OCN company fourth entrant into crowded Thompson bus market

Mahihkan Bus Lines recently wrapped up its first full month of operations in Thompson, which means the local bus market is now supporting four transportation companies with similar services.

Originally known as Kelsey Bus Lines, Mahihkan is owned by the Aseneskak Casino in Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN) and decided to expand their reach into places like Flin Flon and Thompson after Greyhound shut down their western Canadian operations in October 2018.

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Mahihkan started offering their services in the Hub of the North in mid-April 2019, including a route to Winnipeg six days a week.

While CEO Suzanne Barbeau-Bracegirdle admits that the company is starting off slowly in Thompson, she said their freight, passenger and charter services are still running smoothly.

“We provide excellent service and we are core certified, which means that our buses are right up to date and they’re well-maintained,” she said. “We provide excellent customer service, and we’re going to be doing a lot more activities in Thompson to get our name out there.”

Part of their marketing included their recent name change.

According to Barbeau-Bracegirdle, she and the other partners decided to change their name to Mahihkan (which means wolf in Cree) to highlight the company’s 100 per cent Indigenous ownership.

Mahihkan will still have to play catch-up in the local bus market, since its three competitors—Thompson BusMaple Bus Lines and Highway 6 Express—have been on the road since last year.  

While Barbeau-Bracegirdle said Mahihkan aims to be a competitive entity in this space, she also mentioned that they want to be as cooperative as possible to the community at large, which includes lending a hand to their competitors if need be.

“So any negative stuff that’s out there we’re not going to play with that,” she said. “We want to stay positive and we want to stay focused on what we want to do and whatever the community’s needs are.”  

Aseneskak Casino has owned and operated Mahihkan/Kelsey Bus Lines since 2014. Before that, the McAdam family ran the company out of The Pas for over 50 years.

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