An Introduction to Decolonizing and Reconciling Entrepreneurship

This article has been updated to reflect new offerings from Nahanee Creative.

My name is Ta7talíya Michelle Nahanee of the Squamish Nation. I am a decolonial facilitator and I call myself an Indigenous changemaker. I’ve been in communications and design for 20-plus years in First Nations-specific contexts. My aim is to contribute to undoing colonial conditioning and ongoing oppression in a way that I think is helpful. I want to bring to the surface and talk about a lot of things people don’t really have a space to talk about.

What Role Do Businesses Have To Play in the Process of Reconciliation?

I never see business and personal life as separate. There are so many ways businesses can play their part, and their role can influence society in so many ways. Everything from the supply chain, to human resources, to impact investment, to being social influencers can contribute to reconciliation.

Businesses can look at their hiring practices and ask themselves if they’re inclusive of Indigenous peoples. There are also ways you can be a positive influence in your community. Businesses can stand up and tell others what they believe and how they’re contributing positively. Just being clear and honest about the different methods you’re embracing as an organization can make a difference.

What Does the Term “Decolonizing Entrepreneurship” Mean to You?

Michelle NahaneeDecolonizing entrepreneurship has meant recalibrating what success means to me, like moving beyond just seeing my bottom line as profit. It widens that bottom line to include my family’s happiness, and is considerate of future generations and how my decisions impact them. It’s looking at your business and how it positively contributes to your community.

Decolonizing means removing the dominant narrative in entrepreneurship, that financial gain is the only metric for success. Instead, I believe my success is grounded in my relationship with my family, community, and Nation – how I hold myself accountable to those people and my ancestors.

Some of those ways are specifically linked to Indigenous ways of being, or Squamish ways of being. There are some messages and methodologies in there that I think can support everybody to conduct business in a healthy way. For me, it’s been liberating to feel healthier – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually – in my business. This is in contrast to earlier versions of how I was approaching my business life. I was working too many hours, not looking after my health and relationship time, and using financial gain as a measure of perfection.

These are just a few of the ideas I’m holding and working with in terms of decolonizing entrepreneurship.

What Are Some Practical Steps People Can Take in Their Own Businesses?

If people are interested in reconciliation, they should think of decolonizing first. Look at how you’re approaching your relationship to the First Nations whose land you’re operating your business on. Are you acknowledging their territory? Are you going further by being in good relations with the First Nations? Going even further by ensuring that you’re not contributing to any harm to Indigenous peoples?

It’s really unpacking complicity in settler colonialism. Are you contributing to settler colonialism, or are you working to undo settler colonialism? Undoing includes things like working to remove the invisible border between Indigenous communities and everybody else. That’s one example. Another is having an Indigenous Cultural Safety Plan within your organization. For instance, if somebody makes a racist joke or otherwise contributes to damaging narratives, the company has worked on how to respond and your team knows it’s unacceptable within the organization.

This is how we can support undoing this kind of damage. Unfortunately, a lot of those Cultural Safety Plans aren’t in place and there aren’t any kind of decolonial practices or awareness in the workplace. When somebody makes a racist comment in the workplace and it isn’t challenged, it becomes a small ember of a fire. Nobody puts them out, they just keep growing, and it becomes ugly.

This is another example of what organizations can do in preparation for having good relations with Indigenous peoples. Take a stand and work within your organization to raise awareness about anti-Indigenous racism.

How Can People Get Involved With Your Important Work?

Ultimately, there’s a lot people can do even if they aren’t in day-to-day relations with Indigenous peoples. You’re still in Canada, there’s still a lot of anti-Indigenous racism, and we’re still a settler colonial state. Every individual can start to unpack their impact, history, and decide their role within that space, instead of passively accepting the way things are.

I believe we can achieve change one person at a time, one conversation at a time. Even if you aren’t regularly interacting with Indigenous peoples, your sphere of influence can still contribute to dismantling racism. You can learn more at Nahanee Creative online.

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