dissertation explores the economic development objectives, strategies, and activities of the First Nations in Canada with three objectives: (i) to identify the approach to development among First Nations, (ii) to develop a theoretical perspective capable of providing insight into this approach, and (iii) to investigate the activities of the First Nations in Saskatchewan to determine if they are consistent with the expected characteristics of the First Nations' approach to development and the proposed theoretical perspective. To address the first objective, a wide range of sources are reviewed to determine First Nations development objectives and strategies. Based on this review, the First Nations' development approach emphasizes the creation of profitable businesses competing in the global economy. These businesses are usually collectively owned and often involve partnerships with non-First Nation corporations. A review of development theory follows to accomplish the second objective. Both the orthodoxand radical perspectives are rejected. Instead, 'contingency perspective' based on regulation theory, the postimperial perspective and alternative/indigenous development approaches, is developed. To address the third objective, research was conducted in three parts: (i) an investigation of the economic development activities of the 70 Saskatchewan First Nations, (ii) a study of the approach of non-First Nations companies to business alliances with First Nations, and (iii) a case study of the development activities of the Meadow Lake Tribal Council. Based on the first and third parts of this research, 69% of First Nations businesses are owned by First Nations alone or First Nations in joint venture with non-First Nations businesses. These businesses account for 89% of the total estimated annual revenue of all First Nation businesses. Only 24% of First Nations businesses target the local market, the rest compete in broader regional, national and international markets. Part two of the research shows that a growing number of non-First Nations corporations are adopting a strategy of business alliances with aboriginal people. Five factors motivate this corporate behaviour: (i) a shift in the global competitive environment from a Fordist to a flexible regime of accumulation, (ii) society's changing expectations about what constitutes socially responsible corporate behaviour, (iii) legal and regulatory requirements and restrictions, (iv) the growing aboriginal population, and its increasing affluence and level of education, and (v) the rapidly growing pool of natural and financial resources under the control of aboriginal people. These results confirm the eight characteristics of the First Nations' approach to economic development and are consistent with the proposedcontingency perspective.



aboriginal business, first nations business ownership, aboriginal economic development, aboriginal entrepreneurs, native business



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)







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