IN SEPTEMBER, THE Smith School of Business at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, launched an online business training program for a First Nations community in British Columbia. Thirty-five members of the Xeni Gwet’in community will take part in the 12-week program to earn a certificate of completion in administration and business management through the Centre for Business Venturing at Smith. Participants will learn project management and strategic thinking skills that they can apply to their current jobs or their own startup ventures.
The program is led by Jonathon Araujo Redbird and Christina Tachtampa of Redbird Circle, an educational training and consulting company with an indigenous focus. Both Redbird and Tachtampa are 2020 graduates of Smith’s master of management innovation and entrepreneurship (MMIE) program. Redbird Circle was their capstone project.
Christina Tachtampa and Jonathon Araujo Redbird founded Redbird Circle as
the capstone project of their master of management and entrepreneurship program.
Redbird and Tachtampa will teach their customized content alongside a handful of MMIE instructors and advisers. Each module will also feature indigenous speakers sharing their own perspectives and experiences.
Their educational approach is like a medicine wheel—a four-dimensional framework “that teaches people how to come back to balance,” explains Redbird, who is of European and Anishinaabe ancestry from the Wikwemikong Unceded Territory. “Before we get into teaching about bookkeeping or marketing, we need to be able to start at the core. How do we swing the pendulum back to indigenous values and philosophies, merging the two to create an elevated humanity?”
The program got its start thanks to a summer internship grant from the federal government that funded three students, including Tachtampa, to work with the Xeni Gwet’in community. One of the projects that emerged was a proposal for the certificate program, which has since received CAN$70,000 in funding from the B.C. government.
“Each student will have a practical project that they will work through over the three months of the program, to move them forward,” explains Shari Hughson, director of the MMIE program. “It is our hope that they will then be able to secure funding to keep the project going.”
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