Research, Reports, & Publications

Update On The Significant Economic Contributions Of Atlantic Indigenous Businesses And Communities

On December 13, 2023, APC/AIEDIRP held a media event for leaders and stakeholders to provide an update on a study undertaken by the Atlantic Economic Council. This study provides a snapshot of the economic impact that Atlantic Indigenous businesses and communities are making in the region. Below are summary infographics as well as a presentation.


Innovative Governance Structures to Support Indigenous Economic Growth

This report aims to provide readers with an insight into innovative governance structures to support Indigenous economic growth and development, and how these can be optimized for the benefit of communities. In particular, using a Nation-building approach. This study includes extensive background research, a literature review, a review of leading practices in governance of Indigenous economic development, Atlantic success stories’ case studies, and a thorough engagement process with thought leaders in the Atlantic.

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October 2023


Atlantic Indigenous Tourism Research Report

This report aims to provide readers with an insight into Atlantic Indigenous Tourism. It includes an analysis of the markets (Canadian and Atlantic Indigenous Tourism), industry standards and best practices, supports and resources, and a gap analysis. It also shares stakeholder engagement findings (values, barriers, positives, and opportunities). Finally, recommendations are made based upon market analysis and stakeholder engagement findings.

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September 2023

Environmental Reports

Cleantech in Atlantic Indigenous Communities Project Report

This report aims to provide readers with an understanding of past and present renewable energy and cleantech activities in Indigenous  communities in Atlantic Canada while highlighting challenges to catalyze future opportunities to position and execute cleantech activities to the economic benefit of Indigenous communities in the region.

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January 2022

Carbon Literacy: Carbon and the Impact on your Business

Climate change is a long-term shift in weather conditions identified by changes in temperature, precipitation, winds, and other indicators that could lead to extreme events. It can only be stopped by eliminating global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO₂) from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes.

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COVID-19 Reports

Long-term Economic Opportunities As the COVID-19 Recovery Continues

The COVID19 global pandemic has been challenging for all Canadians. It has been especially difficult for Indigenous communities and businesses.

This report is the first in a new series focused on how Indigenous businesses and communities can participate in the recovery from COVID19 and benefit from longterm economic growth in the Atlantic region.

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Current COVID-19 support programs are inadequate for Atlantic Indigenous Communities & Businesses

Atlantic Indigenous businesses and communities are not immune from the economic dislocation sweeping across the region and nation due to COVID-19. The federal government has announced specific Indigenous funding as part of a broader package of support measures to respond to the economic crisis. However, given the pre-existing vulnerabilities facing Indigenous communities and businesses, the current support may be inadequate.

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The Economic Cost of COVID-19: Supporting the Recovery of Indigenous Firms and Communities in Atlantic Canada

Atlantic First Nations firms and communities are facing unprecedented losses of revenues due to the Covid-19 pandemic and will continue to feel the economic effects for the next two to three years.

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COVID-19 Magnifies Socio-Economic Challenges Facing Atlantic Indigenous Communities and Businesses

The serious economic effects caused by COVID-19 are a key concern for Atlantic Indigenous businesses and communities because of pre-existing risks, vulnerabilities and challenges. In this Briefing Note, APEC examines community economic and financial risks, Indigenous business risks, community and individual socio-economic vulnerabilities, and community health risks.

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COVID-19 Magnifies Socio-Economic Challenges Facing Atlantic Indigenous Communities and Businesses Report

Project Reports

The Driver Education and Licensing Project

The Driver Education and Licensing Project (DELP) at the Sipekne’katik First Nation (SFN) in Nova Scotia had its origins in 2010 with the Poverty Action Research Project (PARP). The latter brought together an academic team from several Canadian Universities as well as the University of Arizona, working in partnership with the Assembly of First Nations. The project was led by Dr. Fred Wien, Professor Emeritus at Dalhousie University. Funding was provided by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

The idea behind PARP was to select five First Nation communities from different parts of Canada and to work with them on developing a strategy designed to address poverty in their communities and thereby contribute to health and well-being. The project was unusual in that, not only were the strategies which emerged community-driven and therefore different one from another, but there was also a commitment to work with the communities on their implementation.

Transportation issues emerged as a barrier in several of the strategic plans. At Misipawistik Cree Nation in Manitoba, for example, the community decided to implement a project to provide driver education on the reserve, and 28 persons signed up for the program. Demand was sufficiently high that a second cohort was admitted shortly thereafter, with the Swampy Cree Tribal Council picking up the idea to benefit its member communities.

Transportation was also a key issue identified at Sipekne’katik First Nation. This article describes how the community went about addressing this important obstacle. As the project developed, a Steering Committee was established (see Appendix A for composition) and funding and other resources were obtained from several sources listed inside the front cover page.

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Research Reports

Atlantic Opportunities and Prospects for Indigenous Youth

Indigenous youth are a growing share of the workforce in Atlantic Canada. However, they face unique challenges that limit their labour market potential. Closing these gaps will promote economic development in Indigenous communities and expand the pool of skilled workers in our economy to address ongoing labour shortages.

This report discusses Indigenous youth labour market trends and education, training, and employment opportunities in Atlantic Canada. Focus is given to key growth sectorsin the Indigenous economy: fisheries and aquaculture, clean technology and renewable energy, ocean technology, digital technology, and Indigenous tourism.

Best practices for youth engagement are also discussed, both for employers looking to hire Indigenous youth and for education and training providers.

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Atlantic Canada’s Indigenous Communities & Businesses Key Sector Growth Opportunities

The economy’s transition towards net-zero emissions is creating new opportunities for indigenous participation. This report discusses key growth sectors in Atlantic Canada that have strong relevance to indigenous communities and businesses.

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The Importance of Broadband Access Within Indigenous Communities

As technology improves and more of the economy moves online, it becomes increasingly critical for Indigenous communities to have equitable access to high-speed internet. There have been many initiatives to date that improved internet access in Indigenous communities, but many bands still have insufficient connectivity.

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Indigenous Women In Business In Atlantic Canada

Indigenous women are a yet untapped engine of our economy. In Canada, Indigenous women are engaged in business twice as often as non-Indigenous women and thirty-nine percent (39%) of Indigenous businesses in Atlantic Canada are owned and operated by women. Although there is a scarcity of research investigating Indigenous women in business, more recent research has indicated that there are unique challenges faced by Indigenous business owners and those challenges are often more acute when faced by Indigenous women. This study captured both the challenges faced by Indigenous women in business and the strategies they utilized to overcome those challenges. Suggestions for improvements in policies and programs that would better nurture and support Indigenous women in their business ventures were also captured.

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Atlantic Indigenous Labour Market Initiative: Preparing Today’s Youth for Future Employment

In the next decade, the Canadian economy is expected to offer significant opportunities for employment. Those opportunities reflect both Canada’s emergence as a knowledge economy and the impact of retirement from the workforce of the baby boomer generation. This is especially significant in the Atlantic Region. An expectation exists that future demand for a skilled labour force will be serviced, in part, by an increasing Indigenous workforce. An increasing number of Indigenous youth will be entering the workforce in all sectors of the overall Atlantic economy. Ironically, despite the positive demography of Atlantic Indigenous populations and their increasing participation in the labour force, their level of unemployment and participation rates in the labour market continues to lag that of the non-Indigenous population.

Workforce talent recruitment and retention is one of the most urgent issues facing the Atlantic region. The research provides data to inform mobilization of the more favorable demography of Indigenous communities to positively influence their employment outcomes and, by doing so, improve labour market outcomes in the Atlantic region overall. The research included surveys, community engagement sessions, key informant interviews, and secondary analysis to identify policy and program initiatives that will leverage present and future employment opportunities for Atlantic Indigenous communities.

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Highlighting Successful Atlantic Indigenous Businesses

Research conducted by the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business shows that Indigenous small business owners across Canada are growing in numbers and experiencing wide-spread success in terms of profitability and growth and in ways that go beyond the bottom-line. Nationally, the number of Indigenous business owners and entrepreneurs is growing at five times the rate of self-employed Canadians overall.

Prior to the research, there was limited information on the nature and industry scope of Indigenous businesses in the Atlantic region. The research identifies the number, industry scope and geography of Atlantic Indigenous businesses and their economic contribution. The research methodology included interviews and an online survey tool to determine the facilitators and barriers to successful Indigenous business growth, while applying gender-based analysis to identify unique challenges women business owners face. The study profiles Atlantic Indigenous business success stories and provides actionable recommendations to inform and expand business growth.

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Financial Literacy of Indigenous Secondary Students in the Atlantic Provinces

Previous research studies conducted by agencies such as AFOA, Native Women’s Association of Canada, and various other Canadian entities have identified the need for improved financial literacy education across the lifespan in Indigenous communities. There is a demonstrated need for culturally appropriate and accessible materials on topics such as basic budgeting, credit, savings needs, and investments. Further investigation is called for in order to determine appropriate measures to support improved financial literacy levels.

The research gathered baseline data and assessed the overall degree of financial literacy among Atlantic Indigenous youth, ages 14-18 years. Challenges to achievement of enhanced financial literacy levels were identified. After community consultation, and in partnership with the Joint Economic Development Initiative, an online educational tool was created to address those challenges and increase financial literacy levels. The online tool was designed to be accessible, interactive, and culturally appropriate in its approach to learning.

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Financial Literacy App

Labour Force Readiness: The Pathway for Aboriginal Youth from High School into Post-secondary Education and Workforce Engagement

Canada’s Aboriginal youth can play a significant role in mitigating the looming labour shortages propagated by Canada’s aging population and low birth rates. Given that education is the most important determinant of labour market outcomes and given that Aboriginal people will undoubtedly play a significant role in shaping the economic future of Canada, it is important that Aboriginal youth have the education, skills, and qualifications to meet the demands of a growing and fast-paced economy.

In Canada, Aboriginal people remain underrepresented in comparison to non-Aboriginal people in postsecondary education. In the literature, it is commonly recognized that inadequate preparation in secondary education institutions is one key factor in this underrepresentation and that underrepresentation in postsecondary institutions can lead to higher unemployment levels and lower average incomes. The research will identify and highlight initiatives required to bridge the skills and potential of Aboriginal youth with labour market needs in Atlantic Canada.

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Aerospace and Defense Sector: What is required for Aboriginal businesses to enter and operate in supply chains?

Globally, Canada has the world’s fifth largest aerospace and defense industry. The Canadian aerospace and defense sector is a strategically important contributor to the Canadian economy in terms of GDP, employment, trade, innovation, productivity and research and development. The sector is made up of over 700 companies and is responsible for over 180,000 jobs. Atlantic Canada is one of the fastest growing regions in aerospace manufacturing and MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul).

Recent changes in Canada’s Defense Procurement Strategy and potential further changes open the door for greater involvement by Aboriginal businesses and communities to expand own-source revenues. The research provides a baseline on engagement of Aboriginal entrepreneurs and businesses in Atlantic aerospace and defense sector supply chains, and highlights required initiatives to support and increase Aboriginal entrepreneurial and business engagement.

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Improving public-private collaboration to sustain a remote Indigenous tourism venture: The case of Torngat Mountains Base Camp and Research Station in Nunatsiavut

Tourism is identified by Aboriginal communities as a sector creating vast opportunity for development. A P3 model may be a viable and innovative approach to consider in the creation and/or extension of Aboriginal tourism initiatives.

Using a case study approach, the research highlighted the unique challenges for rural and remote Aboriginal communities in developing P3 partnerships and explored a sector where a P3 model has a high potential for success. In particular, the research investigated the potential of adopting a P3 business model for the development and management of the Inuit owned Torngats base camp, located just outside of the boundaries of Torngats National Park. The findings provide insights into the applicability of a culturally appropriate and effective P3 model for Aboriginal rural and remote tourism initiatives.

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$1.14 Billion Strong: Indigenous Economic Performance in Atlantic Canada

The research addresses a significant gap in available information on the outputs and outcomes of the Atlantic Indigenous economy and demonstrates the real economic contributions of Indigenous communities, businesses, and development activities to the broader Atlantic Region economy. The study is the first of its kind in Atlantic Canada, and as such, provides both critical economic benchmarks and baseline tools and methodologies, including a replicable methodology to measure economic performance in the Indigenous economy going forward. Research results provide clear–cut empirical evidence of the meaningful contributions that Indigenous peoples make to provincial and regional economies, and underscores what is required to support continued growth in Indigenous economic development activities.

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Making Connections: Key Economic Drivers in Aboriginal Rural and Remote Communities – Aboriginal Youth, Colleges and Industries

Today, Aboriginal education issues are at the forefront of the national agenda and significant initiatives with national reach are under development. Given this readiness to act among mainstream policymakers and institutions, it is important to invest in policies with the highest potential for progress. Both the literature and the community case studies illustrate the reality that education achievement and labour force participation are intertwined. The research examined the barriers facing Aboriginal students residing in rural and remote regions of Atlantic Canada, attempting to move into and through college and enter the skilled labour force. Identifying the role of culture and Traditional Knowledge was central to this examination. The research identifies a cluster of policy directions holding promise for maximum impact on Aboriginal student achievement in Atlantic Canada, and outlines a research agenda to deepen understandings and accelerate promising practices.

How the Unama’ki First Nations lever government and corporate sector partnerships: Lessons learned and critical success factors from the Mi’kmaw Economic Benefits Office

Numerous studies have sought to identify and assess the benefits that government and industry partnerships can bring to support First Nation owned businesses and employment. First Nations and federal and provincial governments have promoted partnerships as a way forward to improve the participation of Aboriginal communities in major project opportunities. The Mi’kmaw Economic Benefits Office (MEBO) is a multipurpose institution that is working to build such partnerships, helping to bridge gaps in understanding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal partners, developing employment training programs, and facilitating collaboration across community, government, and industry sectors. The research used a case study approach in collaboration with MEBO. MEBO’s critical success factors were examined, as well as potential barriers and limitations to establishing partnerships that are appropriate to the employment and business needs of First Nation communities and to their goals for self-determination. Lessons learned will help First Nation and non-First Nation leaders better understand the role an Economic Benefits Office can play in building meaningful partnerships that will meet the demands of industry and increase economic activity in First Nation communities.

Exploring the Relationship Between Substance Use and Economic Development in Atlantic First Nation Communities

According to the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), First Nations are challenged in the process of accessing supports and services to address substance use issues in their communities. They consistently encounter more obstacles to access than the broader Canadian population. Beyond direct costs stemming from substance use and the inability to access supports and services, there are indirect economic and social costs to communities. There is a large body of literature on substance use in First Nations communities, and also on challenges, barriers and occasional successes when it comes to economic development. There is very little written, however, about the connection between these two phenomena. The research shows that there are connections. For example, the community case studies brought out the different ways in which substance use can limit economic activity, whether that is through absenteeism and poor performance on the job or because substance use comes into play in several systems closely related to a community’s economy. The research provides evidence-based information required to better understand these connections and recommendations on positive approaches to improving economic and community well-being.

Entrepreneurship among First Nations Women in the Atlantic Region

A major policy objective in Canada is to build a more entrepreneurial economy. The strengthening of Aboriginal entrepreneurship is essential to achieving this objective. The research addresses the need to better understand the prevalence, nature and scope of entrepreneurship among First Nations women in the Atlantic Region; and built capacity among First Nations women to conduct and leverage research as a tool in community-based efforts to improve the economics and well-being of communities. The knowledge gained from this research supports community economic development efforts to encourage and support entrepreneurship among First Nations women.

A Scan of Key knowledge Holders, Resources and Activities in the Atlantic Region that can support Capacity Building in the First Nation Fisheries: Phase I & Phase II

A wealth of information is available in post-secondary institutions that can assist First Nations communities to further develop and economically improve their commercial fisheries. The research provides concrete recommendations on how identified resources and activities in post-secondary institutions can be linked to address the specific needs of First Nations’ commercial fisheries in Atlantic Canada. These linkages will be used to help determine research and development initiatives which will assist communities in improving their commercial fisheries. These improvements will, in turn, support economic growth for First Nation communities across the Atlantic region.

Managing Land, Governing for the Future: Finding the Path Forward for Membertou

The research supports Membertou’s ground breaking initiative on the development of new land management laws for its community, which will in turn further enable economic development. The research examines current land management systems developed by economically successful First Nations and determined best practices that were shared with the community of Membertou in the development of their own land management laws. Research findings apply to Membertou’s unique cultural, geographic, and economic situation and provide direction for other Aboriginal communities in the Atlantic region who may be seeking to develop their own land management laws.

More than Wind: Evaluating Renewable Energy Opportunities for First Nations in the Atlantic Region

Provincial governments in the Atlantic region are adopting aggressive renewable energy targets, and developing strategies to meet those targets. Several First Nations have begun to identify renewable energy opportunities and are working to meet renewable energy targets set by their respective provinces. The research provides an overview of key legislation, regulations and policies that govern renewable energy development and focuses on wind, small-scale hydro, solar, tidal/wave, biomass and biofuel, geothermal, and cogeneration opportunities. The findings will assist Nova Scotia and New Brunswick First Nations communities to become more familiar with the various renewable energy technologies and the range of opportunities available for development.

The Social Impacts of Economic Development: Three Case Studies from Atlantic Canada

Economic development and the social impacts of economic development in Aboriginal communities are of great interest to communities and organizations. They are also of great interest to government agencies interested in ascertaining which policies and practices enhance or prevent development. Gaining meaningful understanding of these policies and practices in Aboriginal communities is especially complex. There are contested and diverse perspectives on the very meaning of economic development and success, and limited data available to compare and account for economic and social situations across and within communities. The research provides an understanding of the social impacts of economic development on three First Nations communities in Atlantic Canada – Millbrook First Nation, Miawpukek (Conne River) First Nation, and Tobique Maliseet First Nation.

Best Practices and Challenges in Mi’kmaq and Maliseet Language Immersion Programs

Strong educational attainment goes hand in hand with robust economic development. The research examines Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqi Latuwewakon (Maliseet) immersion programs, and the impact these programs have on students. The research found that students who participated in immersion programs thrived in the areas of academic achievement, identity, and language fluency. Significantly, the English reading abilities of former immersion students appear to be higher than those of their non-immersion peers. The research also examines the challenges and barriers to the establishment of immersion programs, and the broader leadership and capacity building processes required for these programs to thrive. Recommendations are provided for the development of immersion programs in Mi’kmaq and Maliseet communities where they currently do not exist.

A Study of the Atlantic Aboriginal Post-Secondary Labour Force

This project examines the labour market outcomes of Aboriginal people who completed, and who did not complete, post-secondary education between the years 2003-2008. The project employs a mixed-method approach consisting of secondary analysis of statistics from a variety of sources; interviews with 96 Aboriginal people who either completed or left post-secondary education in the past five years without completing their program; and interviews with key informants from communities, education services, government, and post-secondary institutions. The project identifies a number of direct and indirect linkages between the completion of post-secondary education and the impact on economic and social development in Aboriginal communities, including increased opportunity for employment and self-sufficiency, better job performance, personal growth and leadership potential, and new ideas and approaches to community life.

Assessing the Effectiveness of Labour Force Participation Strategies

The research examines Aboriginal labour force participation strategies in the Atlantic region. It found that Aboriginal employment levels still lag considerably behind those of the general Canadian populace. However, rates have been increasing in the last twenty years, particularly since the introduction of employment equity legislation. Multiple barriers to Aboriginal employment continue to exist. These include: a lack of education and training; systemic racism; exclusion; more than average scrutiny; inappropriate testing; and narrow approaches to what constitutes ‘job-related experience’; and reluctance among the Aboriginal population to leave their First Nations home community to work. Forty recommendations are made that address: preparation of the Aboriginal labour force; preparation of employers; outreach, communication, and partnerships; recruitment; employee retention; tracking; and government policy and program issues.

Examining Business Partnerships Arrangements between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Businesses

The research examines the nature of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal business partnerships in the region, and their role in terms of broader Aboriginal economic activity. Ten case studies are incorporated representing a diverse range of business experience. Findings reveal that Aboriginal approaches to business are not solely financially ‘bottom-line’ driven. Often they weave together personal growth and success with community interest, cultural practices and respect. As a result, to be successful, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal partnerships must incorporate cultural respect, sensitivity, and trust as part of their bottom-line. This allows for satisfying partnerships without sacrificing profit. The research outlines a set of notable practices for both individual and collective enterprises to help guide future initiatives, and offers substantial advice for Aboriginal entrepreneurs, non-Aboriginal business people seeking partnerships with Aboriginal people, and government-based policy makers.

Critical Success Factors in the First Nations Fishery of Atlantic Canada: Mi’kmaq and Maliseet Perceptions

The research examined and identified 32 Critical Success Factors (CSFs) for First Nations commercial fisheries that received funding as a result of the Marshall decision in Atlantic Canada. The study brought together the voices of 90 Mi’kmaq and Maliseet fishers and fisheries coordinators, documenting perceived successes and areas for improvement in First Nations fisheries. This was the first time the insights of Atlantic First Nations fishers were brought together to create baseline evidence on the impact of funding received after the Marshall decision.

Baseline Data for Aboriginal Economic Development: An Informed Approach for Measuring Progress and Success

Effective leaders engage in strategic decision-making, including the selection of policies, programs and initiatives. Once those decisions are implemented, leaders use additional information to evaluate and monitor how the decisions contributed, or did not contribute, to improvement over time. A key component to this type of strategic decision-making and evaluation is the initial point from which ongoing change is measured. Initial “baseline” information provides a point for comparison between where a community or organization sits on specific issues at a particular point in time, allowing for analysis of progress over time. The research provides Atlantic Aboriginal communities with a tool to measure the progress of their economic growth against a variety of indicators for economic success. The indicators that were developed extended beyond the purely economic (e.g. labour force participation, income) to also include environmental, social, and cultural elements. These indicators were developed in collaboration with multiple stakeholders and Aboriginal economic development experts, including Aboriginal communities.

APCFNC Elders Project: Honouring Traditional Knowledge

This project brought together a group of Atlantic Region Elders to develop protocols, ethics, and guidelines to inform the integration of Traditional Knowledge and Aboriginal world views into community economic development research. The protocols, ethics, and guidelines produced at this Mawi’omi may be used to inform areas outside of research as well. A key area that was explored was consultation protocols for engaging Elders. As part of the project, the Elders made eight recommendations concerning how they would like to be consulted when sharing Traditional Knowledge. The Atlantic Chiefs, having reviewed the eight recommendations at their 16th Annual General Meeting on September 29th, 2011, supported the recommendations put forward by Atlantic Region Elders as an All Chiefs Resolution #2011-14.

The book, Stories from our Elders: Stories and Teachings from an Atlantic Circle of Knowledge Keepers, was published by the AAEDIRP in response to a need to advance understanding and education of Atlantic Aboriginal customs and traditions. Elders from Maliseet, Mi’kmaw, Innu, and Inuit communities gathered and contributed narratives, pictures, and information on their respective ways of life. The book may be of special interest to those who are engaged in education and/or building capacity and understanding of Aboriginal cultures.

Fernwood is a leading academic publisher in Atlantic Canada of books on First Nations issues. Two Volumes of AAEDIRP research conducted in collaboration with our university partners were published by Fernwood in March, 2014: To purchase, please visit:

Stories from our Elders: Stories and Teachings from an Atlantic Circle of Knowledge Keepers

Aboriginal Measures for Economic Development

Aboriginal Measures for Economic Development explores differing perspectives on economic development in relation to the social impacts these perspectives may have on Atlantic Aboriginal communities. The tensions between best practices and wise practices are highlighted, with focus on wise practices that continue to support economic development in the context of Atlantic Aboriginal regions and communities.

Aboriginal Knowledge for Economic Development

Aboriginal Knowledge for Economic Development focuses on the links between language immersion, identity development, academic success, worldviews, ethics, and economic progress. The volume also presents a report on an Elder’s conference focused on Indigenous knowledge and economic development. What emerges is an understanding of the centrality of language as the foundation for not only academic success, but for strengthening connections between youth and their culture and heritage. The inclusion of Elders and traditional teachers can provide youth with a strong sense of their language and culture which may, in turn, inform traditional beliefs, values and attitudes that enhance a sense of positive identity and well-being.