Step into the River: A Journey of Economic Transformation

June 17, 2022

Now is the time to move beyond token acts of reconciliation and Sxwpilemaát Siyám (Chief Leanne Joe) a Hereditary Chief of the Squamish Nation and transformative storyteller is sharing a path for economic reconciliation with the launch of, Step Into the River: The Economic Reconciliation Framework on June 20th, 2022.

SFU’s Community Economic Development program (SFU CED) in the Faculty of Environment has been a leader in bringing about social, ecological and economic change since 1989.  Committed to confronting our colonial history and affecting transformative change, they partnered with Sxwpilemaát Siyám to host a series of generative dialogues in 2019.  The invitational dialogues included Indigenous thought leaders and representatives from Indigenous-led organizations across BC.  They explored economic reconciliation and how it might transform our current economy to a sustainable economy for our collective well-being.  These discussions underpin Step Into the River: The Framework for Economic Reconciliation being released on June 20th at a public talk. The framework will be available after the talk at: (

“Broadly speaking for Indigenous Peoples, storytelling is the foundation of articulating lived values that form the basis for Indigenous governance and regeneration” says Sxwpilemaát Siyám.



The Framework tells a story of hope for the future using the river as a catalyst for change. Chief Leanne invites people to step into the river and be agents of change.

The Framework describes the current state of economic reconciliation and how we might envision a future economy centred on well-being and rooted in Indigenous values and knowledge.  The framework offers a set of values, mind shifts and practices to support how practitioners, local governments, organizations, institutions and industry partners can engage in reconciliation to meet that desired outcome.

The document invites readers to open their hearts and minds to an Indigenous worldview and provides stepping stones through the journey of economic transformation.

“From building meaningful relationships, to building capacity and skills and supporting Indigenous self-determination, there is no one size fits all approach” says Sxwpilemaát Siyám.

Sxwpilemaát Siyám (Chief Leanne Joe) a Hereditary Chief of the Squamish Nation Transformative Storyteller for SFU’s CED program

The extent to which economic reconciliation can be transformative in nature depends on whether we are willing to transform.  The Framework explores ways in which our relationship to wealth needs changing. The current colonial economic model is built on the myth of perpetual material growth which creates waste, degrades nature, disregards justice and fails to ensure equity.  It is structured around dependency rather than well-being and the impacts are plainly visible and felt across different scales. For our economy to shift, we need to rethink what we value, how we relate to one another and how we make decisions. The Framework shares Indigenous worldviews about wealth and sustainability that are a source of wisdom for economic transformation.

A key component of this wisdom is the Community Wealth Ripple, a model envisioned by Sxwpilemaát Siyám, that intentionally centres children and families when creating, managing and distributing wealth.  When this happens, wealth moves through communities supporting strategic priorities, building capacity and self-determination and benefitting individuals, Mother Earth, all living creatures and so much more.