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Victoria-based startup helps Indigenous sovereignty

Victoria-based startup helps Indigenous sovereignty

VIATEC Technology Sector Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

ChinookX is building tech solutions for Indigenous peoples

Trevor Jang didn’t grow up in his community, he tells Victoria Tech Journal. Jang, who is Likhsilyu — or Small Frog Clan — of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation on his mother’s side, and Chinese-Canadian on his father’s side, reconnected with his Indigenous identity as a young adult when he pursued communications work for his chief and band council. Here, Jang explained, was where he witnessed first-hand the impacts of colonization on the foundations of information about his people.

“We don't even have census data on our clan membership. All that is through the Indian Act lens,” said Jang. “So it's very colonial in nature, and it has never really met our needs as Wet'suwet'en people.”

Jang realized the necessity of building a database of clan membership from the ground up, which would include demographic information, skills, education, and more. As he explored the idea, he learned it wasn’t a problem unique to the Wet’suwet’en First Nation — there were Indigenous communities all over the province facing the same issue.

The common problem prompted Jang to co-found ChinookX: a Victoria-based, majority-Indigenous-owned company, with aims to bring social and economic benefits to Indigenous communities through emerging technologies. Its first area of focus is data sovereignty: a topic Jang also explored while co-authoring Animikii’s #DataBack e-book.

ChinookX is currently in its proof-of-concept stage, pursuing engagement with First Nations across B.C. to advance its mission. The startup received private investment in 2022, and is in the process of raising more funds from both public and private sources. While Jang is beginning with the foundations of data in his own community, the company has a grand vision at the intersection of data sovereignty, reconciliation, and the energy transition for Indigenous peoples, in what Jang calls an Indigenous Innovation District.

“This is our concept of a data center, powered by an Indigenous-owned clean energy asset,” said Jang. “High-performance computer servers generate heat. You can put these in a building and you can recycle the [heat] to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions for the building that you put [the servers] in. Indigenous Innovation Districts would have the infrastructure to support Indigenous-owned clean energy smart grids, powered by data.”

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