Fighting Fires and Fanning Flames of Innovation: Impact Fund Catalyst Tate Juniper Sparks Northern Prosperity
“I know there will be success and a lot of laughter and happiness for Indigenous people for a long time to come and I will be doing anything I can to keep that going,” Tate Juniper promises. He is a Sahtu Dene man who was born in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, then moved to BC as a child so his family could care for his grandfather. They lived in Kelowna and he would go up to Inuvik during the summers to work and back to Yellowknife, moving between three communities nomadically.
These days he works with entrepreneurs as an Impact Fund Catalyst, looking to create financial opportunities for Indigenous entrepreneurs and business owners. “If you want to start a business, it's really hard to just get through all the paperwork, the terms, and not feel like you're being taken advantage of in a system that was designed primarily for non-Indigenous people and settlers,” he explains.
When working in Inuvik firefighting, he felt led to work on Indigenous initiatives and projects. With a background in electrical, accounting, economics, and firefighting, his skillset is broad. While these fields don’t seem related, they were efforts to keep himself afloat when struggling with poverty and also relate to the things that are important to him.
“I think a lot of it ties back to the land and the people. A lot of the work I've done is to just better Indigenous people's success and access to capital and skills and stories and even language in some ways too,” he explains, reflecting on how it all connects to his roots in the North and the way he values the land and centres it in the choices he makes.
After the passing of his mother and grandfather, he felt the loss of their stories, knowledge and even of a part of himself. He embarked on a journey of self-discovery and connection, loading up his SUV with equipment and travelling all over Canada, the US and Mexico to share the voices and stories of over 250 Indigenous people over the course of four months.
The project is available to be viewed for free on the internet and it really started with conversations and a realization he had some money to give honorariums and to pay for his travel expenses to create something that could give back to the community. “It really just came from this desire to see Indigenous stories told through an Indigenous lens, to be able to understand what it means to sit down with an Indigenous person, we're just sharing words. Through that some powerful, powerful stories and powerful, powerful wisdom was shared,” he recalls.
At the same time, Juniper has an exhibit in the Cincinnati Museum of community stories from the Beaufort Delta region in the Northwest Territories. He’s worked on projects in the Yukon and is working full-time with Entreprenorth after doing a video series on one of their programs. He works there 9-5 and is putting down roots after travelling for so long. In the evenings and weekends he does extra work and consulting. He’s inspired by all the projects he’s invited to take part in, but he’s also trying to protect his energy and be present for himself, his family and friends.
To take care of himself, he’s trying to be mindful, grounding himself and maintaining perspective. “I'll always exist in this moment for the rest of my life, because we only have this moment. So to take that moment that always is and to really be in it and be present, that is the best way that I can really continue to live a better and authentic life that's mine, and who I am,” he elaborates.
Juniper is full of wisdom and insights about life and human behaviour. “We often sweat the small stuff. But what's important is being yourself, listening to yourself, loving yourself, and knowing that you can reach out to the community and your friends and family around you. It can be scary sometimes. But when you build that strong connection, not only in yourself but to others, you just have so much more accessibility to care. If you can't find that outside, find it inside, and if you're struggling find it inside in the moment, find it somewhere else,” he shares.
He’s pouring his energy into his work with entrepreneurs because of his vision for the future. “I really want to see the North prosper. That comes through creating not just innovative, Indigenous ways of accessing capital, but it's really about giving people options,” Juniper explains. “I want to see Indigenous access to capital and financing become something that isn't just an exciting buzzword. And I want to tell more stories,” he continues.
He wants to share the successes, failures and feelings of the people of the North with future generations. In his work, he wants to help create intergenerational investments so his children, their children and many generations to follow will thrive. Juniper also wants people to know that we all have the ability to do amazing things with the resources that are available.
Youtube is where he learned to drive, take pictures and interview people, watching lessons. The outcome was sitting with elders and hearing them tell him how nobody had ever listened to them in that way. “It just made me realize that we don't have to have all the answers. You can build the bike as you ride it,” he advises.
That’s how he’s approaching things as he moves towards his vision for the future. Fighting fires and fanning the flames of innovation, he is fuelled by his love of the North and the land and the desire to be a catalyst for connection and collaboration. Tate Juniper knows there will be success and a lot of laughter and happiness for Indigenous people for a long time to come and he will be doing anything he can to keep that going.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
Future Pathways Fireside Chats are a project of TakingITGlobal's Connected North Program.
Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.