O’Chiese Nation opens resort and casino in Red Deer: A conversation with Adrian Strawberry

Georges Yammine, CEO of O’Chiese Business and Investment Centre and Adrian Strawberry, Hotel Operations Manager, O’Chiese Hospitality. Photo supplied.

By Chevi Rabbit, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

(ANNews) – The flourishing city of Red Deer in Central Alberta is currently experiencing a remarkable period of growth and vitality. At the heart of this dynamic landscape lies the Red Deer Resort & Casino, a visionary project with its roots tracing back to the Late Chief Darren Whitford of O’Chiese First Nation, a sovereign community near Sunchild Cree Nation and Rocky Mountain House. This impressive venture, under the ownership of the O’Chiese Business and Investment Center, celebrated its grand opening on September 8, 2023.

The Red Deer Resort & Casino, formerly known as the Capri Hotel, has a long history of serving the Red Deer community. Recently acquired by the O’Chiese First Nation, the transition reflects a commitment to diversity and cultural heritage. The resort continues to provide outstanding service, featuring guestrooms, dining, entertainment options, a conference centre, and the Jackpot Casino. Whether for business or leisure, the Red Deer Resort & Casino aims to offer a memorable experience, embracing both its history and future.

In an onsite interview with ANNews, O’Chiese Nations member, Adrian Strawberry, the Operations Manager of the resort, shared invaluable insights into how, alongside a dedicated team, they managed to turn a dream of their former O’Chiese chief into a thriving reality.

“It was a vision envisioned by the late Chief Darren Whitford over 15 years ago,” Strawberry revealed. “He had some fantastic dreams, and though he is no longer with us, our past and current council continued with that dream, and this is where we’re at right now. It’s been an amazing 15-year journey.”

This journey is not just about dreams; it’s also about making good long-term financial investments and shrewd resource management. The initial funds for the resort were derived from natural resource deposits on their land, enabling them to make prudent and diligent investments. “This is how it all began,” Strawberry explained, underscoring the strategic foundation of their success.

For those nurturing their entrepreneurial dreams, Strawberry has some resounding advice: “Dream big, work diligently towards your aspirations, and never surrender.” Strawberry emphasized the inevitability of obstacles on the path to success and the need for unwavering determination to overcome them.

The resort is a welcoming space for entrepreneurs with a mini-mall in the Casino. In an open invitation to the Indigenous entrepreneurship community and non-Indigenous entrepreneurship collaborators, Strawberry urged them to consider the resort as a haven for economic entrepreneurship, “Our hotel extends a warm welcome to Indigenous entrepreneurs seeking a place to invest in their ideas and visions.”

Adrian Strawberry embodies the essence of indigenous perseverance and a resolute commitment to advancing economic reconciliation. Their Nation’s journey is a dedicated pursuit of ensuring success, not exclusively for Indigenous communities but for the broader collective. Strawberry’s resounding message conveys this sentiment: “I’m truly at a loss for words when I consider how I feel. I mean, I’m incredibly proud of O’Chiese First Nation, exceptionally proud of the remarkable team that made all of this possible. My pride extends to my people, my community, and the entire team that worked tirelessly to bring our vision to life.”

Reflecting on the earlier chapters of their life, Strawberry shares, “During my formative years, I carried a considerable burden of anger and resentment. Letting go of these emotions was an arduous journey. Fortunately, I had the guidance of numerous advisors and mentors who imparted invaluable wisdom: let go of negativity and steadfastly pursue your dreams through unwavering hard work. The most crucial lesson they taught me was the significance of diligence, and to never allow detractors to divert me from my path. People will inevitably attempt to undermine your hard-earned achievements. However, it’s essential to remember that when they criticize, it’s not Adrian Strawberry the individual they are targeting; it’s the role or the position I held at that specific time. Consequently, I’ve learned not to internalize such criticisms, instead, to release them and persevere.”

Strawberry further emphasizes, “I suppose everyone encounters similar challenges in life. We all develop our unique coping mechanisms to navigate through adversity. The paramount objective is to surpass these obstacles, release any negativity, and unwaveringly continue to forge ahead. Regardless of the pursuit, success becomes attainable through this unwavering commitment.”

This journey encapsulates a powerful example of economic reconciliation in Central Alberta. It signifies the O’Chiese First Nation’s ownership of the casino and hotel, generating employment opportunities for the public and establishing a significant presence in Central Alberta. The experience it offers to residents is nothing short of revolutionary, setting the stage for the future of economic reconciliation.

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