Raylene Whitford Q&A

What do you find most interesting, exciting, or surprising about the future of economic partnerships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous businesses or organizations?

The economics of partnerships are straightforward and are well-understood by everyone around the table. We also have many educated and experienced Indigenous Professionals working for our Nations, industry and government. We need to continue to collaborate like this going forward.

What interests me is the additional insight that Indigenous ways of being can bring to western ways of doing business. For example, Traditional Knowledge systems reach far beyond understanding the physical landscape around us. There are opportunities to use this knowledge to augment leadership traits, communication and governance in western businesses. This is exciting and what I see as the real game-changer for my generation and those to follow.

What role do organizations like yours play in empowering Indigenous economies? What other support or changes (outside of your organization)?

Creative Energy works between government, industry and community to bridge gaps in understanding, communication and capacity. We often find the collaboration issues aren’t due to a lack of engagement or interest, and it can be as simple as the language used or a lack of understanding of how to reach out respectfully.

What underpins all of this is education – on all sides. A continued focus on learning – and unlearning – is what is needed to further our shared economies.

If there was any advice you could provide Canadian businesses interested in (or in the beginning stages of) partnering with Indigenous communities, what would it be?

You have to be in it for the long haul. Our people don’t think in quarters, fiscal years or even decades. We have been here since time immemorial, so our time frame is different.

Also, land-based learning! It is easy to discuss financial models and engineering specs around a boardroom table. Still, unless your senior leadership has been out and spent time on the land – walking, fishing, medicine-picking – with our community, they will never really have a true understanding of how we see these developments. We need more CEOs helping tan hides and more chairmen washing berries for Elders.

Fast forward to the future, what would a successful Indigenous Economy look like?

Well-rounded, self-sustaining, and with an equal focus on global markets. Also, we don’t focus enough on Indigenous-to-Indigenous trade – this is a huge opportunity. We need to become more independent of industry and government and more interconnected.

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Raylene Whitford

Founder, Canative Energy

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