Indigenous people the world over are attempting to revive and strengthen aspects of their Indigenous identities that have been lost or eroded through colonization and are utilizing entrepreneurship as a means to make a living and as a way to give back to Indigenous communities. Existing research has signaled concern that entrepreneurship may erode Indigenous identity, but it is unclear as to how entrepreneurship influences Indigenous identities. Relatedly, research exploring how Indigenous identities will influence entrepreneurial practices as well as how experiences surrounding these influences will vary for Indigenous entrepreneurs within and between regional/country contexts is sorely lacking. This dissertation explores these under-researched questions through three papers that each employ the lenses of Indigenous identity and entrepreneurial practices and utilize interviews as the primary method of inquiry. The first paper focuses on the impact that entrepreneurship has on the Indigenous identities of thirty Indigenous entrepreneurs in British Columbia, Canada. Counter to existing research that has suggested that entrepreneurship likely erodes Indigenous identities, this paper found that entrepreneurship either has no impact on Indigenous identities or can act as a platform to strengthen Indigenous identities. The second paper focuses on how entrepreneurial practices influence Indigenous identities as well as how Indigenous identities influence entrepreneurial practices for thirty Indigenous entrepreneurs in New South Wales and Victoria, Australia. Through cluster analysis, this paper found that the connections between Indigenous identity and entrepreneurial practices vary for different groups of entrepreneurs based on individual and business level attributes. The diverse experiences that interviewees expressed are explained through six mechanisms that form two iterative and self-reinforcing cycles. The third paper compares the experiences and perspectives of the thirty interviewees in New South Wales and Victoria with thirty additional interviewees in British Columbia to explore how regional/country context influences the connections between Indigenous identities and entrepreneurial practices. This paper finds some significant differences across contexts. It suggests that several contextual factors, including patterns of colonialism and organizations that promote or support Indigenous entrepreneurship, may lead to these differences. Overall, in these three studies I have established data-driven and rigorously-developed novel perspectives and theories surrounding one important facet of Indigenous entrepreneurship.
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Thesis advisor: Lawrence, Thomas B.
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