Exploring the Common Ground Between Social Innovation and Indigenous Resurgence: Two Critical Indigenist Case Studies in Indigenous Innovation in Ontario, Canada
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Preliminary reading and research with Anishanaabe Maamwaye Aki Kiigayewin and the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation (MNCFN) indicated that integrating Indigenous Knowledge and Practices into existing social innovation strategies is not always sufficient to provide useful tools for Indigenous innovation process. However, it became clear that social innovation shares common ground with the Indigenous resurgence movement and, when considered along with critical indigenist research strategies, can provide direction for Indigenous innovations at multiple scales. The purpose of this thesis is to provide a preliminary exploration of social innovation from a critical indigenist perspective to increase its utility in Indigenous contexts. Together with Anishanaabe Maamwaye Aki Kiigayewin and MNCFN, and following Indigenous scholars, I have strived to implement critical indigenist methodologies by linking critical and Indigenous methodologies through action-oriented research to address the asserted needs and interests of Indigenous partners. Through this critical indigenist approach, I have strived to implement participant observation, reflexivity, and settler storytelling to fulfill my research objectives. Through a discussion of current initiatives undertaken by Anishanaabe Maamwaye Aki Kiigayewin, I demonstrate that major themes and strategies of social innovation are useful in supporting the resurgence of Indigenous Knowledge and Practices. This discussion results in the conclusion that Indigenous innovation is a unique type of social innovation informed by Indigenous Knowledge to promote the resurgence of Indigenous Knowledge and Practices. From this position, I propose a conceptual model for Indigenous innovation that links resilience, social innovation, Indigenous resurgence, and critical indigenist research strategies with the intent to lay a foundation for further development of a historicized, culturally appropriate model that promotes the resurgence of Indigenous Knowledge and Practice. I demonstrate the utility of this model by using it to organize a description of current initiatives underway in MNCFN and then using it to speculate on future initiatives that may foster successful innovation(s) in MNCFN Traditional Territory. In conclusion, articulating Indigenous innovation as a unique type of social innovation may lead to developing approaches to relationship building and knowledge integration that are culturally appropriate and ultimately more useful for Indigenous innovators looking to implement them.