From Vision Mātauranga and Callaghan, to Silicon Valley and billionaire space races, ‘innovation’ is becoming a placeholder for particular conceptions of progress. The concept is almost exclusively, however, associated with capitalist innovation for profit. This dominant and exclusionary framing has the effect of obscuring innovative knowledge and practices that occur outside of colonial-capitalism. This study places the concept of innovation under a critical Indigenous lens to rethink and reclaim innovation as a crucial aspect of Indigeneity, beyond the colonial-capital relation. I will provide series of mini qualitative case studies of Indigenous innovation beyond colonial-capitalism and snippets of cases of Indigenous innovation practices which support community climate resilience (and self-determination) from across the vast historical and contemporary scope of Te Moana-nui-a-kiwa (the Pacific). Together these cases extend Indigenous innovation to include collective struggle for collective wellbeing. In doing so, this study creates diverse theoretical and empirical space for a past, present and future of Indigenous innovation.
Together, the cases reconceptualise Indigenous innovation from the margins to the centre. Instead of isolated islands of Indigeneity, we see Indigenous innovation as islands within a vast geographical, historical and metaphorical ocean driven by the requirements within-and-against, and beyond contemporary wants and needs. These islands are connected by Indigenous innovation, not separated by colonial or other structural barriers. This essay contributes to ongoing discussions in both innovation and Indigenous studies and, practically, to ongoing debates within Aotearoa New Zealand about the importance of Indigenous knowledge and practices for research, teaching, learning and practice. As much as Indigenous innovation is about learning, it is also about unlearning the colonially derived boundaries around how Indigenous Peoples are imagined and re-imagined. Indigenous innovation is a nexus through which interactions occur within, against, and beyond colonial-capitalism and is thus a stronghold for collective wellbeing, autonomy, and protection of sovereignty for Indigenous groups globally.