Month after month, the COVID-19 pandemic shrinks, and many entrepreneurs float in an unstable market.
Although St. Eugene’s Golf Resort and Casino remain powerful for its visionaries’ lasting resilience.
Barry Zwueste, St. Eugene’s Golf Resort and Casino chief executive officer (CEO) said that “It operated as a year-round resort until COVID hit. Now it is a seasonal resort. We’re opening April 1, 2021, and we’ll open every year on April 1 going forward, and close for Thanksgiving every year. It’s difficult to attract people here year-round. It was a difficult choice to make, but these were the tough choices we needed to make with people.”
In 2003, St. Eugene’s Mission Resort was developed as a St. Eugene’s Golf Resort and Casino and operated a former residential school between 1912 and 1970 where approximately 5000 Grade 1 to 8 students took up programs near Cranbrook.
The shared vision of the former St. Mary’s Chief Sophie Pierre, and the Aq’am elder Mary Paul, has made it possible to reclaim and restore one of the darkest chapters in Canadian history after the building was empty and “derelict” for 20 years or so.
According to Zwueste, the ten-year plan to restore the building into a five-star hotel is worth approximately $20 million.
In 2001 the casino was opened and in 2002 the hotel opened.
In mid-2020 the Eugene’s Mission school commemorated 50 years since its closure on June 21, 1970, when the last student left the residential school.
Pierre, who served as commissioner of the provincial treaty in B.C. between 2009 and 2015, wrote an essay called “Neé Eustache: The Little Girl Who Would be Chief” in “Response, Responsibility, and Renewal: Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation” to describe why the community made the decision to reclaim and renovate the building from a residential school into a resort. She is currently the acting chair on the board for the resort.
Pierre explained by phone that “Because the industry and the resort is Indigenous-owned, we’ve always made a point of showcasing our communities and our nation. That is the intent of this particular (cultural awareness) program that you’re writing about now. We want to be able to tell these stories from our point of view as opposed to someone else coming around and telling those stories for us. By telling our own stories, we want to make sure that when people come here — there are resorts all over the world…. What makes our resort special is that it’s got the Indigenous history that it does.”
Cultural awareness training for corporations to follow Indigenous protocols involves programming at the resort.
Ktunaxa knowledge holders and elders give cross-culture education to promote diversity in business culture with the goal of establishing partnerships with indigenous communities.
At St. Eugene’s, the hands-on Indigenous Cultural awareness training program focuses on historical legacy, explores the current, and aims to build self-sufficiency and respectful relationships for First Nations citizens in the future.
The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission encourages the Canadian corporate sector, as a framework for the implementation of policies, norms, and operational activities involving indigenous people as well as their lands and resources, to adopt a United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
After completing the workshop, participants will understand local languages and acknowledgments of land, how to engage meaningfully with indigenous communities, and how to advocate for the rights of indigenous in business, as well as the importance of indigenous relationships for resources such as earth, water, air, and wildlife.
The Workshop is designed to help organizations learn how to attract Indigenous employees in business opportunities, create positive relations with Indigenous workers, and how to work more effectively with Indigenous governments and businesses. Groups of six to 24 people are recommended.
Each workshop includes a building tour and interpretive center, cross-cultural workshops, traditional games, and Indigenous team-building activities.
Prices begin at $349 and can be adapted to the single hotel occupancy rate via a sales team.