Indigenous student weaves together traditional knowledge with business education
By Will Henderson
The Executive MBA in Indigenous Business Leadership (EMBA IBL) at SFU’s Beedie School of Business is designed to weave together executive business education with traditional Indigenous knowledge, and one student graduating from the program in 2020 has literally done just that.
As a part of her final project, artist Angela George (qʷənat), who is from the Squamish Nation and lives and works at Tsleil-Waututh, created a weaving that represents complex models of governance in a physical form.
“Our weavings are ways of holding knowledge, they are documents in a sense,” says George. “Our role as weavers is to hold that knowledge, express that knowledge. There’s a lot of very intricate meaning to all of the patterns and the shapes and the designs.”
During her studies, George says she made notes in a visual, graphical form, which chimed with her own ways of thinking and helped her to understand the concepts she was learning.
“Throughout the program I would be taking in the information about governance, about social responsibility, about financial management, and I would be doodling weaving designs and making notes and making it relatable to my background and how I’m going to use this information,” she says.
As the program came to its conclusion, she wanted to capture that learning in a form that was more tangible than writing a paper, so that she could take the learnings from the program and take them back to share with her community. She wanted to create a weaving alongside a final paper as her capstone project, and the school was happy to accommodate the request.
“Angela’s final project shows that the EMBA IBL program is about much more than lectures, financial statements and essays,” says Debra Hoggan, SFU Beedie’s senior manager, Indigenous programs. “It is a program that encourages the Indigenous business leader to express their worldviews, share their values and incorporate experiences with their studies.”
The result is a weaving made using traditional techniques, entitled ‘Weaving Governance’, which tells a story and is dense with meaning. “Foundationally, what is in that weaving is the four Coast Salish laws, and stemming from that our social systems, our structures, our traditional ways of ensuring those laws were upheld, and also the ways of sustaining that knowledge and passing it down through the generations,” says George. “It’s all in the designs and the patterns.”
The weaving is now on display at the Tsleil-Waututh community hall, where George works as Director of Community Development with a responsibility for reviving traditional cultural practices, laws and customs. She uses the piece to share the lessons of her EMBA and it will remain as a living document, connecting the community to both its past and future.