Water is wet; the Nuu chah nulth can fish. - The Orca
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Water is wet; the Nuu chah nulth can fish.

Carol Anne Hilton
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Carol Anne Hilton on fishing rights, a landmark legal ruling, and establishing a new truth.

I’m often asked what is Indigenomics? To me, it’s the rise of Indigenous economic empowerment. It’s the story of Indigenous peoples taking our seat at the economic table. In a country built in many ways on the systemic dis-invitation of Indigenous peoples, today Indigenous peoples are building a new truth of economic empowerment.

For example, the Tsilhqot’in case (or commonly referred to as the William case), that first confirmed aboriginal title existed outside reserves, broke apart reality as we know it. It created a new legal landscape – a new truth.

Before this case, we believed in the singular truth that there are only two types of title here in Canada: Crown, and fee simple. This case cracked open a whole new truth of Indigenous title.

This week, the Nuu chah nulth people also established a new truth. From the eyes of the first explorers who documented the Nuu chah nulth people bringing canoe loads of fish to their boats upon first contact, the Nuu chah nulth people’s right to the most basic form of commerce – the right to fish, and sell it –  was upheld in the BC Court of Appeal.

The magnitude of this win is significant. The case focused on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ (DFO) continuous infringement on the Nuu-chah-nulth right to a commercial fishery, and thus the lack of access to an economic base.

Indigenous peoples are the only ones in this country who have had to fight for a right to an economy. In the words of laywer, esteemed colleague, and friend (and author of Resource Rulers) Bill Gallagher, “the only thing the Nuu chah nulth didn’t have to prove in this case is that water is wet.”

Last week also saw the federal government’s budget announcement of $18 billion of investment into closing the “Indigenous socio-economic gap.” A good sentiment, but why does it exist in the first place?

It’s simple. The socio-economic gap was created by the economic displacement of Indigenous peoples. How can a federal government on one hand commit to “close the gap” – but also fight in court for over 10 years to deny the very foundation of Indigenous economy or access to an economy?

To close the gap, means to stop fighting to keep it pried open.

Foundational to the very idea and construct of money and economy is the function of commerce or exchange. Who gets to decide Indigenous peoples do not have the modern right to commercial exchange? Nuu chah nulth people have taken our seat at the economic table, and more importantly, inserted a new truth.

We are looking at the rise of Indigenous economic empowerment, taking a seat at the economic table that has for so long been denied. This is Indigenomics.

Carol Anne Hilton, MBA is the CEO and Founder of The Indigenomics Institute. Carol Anne is a recognized national Indigenous business leader and senior adviser with an international Masters Degree in Business Management (MBA) from the University of Hertfordshire, England. Carol Anne is of Nuu chah nulth descent from the Hesquiaht Nation on Vancouver Island.

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