Landing : Athabascau University

Unit 7. The Indigenous Economy

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By Sydney Carroll January 28, 2024 - 1:47am

I think the idea of an Indigenous economy sheds light on how self serving our own economic system truly is. Reading the work of Rauna Kuokkanen makes one realize that our system relies on an environment with limitless consumer good output and the resources to do it. Kukkanen challenges the relationship we have with money and how we rely on forms of payment that are not the exchange of goods and services but rather payment in exchange for goods and services. Indigenous economies utilize individual skills and uplift a sense of community. Selfishness is not a talent that is commonly awarded in an Indigenous economy unlike our own where self growth and actualization are paramount. 


This paper has also reminded me of the power of unpaid work, caretakers, stay at home parents and volunteers, are all incredibly important groups of people in our society but their work is often overlooked. In Nova Scotia, volunteers worked the equivalent of 41,000 full time employees, generating over 2 billion dollars in unpaid revenue. This evaluation is not considered part of the provinces GDP and apart from some awards, these peoples hard efforts will go generally overlooked (Government of Nova Scotia, n.d.). It's important for us to consider the efforts of people who are more or less contributing to an Indigenous economy in their own way. 

Kuokkanen’s ideas both challenge the way we currently operate while in turn dismantling the systems of division that laid the groundwork for today's society. In Unit 2, the discussion of property explained the division of land and resources of that land should be divided and their outputs be the property of the land owner. These ideas were set in motion by men like John Locke who created norms around the commoditization of people and resources. This directly contradicts the work of Rauna Kuokkanen who argues that cyclical use of goods, kinship and a reciprocal relationship with the natural world is most beneficial. 


John Locke was also a proponent of the tragedy of the commons, he urged people to use resources that were not being protected by another person, essentially, finders keepers. This ideology that is foundational in the development of the United States is still practiced today. Take what you can now because if you don’t, someone else will. We practice scarcity in some of the most abundant countries in the world. This kill or be killed attitude backs us into a corner where we overexploit and overconsume. Unlike the Indigenous economy, ours is one that is only concerned with the present, we do not concern ourselves over the quality of life future generations will have because that will ultimately not affect us.


Some of the seeds from this week's readings would be to include unpaid labour as part of our GDP. This would include stay at home parents, volunteers and caretakers who are all critical in society, to have more tools and resources to continue their work. Finding ways to compensate for their work and enrich their lives so they feel appreciated. To remove boundaries for individuals in these sectors to start participating more, there may need to be protests, and for volunteers to withdrawal from their work in strike as they wait for policy makers to meet them at the negotiation table. 


I think my favourite way to participate in a small way to the Indigenous economy is by purchasing my clothes second hand, and having my produce come from farms where they do not meet the typical standards of grocery stores. Sharing knowledge, especially beekeeping, is one way I can enrich the lives of others and discuss the importance of the natural world. I would love to employ more common good practices in my life like  clothing swaps with friends and exchanging art or baked goods with one another. The Indigenous economy can be adopted in a multitude of ways and can be adapted to everyone. 


Government of Nova Scotia. (n.d.). THE NONPROFIT SECTOR IN NOVA SCOTIA. Government of Nova Scotia. Retrieved January 28, 2024, from