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Nodin Cutfeet: Boosting the Confidence of Young Indigenous People

Nodin Cutfeet: Boosting the Confidence of Young Indigenous People

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and an online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs. 

Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Nodin Cutfeet, the founder and CEO of Waniskâw Foundation. Let’s learn about what’s happening there and how Nodin is making a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Hi Nodin, thanks a million for talking to me today. Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through Waniskâw Foundation?

Nodin: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Did you know that in Canada, many Indigenous communities are far from cities, reachable only by small planes or driving across the ice? Living in small communities means fewer after-school activities, making it hard for youth to discover their passions. This leads many Indigenous people to a choice between staying with limited opportunities or moving to cities, risking a disconnection from their culture. Waniskâw is a free online platform for young Indigenous people to create and share digital art projects and games. It connects them to their cultures, allowing exploration of various skills. A key part of Waniskâw is remixing and building on others' projects, promoting mutual support and achievement, because we can all go further when we support each other.

Spiffy: We absolutely can, and we should! What motivates you to do it, Nodin?

Nodin: As a kid, school was tough for me due to my slow reading speed and ADHD, making it hard to dream big. Fortunately, I discovered a passion for coding and other talents early on. My hobbies showed me I'm smart, even if my grades weren't perfect. Learning to code sparked my dream of starting a tech company. I want struggling students to know they can achieve amazing things. Passion projects, like coding and art, are great reminders of their talents. I've received much help, especially in creating Waniskâw. Success isn't achieved alone, and now I can give back by supporting those starting their paths as innovators.

Spiffy: I love that! What would you say is the impact of your work?

Nodin: Not many Indigenous people are seen in science, technology, engineering, and math fields (STEM). There are various reasons for this, and many folks are trying to solve different aspects of this issue. Waniskâw aims to boost the confidence of Indigenous people when they're young, encouraging them to have big dreams. In Canada, even though we make up 4% of the population, only 2% of STEM workers are Indigenous. Together, we can fix this problem.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative, and the impact it makes on your community.

Nodin: Recently, I won a fellowship with MIT, a dream school of mine, for my work on Waniskâw. The help MIT has given me has sped up the creation of Waniskâw very quickly, and we will launch in early spring of 2024. MIT gave Waniskâw money, but the most helpful part of their support was the connections they provided to people excited to help. Now, I have a great team of developers and mentors who help me every step along the way. 

Spiffy: That’s so awesome! Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Nodin: I want young people to understand that it's perfectly okay to ask for help. To succeed, we all need to support one another, and when you strive to help others, those you admire the most will go the extra mile to ensure your success in reaching your goals of helping others.

Spiffy: Well said! Thanks for speaking with me today, Nodin—it’s been an honor!

Nodin Cutfeet is a neurodivergent Indigenous lifelong learner and a proud nerd about many things. He studied Interaction Design at Emily Carr University in Canada, where he started Waniskâw. (Nominated by Maya Bingaman at MIT Solve. First published on the Ladderworks website on March 24, 2024.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2024 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.