Barnaby, Percy

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                                     PORTRAIT OF A NATIVE

The following excerpts are reprinted from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada’s portrait of a former Miramichier

Percy Barnaby was born Aug. 16, 1936, a Mi’kmaq of the Eel Ground First Nation in New Brunswick.

Barnaby has good memories of his childhood with his brother and four sisters, and reminisces: When I was a kid, there were very few people on social assistance. I didn't really know any. Everybody worked. People of the Miramichi worked in the bush providing lumber for the local pulp mills, doing seasonal work such as berry picking in the summer, potato harvesting in the fall, and cutting trees for a substantial Christmas tree industry in the winter. Some families had farms.

Barnaby's father was in the military prior to working at the pulp mill as labour. He was successful and held the position of mill superintendentwhen he retired. Mom was Mom, stayed at home, looked after the kids.

What Barnaby enjoyed most was going to school. He went on to get his high school education at boarding school, an environment which he resented. His language was forbidden, there was no privacy and the mail was censored. However, he was a survivor. His grades were generally poor, but he found some refuge in being an altar boy, which could explain why the one subject he excelled in at the school was Latin.

Barnaby also engaged actively in sports, especially basketball, and in cultural activities such as plays and shows performed in neighboring colleges and universities. He left St. Thomas Academy at the beginning of the eleventh grade to join the Royal Canadian Air Force. Barnaby received his initial training at radar school in Clinton, Ontario. Although he enrolled in pilot school for a short time, Barnaby found his real niche in air weapons control. He finished his high school while stationed in Great Falls, Montana, and graduated from officer's school in Victoria, British Columbia as a second lieutenant.

Computer business, started in basement now provides service to 10,000 clients

Computers had always been one of Percy Barnaby's main interests since they first were used in the military in 1963. It is really no surprise that he and his wife decided to begin a computer training service out of their basement. I said, “Computers were my area. I am a computer-type person and I will start computer services to First Nations in 1984.” Today, Percy Barnaby is president of Abenaki Associates. It has offices in Ottawa, Winnipeg and Akwesasne. The main objective of his company is to provide professional training and computer-based services to communities and organizations.

In its corporate profile, Abenaki Associates boasts of providing training services to over 10,000 clients from more than 500 First Nations communities, organizations and businesses - everything from land claim information systems to system integration/networks.

In December 1994, Abenaki Associates won a housing award from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation for the development of the Abenaki Housing Inventory Management Module, a software package which assists Aboriginal housing organizations to keep track of their units and tenants, as well as repair and maintenance costs.

Barnaby has some advice for would-be entrepreneurs: You really have to get your basics straight. You have to understand your market. You have to have a product that's needed by the market. You have to understand your client's culture extremely well and you have to be able to fit into it.

He attributes the early high failure rate of Aboriginal businesses to bad advice. We don't have that anymore. I think now people are smarter, have graduated from schools, and know they have to study the market. I think they're doing it and I strongly recommend that they do analyze it. Start with the basics. Don’t try to be everything for everybody, otherwise it will kill you.

Barnaby named best air weapons/traffic controller in Canada

After graduation, Percy Barnaby's career took him from Victoria to North Bay, where he became an air weapons controller. From there he went to a top gun school at Panama City, Florida, where he trained with a team of pilots, controllers and technicians from all over the world. In 1974, just after winning an award for being the best air weapons/traffic controller in Canada, he left the air force with the rank of captain to return to New Brunswick. There he worked for DIAND as local government advisor and for three years as district superintendent. After a brief stint in the private sector, he became regional manager of New Horizons for Health Canada in Halifax. It was during this time he met and married his wife Carol. He left the government position in 1980 and for a short time, became special projects manager for his reserve at Eel Ground. A call from DIAND and an offer of a $38,000 salary brought him to Ottawa as chief of on-reserve housing in 1981. Over a period of four years, he held positions as associate director of housing and band support, acting director of Indian management development program at DIAND, and director of indigenous participation programs at the public service commission.

Then he decided it was time to try something he'd had on his mind for many years.

Source: Miramichi Leader – January 28, 1997

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