‘It’s about inspiring the next generation’: Indigenous Innovators Gathering features Tanya Talaga, Teara Fraser and Notorious Cree

·3 min read

When Tanya Talaga thinks of Indigenous innovation, she thinks about moving into uncharted territory.

“[It’s about] moving into areas where we haven’t traditionally been, but we have every right to be,” she says.

“We can be there strongly and with an absolutely beautiful different perspective of many different nations and many different people.”

Talaga is an award-winning author, a columnist and — now — the CEO of an Indigenous production company called Makwa Creative. She will be giving a keynote speech at the first annual Indigenous Innovators Gathering hosted by Victoria-based digital agency Animikii which aims to drive social innovation through “Indigenous technology.”

The gathering will be held virtually on Dec. 3. In her keynote, Talaga says she will incorporate the Seven Anishinaabe Grandfather Teachings that have guided much of her work and life — humility, truth, honesty, wisdom, respect, courage and love.

Talaga recently wrote and produced a seven-episode Audible Original podcast with the title “Seven Truths,” with each episode delving into different stories around each teaching.

“We think a lot about those seven truths and we think a lot about how people today are really looking for something to hold onto and something to believe in,” she says.

“The seven grandfather teachings are just that really. You don’t have to be Anishinaabe to believe in the seven teachings. Many different nations have different variations of the teachings.”

As Talaga moves forward to new projects — including a new book that’s in the works — she says she is grateful to be part of a community of Indigenous innovators who are blazing trails in their own respective fields.

“It makes the work that we do so much more meaningful and true,” she says.

Talaga says that talent is exemplified by the second speaker at the Indigenous Innovators Gathering: Teara Fraser. Fraser is the first Indigenous woman to start an airline in Canada — Iskwew Air.

“She is a pilot, she owns her own business, she owns her own airline. How incredible is that? I think she is so incredibly inspiring,” Talaga says.

Event co-facilitator Samantha Vanderdonck, a project coordinator with Animikii, and Tyler McLeod, Business Development Strategist, say the purpose of the three-hour gathering is to highlight the innovation that’s happening across Turtle Island.

“[It] isn’t solely just about technology and software development,” McLeod says.

“It spans across arts, communication, culture, health, education … It’s about inspiring the next generation.”

At the gathering, there will also be a performance by hoop dancer Notorious Cree, who has gained hundreds of thousands of followers on TikTok and Instagram, as well as facilitated breakout sessions where participants can ask questions. The event will be recorded for those who aren’t able to attend live.

Vanderdonck says this is the first Indigenous Innovators Gathering of many, as Animikii plans to host similar events four times per year going forward.

“Highlighting the fact that there are so many incredible people already working in the industry … helps for others to know that they can do it too,” she says.

Catherine Lafferty, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse