Why She’s Top 40: Her technologist mindset helps her find and create tools that assist Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples reclaim the spirit of the Treaties.
Jacquelyn Cardinal is proud of the fact that she’s never had a “real job”- she simply lets her entrepreneurial spirit guide her. As a teenager, she visited garage sales and sold her finds on eBay for a profit. A technologist at heart, she started her own marketing and web development company, which allowed her to work and live remotely as a digital nomad. However, she missed the sense of belonging to a community, which led her to start Naheyawin with her brother, Hunter, in March of 2016.
“We were both finding ourselves at this point where we felt like we were getting pretty far in our chosen career paths, but it didn’t feel like we were going anywhere useful,” she explains. While watching a several-hours-long lawn bowling game, she and her brother had a heartfelt conversation in which they worked out their plan for their company.
Today, organizations like Edmonton Community Foundation and the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival bring Naheyawin in to assist with Indigenous relations, and she and Hunter host roundtables to figure out how they can implement Indigenous principles into their business practices. They’ve been integral in helping the Edmonton Arts Council create their next 10-year plan and led the Indigenous consultation portion of the process. Her work is about empowering her non-Indigenous allies: “They want to help. They want to show up. Let’s hand them some tools and teach them how to use them.”
Because of her ability and willingness to think seven generations into the future, Cardinal has been invited to speak around the world, including twice at the Standing Senate of Canada Committee on Aboriginal Peoples and at the Kakehashi Project in Japan, where she spreads her message of strengthening Treaty relationships. “At the end of the day,” she says, “I think the work we’re trying to do is get people to be kinder to each other, understand where they live, and have pride in where they live.”