MARTEN FALLS — Chief Bruce Achneepineskum and members of the Marten Falls First Nation council were on hand Friday to celebrate the community's recent investment to purchase a 51 per cent ownership stake in Thunder Bay-based Bay Meats.
Marten Falls' economic development officer, Robert Moonias, said the acquisition coincides with the repurposing of Marten Falls Community Hall into a community grocery store, a major step towards food security and accessibility for the First Nation.
The store was outfitted with shelving and fridge units provided by the Mawachintoon Anishnabe Miijim division of Kiikenomaga Kikenjigewen Employment & Training Services (KKETS) in collaboration with Feed Ontario.
Representatives from KKETS, including partnership development coordinator Ulysses Lachinette and director Tracey Willoughby, were among the crowd gathered Friday to celebrate the move into the Thunder Bay market.
Moonias called KKETS as instrumental in the current improvements happening in Marten Falls.
Marten Falls is located at the junction of Albany and Ogoki rivers, about 430 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay. It's a fly-in community and, as such, receives most supplies via plane — except during the winter months, when an ice road connects the First Nation to the highway.
Among other recent investments, Bay Meats is another way for Marten Falls to stay connected and participate economically in a major market space, leaders said.
"As you know, we're moving into economic development with our First Nation," said Achneepineskum. "This is a strategic move on our part... to acquire this really important business — foodservice — in the local community but also in the region... We have a longstanding relationship as customers with Bay Meats. We've purchased many of their products in the past for our social and community events, [...] so it was a natural choice for us to enter into this partnership."
Minority share owner Bruce Krupp, who has worked alongside previous owner, Cindy Salo, for over 12 years, is excited to see what the future holds now that Marten Falls is taking majority ownership.
"It's a huge impact for Marten Falls," he said. "I can't wait to get started."
"First Nations contribute to the local and regional economy in a great way. If it wasn't for the First Nations, a lot of businesses in the city and the area are at a loss... It's kind of for us as a First Nation to be involved in creating our own economy... and the way to do that is to be involved with the market and the business ventures that are offered."