Vision Quest Conferences Inc. recently celebrated a major milestone—25 years of excellence in supporting Indigenous business, community and economic development through networking and learning opportunities. In May, the 25th Annual Vision Quest Conference and Trade Show was held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and it was truly an inspiring celebration of business and culture.
The first in-person event since May of 2019, Vision Quest Conferences Inc. welcomed a record-breaking 1,300+ participants and a sold-out trade show including overwhelming participation by the public. From the pre-conference training and certification opportunities to the workshops, presenters and banquet, the growing achievements of Indigenous Peoples within the business community are ever-present. This continues to reflect the thoughts formulated by the original Board of Directors over 25 years ago when the theme “From Vision to Reality” was created with a vision of thriving and sustainable Indigenous communities.
On the first day of the event, a virtual keynote presentation with famed Yellowstone actor Mo Brings Plenty was scheduled for the opening address. The presentation began on the screen, and then moments later delegates were overwhelmed with
excitement as Mo appeared on the stage, microphone in hand. Mo shared his personal journey growing up on a reserve without power or clean drinking water. He spoke of respecting and honouring our Elders, especially the grandmothers. He also encouraged youth to take the time to sit with an Elder, listen to their story and the stories of generations past. Participants had the opportunity to meet and speak with Mo following the presentation. His presence at the event made for one of the most memorable moments over the two days.
On Day Two, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and author Jody Wilson-Raybould addressed the delegation as the keynote presenter. Jody’s success in business and government has made her a role model, especially for women and young girls interested in law and politics. Delegates welcomed the opportunity to ask Jody questions and meet her in the Elders’ Corner at the trade show.
The trade show is always a highlight of the conference, and this year it hosted nearly 100 exhibitors. Featured were Indigenous businesses, artists, education and training opportunities, potential employers for youth and those looking for new career challenges, and those who wished to promote their products or services to the Indigenous community. New for the 25th anniversary celebration was the Elders’ Corner, where delegates were invited to meet, chat or share a story with Elders in a relaxed setting.
Graffiti Art Programming (GAP)—a network dedicated to promoting artists and the community’s youth voice through accessible arts programming—held an interactive activity at their booth where all conference participants were invited to join in as an ‘artist’ in the creation of a community mural. The final product beautifully symbolizes the successful collaboration of a community of like-minded individuals.
Commitment to Indigenous Youth
Vision Quest Conferences Inc. has always prioritized the development of youth. With a program dedicated to the advancement of young people, youth delegates had the opportunity to learn about current and future labour market trends, economic development and entrepreneurship as a career choice. Youth were immersed in all aspects of the conference, and there was no shortage of networking opportunities or role models to meet. Even the TV crew responsible for capturing the excitement of the event was a youth team from Just TV, a part of the Broadway Neighbourhood Centre (BNC). BNC is a program that teaches youth to complete a video from start to finish by teaching script writing, set design, photography, acting and production, as well as team building and life skills. Under the direction of a professional producer, the crew created an event video that was presented at the closing banquet and is also now featured on the Vision Quest website. Just TV also produced Vision Quest’s television advertisement and the Vision Quest 25th anniversary photo journey.
Workshops, Cultural Presentations and More
This year, Vision Quest presented 16 workshops that fit within the categories of business, community/personal development and youth. In celebration of their 25th anniversary, a cultural stream of workshops was included. The importance of growing Indigenous tourism in Manitoba was also a hot topic this year. Conversations led by tourism professionals focused on raising
awareness of the importance of Indigenous tourism, recovery from the negative impacts of the pandemic and building resiliency for the future.
Throughout the event, participants were provided with many memorable cultural and artistic experiences. Featured guests included: the Plains Ojibway Singers, Drummers and Dance Troupe, guitar and fiddle father and son duo Clint and Riley Dutiaume, North End Legend (musical trio), visual artist Justine Proulx, comedian Conway Kootenay, Honourary Chair Don Cardinell, Indigenous Veterans, Elder Mae Louise Campbell, emcees Dennis Ward and Melissa Ridgen from APTN, and Dave McLeod from NCI/Now Country.
Vision Quest Conferences Inc. is a consortium of five Manitoba Indigenous Community Futures Development Corporations: Cedar Lake CFC, Dakota Ojibway CFDC, Kitayan CFDC, Community Futures North Central Development, and Southeast CFDC.
Save the Date! The 2023 Vision Quest Conference and Trade Show will be held May 17-18, 2023, at the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg. Visit vqconference.com for more information.