Jeff Ward on Indigenous Innovation at TEDx

2017-10-17 Share story


Indigenous Peoples are the original inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs of these lands, who provide unique solutions and perspectives to present-day challenges and opportunities. This talk was given at a TEDxRoyalRoadsU, using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.

Watch the Jeff's presentation on Indigenous Innovation here.

Canada's Creation Story is being Rewritten in Real Time 

In this moment, we’re living in a time where Canada’s creation story is being rewritten and Canadians are awakening to the truth of what really went on in this country.

As Canada celebrates 150 years of confederation, many Indigenous people are looking to the next 150, to try to find ways to not just survive but to thrive.

Through the Reconciliation movement, we’re seeing Indigenous and Non-Indigenous communities come together to build a renewed relationship. Because let’s face it: the Indigenous-settler relationship in recent generations has not been very healthy, to say the least.

With new challenges and opportunities, Canadians are collectively looking for innovative ways to make things better — and more equitable — for all of us.

Indigenous Innovators

“Innovation isn’t always about creating new things. Innovation sometimes involves looking back
at our old ways and bringing them forward to this new situation.”

— Senator Murray Sinclair

Innovation is typically thought of as using new ideas to make things better. And while we certainly have new challenges and opportunities, we have to understand that Indigenous Peoples have been innovating on these lands for millennia.

The reason many events are started with a territory acknowledgement is that it recognizes — in a straightforward way — that Indigenous Peoples were the original inhabitants and innovators of what is now known to settlers as Canada.

As the original inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs on these lands, Indigenous Peoples have thrived here, sustainably.

From inventions like the kayak, snowshoes and the toboggan to health remedies such as pain relievers and even medicines that cured scurvy in newcomers to this land.

Indigenous Ways of Knowing & Being

As we move from a resource-economy to a knowledge-economy, the world is coming to realize the knowledge and value that Indigenous perspectives hold.

Indigenous voices are now being heard thanks to social technologies. Indigenous people have never stopped innovating, we’ve never stopped using our voices. It’s just that now we’re being heard loud and clear.

Sometimes, Innovation means looking back to go forward. This is at the root of Indigenous culture. We look back and are guided through ancestral knowledge and this is what allowed us to thrive for many, many generations.

Indigenous worldview has many beautiful things to offer such as collectivism, thinking holistically, connectedness to land, restorative justice and our concepts of wealth are measured in what we give away, rather than what we keep.

Through this lens, Indigenous innovators today are continuing to invent and innovate across all systems such as education, health, technology and business.

In the Indigenous entrepreneurship community, we’re seeing more and more social enterprises make a huge impact in our country. This country was built through entrepreneurship and social enterprise so it is no surprise that these traditions continue.

As we move towards a “Reconciled” Canada, we have the opportunity as a country to recognize our history and reinvent our national identity, informed by Indigenous voices and Indigenous ways of knowing. We have the opportunity to create a better-shared future than our shared history; a future that we all want to see.

Article published October 17, 2017.

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