Entrepreneurship and Economic Reconciliation: Shifting the Narratives of Indigenous Money
“I certainly didn't set out to be inspiring. I think I was more trying to survive, and find my way through often times challenging life as an Indigenous woman in urban centers,” Vicky Auf Der Mauer explained. She lives in Toronto but grew up in community on Baffin Island and Iqaluit.
Auf Der Mauer reflected on her mother’s experiences in day school and her own life experiences and continued, “one can have a challenging life and one can find work that she loves through that challenge and not only survive, but she can thrive as well. In colonial spaces I had to be excellent. I had no other choice, but today I use that for myself and my community to demonstrate that we too can have fulfilling, beautiful lives.”
Faced with challenges, Auf Der Mauer created opportunity. Through prayer, meditation, journaling and asking her ancestors for guidance as to how to overcome and be of service, her intention was to feel better, to survive and feel okay in her own skin.
She was in the Toronto restaurant industry for 15 years in customer service. She worked her way into a dream job as an event manager at a five star restaurant and co-founded a small restaurant. Auf Der Mauer fell in love with entrepreneurship. An acquaintance tagged her on a Facebook post for an opportunity speaking to entrepreneurs and creatives within the Indigenous community and more opportunities followed.
“I get to do work that I love that matters to me and to the community and I get paid well to do it right,” she explained. Her advice for youth considering entrepreneurship is “that dream or that vision is absolutely possible for any one of us to be self-employed to create something meaningful to us that serves the community. I truly believe that when any one of us Indigenous folks are successful, that we all are. Part of my process is that I believe that our visions are given to us by that which created us.”
A confident and proud business woman, Auf Der Mauer contemplated the process she underwent to get here. “I have big dreams and visions and because I'm still dismantling colonial narratives that I've internalized, I didn't believe that those visions were possible for me. I was like, ‘who am I to dream that big?’ I got a message from my ancestors, which was, ‘we want you to live well. We want you to pursue what we're telling you to.”
She believes in the power of being in business. “Entrepreneurship is hard. It's really challenging. And it does require that resilience. It requires strength. It requires grit. It requires commitment, clarity, desire, knowing why we're doing it and money. Quite frankly, it requires all of these things, but it's so possible for each and every one of us. We have to believe that it's possible,” she reflected with hope.
While Auf Der Mauer exudes optimism, she acknowledged the more difficult aspects of entrepreneurship, saying, “Failure happens. There will be tears. There will be frustrations. There will be falling on your face.” She’s wrestled with the temptation to go back to traditional employment, questioning her calling and seeking direction for not just the work but also self-care.
She advocates for vision and perseverance, encouraging, “Dream big, believe those dreams are yours for a reason, and then believe in yourself and then ask yourself, ‘okay, how can I show up one day at a time? What is one little step I can do today to walk me towards that vision?’ It's this dichotomy of this grand vision and also one tiny, practical, little step at a time. Go for it, let's change the world, we need us, the world needs us.”
Auf Der Mauer believes in bringing equity in the world, sharing her philosophy of money and justice, “I have to believe that a kind of economic reconciliation is possible. What I hope is that my life is used to help Indigenous women, men, creatives, everyone to heal their relationship with money so we can utilize it as the tool that it is, and bring resources into our communities that we've been left out of. Money doesn't mean things for me, it means opportunity. It means more options. It means more resources, that's what money means to me.”
She believes the time to talk about this is now, saying, “We're so thirsty for this conversation.” Initially afraid to speak out about her perspective, she consulted with knowledge keepers and healers in her community and received their blessing. That gave her the confidence to keep pressing towards her vision.
“My hope is that we are changing the world. I do believe that we are, and it takes every single one of us. We matter so much, everybody does, but to know that I matter, I need to know the possibility that my life can make a difference to one life is enough… For the longest time, I believed that I didn't matter, because again, that's what the media was telling me as an Indigenous woman. And it's not true.”
She offers words of encouragement based on the journey she’s undertaken. She says, “Walk towards whatever light there is, that's what I had to do when things seemed impossible, and keep going. We get to be fulfilled as well.” She didn’t set out to be inspiring, but that’s what happened. Now a leader in the community, a speaker, teacher, and coach, Vicky Auf Der Mauer is shifting perspectives and bringing hope to those around her.
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.