Date: March 5, 2024
Location: University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO)

In a thought-provoking keynote speech at the University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO), Mic Werstuik, a Westbank First Nation (WFN) community member, illuminated the importance of incorporating Indigenous principles into modern business practices. Werstuik's passionate address, enriched by his extensive experience in forestry, natural resource management, and community leadership, captivated the audience and sparked conversations about redefining business success.
With over three decades of hands-on experience in forestry and natural resource management, Werstuik brings a wealth of knowledge and a deep-rooted connection to the land. After graduating from the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology in 1998 and attaining his Master of Business Administration degree from Simon Fraser University in 2018, Werstuik's journey is marked by a commitment to traditional wisdom and contemporary education.
At the heart of Werstuik's message is the "triple bottom line approach" to business, which emphasizes the value of three essential elements: water, land, and people. Rejecting conventional business metrics centered solely on financial gain, Werstuik advocates for a holistic perspective that considers the broader impact on the environment and community well-being.
Werstuik expressed his dissatisfaction with traditional business education, pointing out its failure to prioritize Indigenous principles and values. He highlighted the narrow focus on financial metrics like return on investment and net present value, which often disregard the intrinsic value of natural resources and human capital. Instead, Werstuik champions a paradigm shift towards recognizing the interconnectedness of all living beings and the land.
Responding to a question about the success of Indigenous-led initiatives compared to colonial business models, Werstuik emphasized the significance of Indigenous principles in driving positive outcomes. He remarked, "It just boils down to value. To me, what is the business perspective taught in business school? It's always a return on investment, net present value, all of these terms in which they're putting value on the wrong foot. The real value is one: water, two: land, three: people."
In his view, traditional business paradigms often overlook the proper measures of success, equating financial wealth with achievement. He challenged this notion, highlighting the detrimental impact of prioritizing profits over environmental and social well-being.

Joining Werstuik on stage was facilitator Krystal Withakay (spaxwawlm), a WFN member and Werstuik's niece. Withakay, a devoted Syilx artist and knowledge keeper, embodies the spirit of cultural preservation and advocacy within her community. Her presence at the event further underscored the commitment of the Syilx Okanagan people to preserving their heritage and promoting Indigenous values.
Werstuik's keynote speech at UBCO is a powerful reminder of the importance of incorporating Indigenous wisdom into modern business practices. As Werstuik continues to champion Indigenous principles at the Ntityix Development Corporation, his vision of a business landscape that values people, land, and water offers a compelling alternative to traditional paradigms. With leaders like Werstuik and advocates like Withakay paving the way, the journey toward a more equitable and sustainable future gains momentum.