OFIA staged its annual meeting and convention in Toronto, Feb. 26.
Thunder Bay-based Agoke is an award-winning forestry company owned by the First Nations of Aroland, Eabametoong and Marten Falls.
The corporation is engaged in forest management, harvesting, road construction, road maintenance and training.
The three communities had an aspirational goal of obtaining a sustainable forest licence on the dormant 19,000-square-kilometre Ogoki Forest to do the harvesting and hauling to area mills.
That goal came to pass in the spring of 2018 with an historic agreement with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
It led to the signing of a joint venture agreement with Buchanan Sawmills to supply and reopen the Nakina mill.
The arrangement provided job opportunities in the mill and has resulted in heavy equipment training opportunities.
The Ogoki Forest is 400 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay,
In 2018, Agoke received the Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund Business Partnership of the Year award. A year later, the organization snagged the First Nation Business Award of Excellence at the Northern Ontario Business Awards.
“Receiving the Forest Sector Champion of the Year Award is a major accomplishment for the company,” said Agoke business advisor Jason Rasevych.
“You don’t see a lot of First Nations participation at the OFIA level, so we are blazing a trail. This award is achieved by the willingness of our First Nations and partners to come together for the greater good, to hold a collective vision, and to work hard with the solid determination to succeed.”
“We’re very proud,” said Colin Shawinimash, workforce development officer of Agoke and Eabametoong First Nation.
“It’s been a lot of hard work to get to this point. This wasn’t an overnight success, there have been decades of advocacy, years of work on this file. We’ve re-defined our position in the forest sector and are on the brink of an explosion of employment and business opportunities for our members.”