The world is full of people who are proud to call themselves first nations. These First Nations cultures and communities have survived for centuries, and now they’re thriving as entrepreneurs.
Many First Nations people live in remote areas without access to the internet or other modern means of communication, but this doesn’t hold them back from being successful. If anything, these challenges have strengthened their resolve. With a deep-rooted sense of community and a strong entrepreneurial spirit that has been passed down through generations, it’s no wonder why these people are flourishing in a rapidly changing world.
The World’s Indigenous Peoples Day: Celebrating First Nations Entrepreneurship
The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is observed annually on August 9th. It was established by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1994. The day is dedicated to celebrating communities, cultures, and ways of life of Indigenous peoples around the world.
First Nations people have been living sustainably on ancestral lands and contributing to shaping our world for the better. Despite a lot of Indigenous nations being colonised and having their land taken from them, First Nations people are the world’s biggest conservationists, but they rarely get credit for it.
2021 United Nations theme is “Leaving no one behind: Indigenous peoples and the call for a new social contract.”
The social contract is an idea that society has between its different groups that work together for societal and economic benefits. In many countries, Indigenous peoples were not included in the social contract, which was made among the dominant population.
In line with this year’s theme and to celebrate Indigenous people, I wanted to run an event that shined a spotlight on First Nations Entrepreneurship.
It was an honour and privilege to have four First Nations entrepreneurs from around the world share their experiences and knowledge with those who attended the event for International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 2021.
It was a celebration of Indigenous entrepreneurship that encouraged non-Indigenous people to learn more about Indigenous entrepreneurship, how it differs from Western entrepreneurship and how they can help decolonise the structures in place to support an Indigenous worldview and way of doing things.
The speakers were amazing and the audience loved it.
The attendees walked away from the event feeling inspired and well-informed. Although we could have talked about this important subject for much longer and conducted some exercises in breakout rooms, it was a great introductory event for most people.
Access to capital
Despite our location and cultural differences, Indigenous entrepreneurs around the world share a common challenge: access to capital. This is due to the generations of wealth being stolen from colonisation and land theft, which means they have less access to capital because they cannot obtain capital to start or grow their business.
It’s the capital that was injected into cheap bone beauty that has propelled and led to the success of what we’re doing as a company.
And without that, it would be absolutely impossible. So it’s just critical and crucial that native led organizations get capital. – Jenn Harper
Jenn herself finally got access to the capital she needed to build her company and now has a full-time chemist and 16 employees in total working at her headquarters. She’s also creating products using ingredients found on so many of our native lands.
“Capital issue is probably one of the biggest barriers we’re facing as Indigenous people, as well as how we get measured on the risk evaluation of what we’re building.” – Vanessa Roanhorse
How can we decolonised systems that aren’t designed to support Indigenous entrepreneurship
“I grew up learning from my parents that we had to work harder and present better and do everything 10 times better because we were coming from a minority, and in some ways, I didn’t really believe it until now.
I’m in my early forties, it is so much more work. There is so much more that Indigenous people do, just to get the same recognition and credit from the broader community.” – Stephen Mam
What is needed is a system that works for Indigenous people, one that recognizes our inherent right to create and control our own wealth while maintaining the responsibility of managing natural resources for future generations.
This requires a fundamental change in how we govern ourselves and manage communities within our territories.
The 2021 United Nations theme is “Leaving no one behind: Indigenous peoples and the call for a new social contract”. This is a much-needed initiative, but when even the Canadian government is not honouring its treaty with Indigenous people, what legal or social weight would a contract have?
In the past 70 years, the world has seen more than 80 former colonies gain independence. With this many countries finally free of colonial rule, it speaks volumes to the importance of the United Nations.
Social entrepreneurship and corporate responsibility are relatively new concepts, but they’ve already made fantastic progress. Take the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission for example. It was only established in 2012 but it’s already making progress for social enterprises.
Indigenous entrepreneurship has been around for a little longer (thousands of years), which can provide a framework (way of thinking and doing) that actually makes a difference in Indigenous communities/nations and around the world.
Indigenous entrepreneurship is a topic that hasn’t been talked about enough. It’s always tough to talk about the challenges we face, and how Indigenous entrepreneurship is different and needs culturally appropriate support for it to flourish in Western society.
There are more and more non-Indigenous people who want to learn and help out, instead of trying to make money from a disadvantage or push their own agenda.
There are also a lot more really powerful stories and insights shared in our webinar below that I couldn’t cover here… but you’ll see that Indigenous entrepreneurs are just as intelligent and cool (just skip webinar intro).