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Adam Nepon

By REBECA KUROPATWA

Adam Nepon, who was born and raised in the Winnipeg Jewish community, always felt drawn to Indigenous music and art. It wasn’t until he was in his late 20s though that  he discovered he had some First Nation heritage.

 


“My father’s family were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, most of who got out before WWII,” said Nepon. “My mom, she actually converted to Judaism in her 20s, I believe. She had worked at a few offices and was exposed to the Jewish community and religion…It spoke to her, certain aspects of it.
“My strong Jewish upbringing is more from my mother’s side. It wasn’t really important, kosher and Jewish education, to my father. The big pusher was my mother, and still is. She’s very dedicated and fully embraced what being Jewish was, more than just a title. She really instilled the core values and traditions of the Jewish culture in me.”

Nepon learned of his First Nation background on his mother’s side after having recently had a positive DNA test taken.
“I remember some comments being made when I was younger, and it was said as a little bit of a joke,” recalled Nepon. “My dad would say from my mom’s side, he wasn’t using the proper language at the time…but, he’d say that I have Indigenous roots from her side.
“We did the genealogy in 2010, and that was really that stamp of confirmation that, yes, our roots do go back to the indigenous communities of Treaty 1 territory.
“I heard the term ‘residential school’ for the first time when I was 28 or 29, and I was absolutely shocked, completely thrown back – it almost felt like I’d been lied to.”

Once Nepon had finished high school, he continued on to university, but feeling uninspired, dropped out.
That is when Nepon met the man who would become his mentor and inspiration – Marvin Peters at Active Personnel Services (APS).
Peters gave Nepon an HR position at APS and urged him to go back to school to earn an MBA at the Asper School of Business. And, when it was time for Nepon to choose an elective, his professor suggested an Indigenous Economic Tenacity program.

“I met with the professor of it,” said Nepon. “As we got to talking, she said there’s actually a degree focus that MBA students can do. Nobody had attempted it as of yet. It was basically a major in Indigenous Economic Development.
“As soon as she said that nobody’s done it before, it was like a light turned on…I had to do it – fantastic, uncharted territory…I completely switched my majors and extended my coursework a bit in order to accommodate for this.
“That was one of the most enlightening things that ever happened to me…And, you know, getting a true picture and different perspectives of how history has happened from the other side.”

It was Nepon’s work experience with Active Personnel Services that gave him the exposure necessary to understand the needs of  First Nations workers who were too often employed mainly, if not exclusively, in the temporary labor force.
“It really gave me this front line view of what was going on,” said Nepon. “I started asking questions and talking with staff…seeing what the real issues were and why they were working as temporary labor…Basic resources or education that we take for granted, such as, the importance of IDs, having a bank account, or a social insurance number. These were not available to the staff that eventually ended up in the temporary labor system.
“Talking with them helped me understand a bit too, of what was really going on in the communities – a lack of opportunity and not the same resources that most citizens have access to.”

Now, with more knowledge and understanding of the situation, Nepon has spread his wings into the realm of freelance. He is now working as a consultant for small-to-medium-sized companies wanting to reposition themselves in the market with their brand, looking for new streams of revenue, or just creating efficiency within their current systems.
While his services are geared for everyone and anyone, Nepon is drawn to helping develop First Nation communities in Canada – all 650 of them. “It’s creating a social enterprise that offers services to Indigenous communities while consulting with them,” said Nepon.
“It’s not just going in with a prepackaged offering and saying, ‘this is for you.’ Because, what we are seeing is that what has until now been offered is not meeting the needs of these communities.

“We need to be consulting with community leaders, chiefs, and asking what their needs are. And then look around and determine how to implement this – how do I create a system that is going to work specifically for these communities…with the eventual goal of actually transferring ownership, or having these social enterprises taken over, or having it gifted to the communities in order to build their own capacity and function under their guidance.”

Nepon also dedicates his time to volunteer work, helping out with the Rady Sports Dinner among other things. “I believe there is such a great opportunity in Manitoba for all entrepreneurs, whether you’re looking at working with Indigenous, non-Indigenous, or within the Jewish community,” he said.

To enquire about Nepon’s consulting services, MBA Consulting & Co., e-mail him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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