“It’s a powerful time that we live in. It’s powerful because it’s a time of demonstrating leadership. It’s about being able to define our purpose and refine it and establish how that purpose looks in action.” – Carol Anne Hilton, CEO and Founder of Indigenomics

With the success of Indigenous business expected to grow exponentially over the next decade, economics from an Indigenous worldview is needed to highlight the impact of Indigenous business on the Canadian economy.

What once began as a hashtag has evolved into a major movement. So what is Indigenomics?
On October 30, at a Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce event focused entirely on Indigenous economic development, keynote speaker Carol Anne Hilton, CEO and Founder of The Indigenomics Institute, explained Indigenomics as a “platform for modern Indigenous economic design”. She further described the movement as “the collective economic response to the lasting legacy of the systemic exclusion of Indigenous peoples in the development of this country”.

In a conversation with Jessica Dumas—the chamber’s new chairwoman and the only First Nations person to hold the position in the last century—Hilton was asked where the hashtag #Indigenomics had come from. Hilton admitted that she avoided social media but heard about the benefits of using Twitter to start a conversation. “My area of interest was Indigenous business, the economy and the success of our people,” said Hilton. “I remember the first couple of tweets under #Indigenomics was a conversation about how we pay attention to the content we are seeing. It became a thread of content that demonstrated a common narrative of the growth of Indigenous business success.” In the early days, Hilton never saw the establishment of the Indigenomics hashtag turning into an entire movement.

A recognized First Nation business leader and Indigenous policy expert, Hilton has a Master’s degree in Business Management (MBA) from the University of Hertfordshire, England. She is of Nuu-chah-nulth descent from the Hesquiaht First Nation on Vancouver Island, British Columbia (BC), Canada.

Hilton was recently appointed as a senior advisor to the Canadian Federal Economic Growth Council and joined the BC Economic Task Force advising the Ministry of Jobs, Trade, and Technology. She has also written a book titled Indigenomics, which will be released in January 2020.

Why Indigenomics?
As she addressed the large group at the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg this fall, Hilton explained why there is a pressing need for Indigenomics:

  • “Because the Indigenous economy is growing rapidly;
  • Because new thinking is required today to evolve the state of the Indigenous relationship;
  • Because it is through new language that we will get there;
  • Because an Indigenous world view is required in our future (not just our past);
  • Because 76% of Indigenous children live in poverty in some areas of Canada.”

She pointed out that the portrayal of Indigenous peoples in media is often negative, depicted as a burden on the economic fiscal system. And when it comes to major economic development projects, an Indigenous worldview is not represented.

Photo Credit: Mike Sudoma Photography

As a collective we must address the legacy of systemic exclusion. To do this, Hilton explained that we must build from an uncomfortable space. “We must under- stand that the first 150-plus years of this country was developed and established on the systems of economic exclusion of Indigenous people,” she said. “The next 150 years is about the economic inclusion of Indigenous people.”

Hilton pointed out the number of Indigenous businesses is growing at five times the rate of Canadian businesses and that it is time to see Indigenous peoples as economic power houses. She suggested that Indigenous economy cannot exist as a program or service of government; rather, it’s something to which we should all pay attention. It must be nurtured, invested in and “looked at as a system of actual design”.

What does economic success look like?
Hilton is focused on answering what she described as the “power question”: How can we collectively grow the Indigenous economy from $32 billion (2016 value) to $100 billion by 2024? It comes down to leadership and Indigenous economic inclusion. “Being able to establish a $100 billion Indigenous economy is possible and integral to the success of the future of this country,” said Hilton. “Shifting away from ‘this has happened to us’ and using ‘designed by us’ will facilitate the concept of economic presence and the growing influence we have as Indigenous people.”

To support the growth of the Indigenous economy, Hilton created the Economic Mix—a group of 12 other Indigenous leaders who focus on opportunities and places of leadership. She pressed the importance of addressing several areas of growth and trends towards economic empowerment and success, some of which are: leadership in Indigenous equity; infrastructure; the rise of Indigenous entrepreneurship; the role of capital and how it is central to the success of Indigenous economy; the growth of Indigenous clean energy; the role of social enterprise in the emerging Indigenous economy; and the role of technology in the growing Indigenous economy.

The intention of Indigenomics is to be able to establish an invitation for leadership, insight into economic inclusion and an ability to look at and demonstrate the ‘calls to action’ of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

As Hilton’s keynote came to a close, she left the audience with one question, “Who wants to play Indigenomics?”

Learn more about Carol Anne Hilton and the Indigenomics movement by visiting  www.indigenomicsinstitute.com.