Matthew Nahdee – Leading A Community Of Entrepreneurs
When I first met, Matthew Nahdee, Executive Director of the Can-Am Indian Friendship Centre, I was instantly impressed by his passion and varied experience.
I arrived hoping to get him involved in projects I was working on, and left wanting to get involved in his projects at the centre.
His enthusiasm is infectious and I was struck by his vision, powerful advocacy and desire to inspire entrepreneurial skills in his community.
Nahdee grew up in poverty between rural Chatham-Kent and London, observing that a lot of people had a lot more. This led him down an academic/athletic path that brought him to six different institutions and three different law schools. He found that his passion wasn’t in academia; it was in people that liked academia.
As Nahdee explains, “Humans connect in different ways. For me, the most productive, safe and efficient ways, with like-minded articulate individuals, tend to be at institutions. I had a private career in law for a short time, but value systems aren’t the number one goal of law so I prefer social development and non-profit.”
His mentors are his parents, family and Juan Carlos Reyes, a displaced Honduran.
“Reyes is an indigenous, professional that has worked with our first nation communities in Canada,” Nahdee comments. “He helped me use my emotions and passions in productive ways and taught me a lot.”
When I asked Nahdee whom he admires, he named Mary Duckworth, Faith Hale and his mom.
“They are three hard working indigenous women who support me and only care about our future generations,” he states.
The Friendship Centre movement is based around indigenous people helping all people.
“Everything we do today impacts the next seven generations so we offer inclusion, acceptance, friendship, future planning and any type of positive social group for anyone in Windsor Essex,” says Nahdee.
He talks about how important it is to serve future generations and their socio-economic progress.
Nahdee shares one of the projects they are developing — a language web-based application with augmented reality, so everyone can identify indigenous plants, species, animals and territories within our region.He proudly describes that “The centre is the first grass roots, indigenous organization to have legal standing as it relates to land use planning, enabling them to be actively involved in major development projects around the city.”
He continues by stating, “Our youth and child development programming is over capacity with over 200 youth at their last Pow Wow.
When asked about his goals Nahdee mentions, “Life is easy; as an Anishinabe man I have to protect my family, community, and the eco-aspect of this globe, so I maximize the impact of those three tenants every day.”
One of the items on his agenda for the centre involves moving into more regional services for the 50,000 indigenous between Sarnia, London and Windsor.
“Less than 10% own homes, as our people can’t get mortgages and must use cash — we need to build safe housing for our community,” he reports.
The centre has a grant program for building capacity, developing entrepreneur skills and business acuity. And this program gives a positive school experience that many haven’t had in the past, with the reserve system.
“For some, it is the first time they have experienced academic accreditation, as they were scarred from what has happened in the past,” Nahdee clarifies. “I see positive sustained growth for Can-Am in all three aspects of capital, human, financial and physical. If you want to help our people, go meet our people, sit by our fires, come to our centres, learn with us, share with us, we will all be better off.”
I will wrap up now with a perfect quote from Nahdee who believes, “There is no such thing as win or lose — it’s only win or learn.”
Learn more about the centre online or stop by their location at 1-1699 Northway Avenue in Windsor.
Sherrilynn Colley-Vegh is an award winning leadership consultant and former Director of Leadership Windsor/Essex, Principal, Chief Communications Officer and business owner with over 30 years of experience in education, administration, mentoring, consulting and community leadership. If you know a leader in the community to profile here in this column, please email: [email protected]