Indigenizing Business

25,970 First Nations people with registered Indian status live in Winnipeg.

47,325 Métis, and an estimated 5,000 non-status and Inuit people call Winnipeg home.

In Manitoba, the First Nations population grew 22.9 per cent between 2006 and 2011, and the Métis population grew 16.3 per cent (Statistics Canada, 2011). As a city with the largest and fastest growing Indigenous populations, it is crucial that our Winnipeg post-secondary Institutions adapt and Indigenize to meet their academic needs. Especially because we must acknowledge that the people most affected by colonization and most in need of Indigenization are the least likely to know about them (Kinew, 2016), and it is our response –ability (Blaikie, 2013) to ensure we move forward together in reconciliation.

Taking a grand step in this direction, this past fall, the University of Winnipeg officially instituted their Indigenous course requirement, thus necessitating that all undergraduate students take a three-credit course in Indigenous culture, language, or history to graduate. In response to this, and the growing movement to Indigenize, the U of W Faculty of Business and Economics began the preliminary stages of Indigenizing the department. With less than 3% of Indigenous students, and no Indigenous staff, the department has brought on a business graduate who is  currently a graduate student Vanessa Tait, completing her Masters in Indigenous Development Practice. Vanessa was tasked with recruiting business leaders from the Indigenous community to partner with faculty for the first committee meeting on Indigenizing the department.

Under Vanessa’s leadership, the collective first articulated Indigenous knowledge that could be built into the curriculum. The goal to make sure that this knowledge is accessible and appropriate for instruction by non-Indigenous faculty was also named. The first suggestion was to create a short series of videos that can be used by the staff who are teaching the Introduction to Business course. Everyone agreed this was a useful goal, and there would need to be a way to accumulate the necessary resources.

In attendance was Dr. John Loxley, who suggested that the committee first focus on curriculum development, then attracting and retaining Indigenous students. Exposing faculty to Indigenous issues was also a focus, as this had been done with the previous Premier’s Advisory Council on Poverty and Citizenship.

It was my pleasure to attend these meetings and witness the commitment and creativity being directed to addressing the lack of Indigenous knowledge concepts in the business curriculum. I suggested some key actions that can move the department into not only the process of Indigenization, but also of reconciliation and eventually restitution.

Firstly – The Faculty of Business & Economics should formally adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with a copy of the declaration posted publicly in the department office area and with copies for students a requirement for their introduction course. This is modelled after one of our In.Business challenges which has introduced students to different aspects of UNDRIP including Free Prior and Informed Consent before development occurs on Traditional Territory.

Secondly – Assign as a reading Chapter 1 of Indigenous Business in Canada: Principles and Practices, published by the Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies, as part of the introductory business curriculum ensuring students would learn of the Indigenous subsistence and redistributive economies, and how they changed in the wake of colonization (Brown et. al. 2016).

Thirdly – Recognize Treaty 1 territory in your opening remarks to your students and in your course outlines and other resources. Name the Cree, Ojibwe, Oji-Cree, Dakota, Dene, Inuit, and Métis.

Finally – Reward and recognize the efforts aimed at decolonizing curriculum – sharing departmental stories both internally and externally to ensure that what happens can reverberate within the Winnipeg Indigenous and non-Indigenous community at large.

Hanwakan Blakie Whitecould

Since 2014 the In.Business program in the Central Region has been delivered by Regional Manager Hanwakan Blaikie Whitecloud in partnership with the University of Winnipeg helping urban Indigenous youth to see themselves as future business success stories.