Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Indigenous Economic Empowerment and Community Resurgence 

Story shared by Hayley Roulstone and Patti Derbyshire 

The contributions of Indigenous activists from generations ago are coming to fruition in ways that are both inspiring and transformative. These pioneers, who bravely fought for their Rights and laid the groundwork for future generations, are now witnessing dreams being realized as Indigenous entrepreneurs, especially women, continue to dismantle the ‘business-as-usual’ model and reinvent capitalism.  

The essence of this remarkable shift was captured at the Indigenous Partnerships Success Showcase in Vancouver on June 5 and 6, 2024. The conference highlighted that this movement is not just about restitution and land relations, but is also about economic Reconciliation and showcasing Indigenous Nations as valuable players in the Canadian economy. Consequently, the business world should be prepared for Indigenous Nations that are ready for equity partnerships and billion-dollar deals. 

Indigenous women are at the forefront of this revolution, challenging conventional business practices that have long prioritized profit over people. Indigenous women are leading economic systems that value economic prosperity while ensuring shared decision-making and community well-being. Their approach prioritizes the desires and needs of the community alongside the revitalization of language and culture. Traditional metrics for measuring progress, such as Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria, need to evolve to reflect Indigenous values and perspectives. 

Chief Crystal Smith of the Haisla Nation eloquently emphasized the profound impact of education within Indigenous communities. She noted that every person getting educated affects ten to twelve people in their community, highlighting the ripple effect of knowledge and empowerment. This underscores the importance of investing in education and leadership development as key components of economic and social resurgence.  

The successes showcased at the conference were a testament to the resilience, creativity, and leadership of Indigenous activists and entrepreneurs from time immemorial. These achievements are not just milestones but are stepping stones toward a future where Indigenous Nations thrive independently and sustainably. Economic development should be for creating jobs, fostering economic independence, and enabling communities to heal from past injustices, including poverty and addiction. 

As we honor the legacy of those who paved the way, it is essential to recognize the importance of unity and mutual respect within the Indigenous community. This collective strength is the foundation upon which future successes will be built. We are witnessing a powerful shift as Indigenous communities buy back Turtle Island through economic development, reclaiming their heritage and sovereignty. In this era of transformation, it is crucial for all stakeholders, including businesses, policymakers, and community leaders, to support and amplify Indigenous-led initiatives. On the Partnership in Principle and in Practice: Measuring Progress panel, Chief Gibby shared his experience preparing a land-use development plan for the Olympics. While waiting for assistance from the federal government to help prepare the Squamish Nation’s land-use development plan, he instead took the initiative to start this process with Nation members first. Chief Gibby sat with his own members and didn’t ask “How do you want to use the land?”; he asked, “How do you use the land?”. When the time came for the Olympic committee to ask the Squamish Nation about using the land, they had already prepared their plan with their measures of success in mind. By fostering equity partnerships and respecting Indigenous measures of success, we can contribute to a more just and inclusive economic landscape. 

The Indigenous Partnerships Success Showcase was a call for continued action and collaboration. As we look to the future, let us all be inspired by the resilience and vision of Indigenous communities and work together to create a world where everyone can thrive. Embrace your identity, respect one another, and take pride in the collective journey towards a brighter, more equitable future. The journey of reclaiming Turtle Island is far from over, but the strides made thus far are a testament to the enduring spirit and determination of Indigenous Peoples. By honoring past activists and supporting current leaders, we can help ensure that the path to economic empowerment and community resurgence is inclusive and transformative for all.