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Looking to be a healthy solution

WALLACEBURG, Ontario – Last year at the 2008 Potawatomi Gathering of Nations, Walpole Island leadership was approached about developing a cost-effective pharmacy business to supply U.S. Potawatomi tribes’ pharmaceutical needs.

After intense research into the economic viability of the idea, Walpole Island First Nation established a U.S. corporation, WIFN Enterprises, and specifically, the division of Native American Pharmaceutical Systems.

WIFN is home to Potawatomi, Odawa and Chippewa Indians – Three Fires Confederacy.

“Today, we are able to provide what you requested,” Chief Joseph Gilbert told tribal leaders at the 2009 Potawatomi Economic Summit held Aug. 5 in Kansas.

The mission of the fledgling, Native-owned pharmaceutical business is to facilitate tribal wellness and contribute to the economic well-being of North American Indian tribes through a sustainable, prosperous health solution.

Gilbert said the NAPS pharmacy is set to open by early January in Canada. The pharmacy and call center is expected to provide an economic boost for WIFN, a community struggling with a 65 percent unemployment rate.

“We’re anticipating 15 to 25 jobs.”

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Among the services NAPS will offer are North American Indian pharmaceuticals manufactured in modern facilities, nationwide delivery of generic pharmaceuticals, vitamins, supplements, medical supplies and equipment at low cost, and pharmacist consultations. NAPS will work with tribes to identify tribal needs and find adapted solutions.

Gilbert said WIFN Enterprises is looking to establish a pharmacy in the U.S. He said the business venture has received a good response.

“We also believe we should give back to that community. We’re not just taking. We will give back.”

He said one of the benefits for participating tribes would be an opportunity to reinvest in their communities. Participating tribes are eligible to receive an incentive of 33.3 percent after expense and before tax net profit off the sales for their community’s needs.

Long before European contact, trade relations existed among North American Indian tribes. Gilbert said partnerships in NAPS would present an opportunity to re-establish these relationships and will open the door for tribes to work together in other ventures. “It lays the groundwork for building relationships.”

Gilbert would like to see economic summits held quarterly rather than annually so indigenous nations can stay informed of the tribal initiatives and investment opportunities that exist. “It keeps the money circulating within the Native tribes.”

NAPS officials are available to discuss their initiative with interested tribal officials. For more information, contact WIFN at

Lorraine Jessepe can be reached at