Artist’s weaving honours spirit of Indigenous business program

Jun 05, 2023

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Angela George (qʷənat) from the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw and Sts’ailes Nations and IBL EMBA alumnus. Photo credit: Simon Fraser University

As 30 graduands of the Indigenous Business Leadership Executive MBA (IBL EMBA) program at SFU’s Beedie School of Business prepare to receive their degrees on Wednesday (June 7), one alumnus has captured “the spirit and intent” of the program in a beautiful Coast Salish weaving in a collaborative project with the school.

Master weaver Angela George (qʷənat) from the Squamish Nation, who graduated in 2020, consulted with IBL EMBA alumni for her piece, which tells the story of the program’s origins as well as the school’s commitment to future cohorts, highlighting how SFU Beedie is a welcoming space for Indigenous students, now and in the future.

George describes her work, which represents complex models of governance in a physical form, as a “document that holds knowledge.”She says Coast Salish weavers are storytellers. “We are artists who weave together a story that is held in these weavings—these holders of knowledge. They reflect not only the laws of the land and place, but they bring together the community.”

“I connected and wove together my traditional knowledge—my traditional teachings and ways of knowing and doing—and was able to weave all of that into the more formal western methods of learning.”

George explains the significance of her weaving and its reflections on the IBL EMBA program. “It holds the knowledge and experiences and ideas of how these education systems can make space for people from all different backgrounds—and particularly the IBL EMBA program, bringing Indigenous people from across Canada together in a very collaborative and unique learning environment.”

Photo credit: Simon Fraser University

Program director Alexia McKinnon says the project, supported by SFU’s Aboriginal Strategic Initiatives and the Walk this Path funding program, marks a program milestone.

“It was important for us to work with the local Nations to bring the story of place, the people, the land, the water, as well as the IBL EMBA program to life,” she says. “So, we invited a Coast Salish weaver to do a weaving that shares the story that was here before the building that housed first the Bank of Montreal and now SFU Beedie’s Segal Graduate School.

“When we started thinking about what type of art we could bring into the building, it just made sense to work with our alumni, someone who we’re already in relationship with and who knows the program. When we asked Angela whether or not she would be interested, it was just one of those moments—it just felt like it was the right thing to do and the right way to move forward.”

McKinnon says seeking the voices of our alumni is really important to the IBL program, both to continue to build relationships with alumni and to honour and uplift all of those students who have gone through the program. “That’s our way of being in reciprocity and good relationship,” she says.

An unveiling ceremony, hosted by IBL EMBA alumni Chief Ian Campbell from the Squamish Nation, was recently held at SFU Beedie’s Segal Graduate School. The ceremony was performed to separate George from the weaving and was witnessed by staff, alumni, students, community members and leadership from across SFU.

The weaving will be prominently displayed in the entrance hall of the Segal Graduate School to acknowledge SFU Beedie’s work and commitment towards decolonization and the inclusion of Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing.

Since the IBL EMBA program’s inception in 2011 as the first accredited program of its kind in North America, SFU Beedie has proudly recognized nearly 200 Indigenous community leaders who have earned their IBL EMBA and are advancing Indigenous business management, economic development, Nation-building, and self-determination.