Kahnawake Economy Expands Online
One of the economic challenges that native communities in Canada experience is underfunding. One reason behind this is the Indian Act, which prohibits ownership of any reserve property by non-band members. This makes it impossible for banks to approve loans to native entrepreneurs because there is no asset to act asset to file as collateral. This makes it very challenging for people in Kahnawake and other Mohawk territories to start their own business.
Entrepreneurship in Kanien’kehá:ka Territories
A native living on the Kanesatake reserve, Mike David, began his entrepreneurship by opening a tobacco shop. Having lived in a native community his entire life, Mike is not oblivious of the limitations he will have to face if he has set out to look for employment in nearby cities. So, he started his business in the cigarette industry instead. One of the advantages of building a business on a reserve though is income tax exemption, so Mike never had to pay the government any income tax for running a Mohawk tobacco business.
Online Opportunities for Native Entrepreneurs
Later on, however, Mike ventured into a housing rental business on the reserve. It was then that he was exposed to various online tools, such as search engines which he used for market research. Having access to these online tools, Mike began to think that the online world might actually provide better opportunities to native entrepreneurs who can start building connections from countries around the world while working from their home communities. Using the internet, according to Mike, would bypass all of the limitations that native Canadians usually face. One who would want to start his or her own business does not need to go to the bank to secure a loan so they can open a physical business location.
The World’s First Data Hosting Facility for Gaming
There's a facet of the local economy that many doesn't realise is booming though. As early as 1999, gaming licenses were being offered to casinos offering real money play by Canadian Online Casino Watchdogs like the Kahnawake Gaming Commission. By 2007, about 60 percent of worldwide online gaming traffic ran through servers in Kahnawake. The advanced server facility that manages some of the world’s largest online gambling sites is Mohawk Internet Technologies, which was the first ever data hosting facility created exclusively for gaming. This enhances the digital presence of local business - albeit, in a niche sector - and also creates more jobs.
From Mohawk Internet Technologies to Mohawk Online
In 2016, Mohawk Online emerged as the first gaming website to be based on the reserve. According to Dean Montour, the site’s chief executive, all of the revenue generated through Mohawk Online is given back to the community, funding various programs, special projects, and organizations that are not financed by the federal government.
Despite the obstacles that seemed to limit native Canadians before, online technologies have opened up a lot of opportunities for Kahnawake natives. The President of the First Nations University of Canada Mark Dockstator cited Kahnawake's MIT and Mohawk Online as perfect examples of a successful native online business. The community was able to use its strategic location to its advantage, tapping into the major fibre optic networks of its neighbours, Montreal, Toronto, and New York, which allowed it to house hundreds of online casinos on its servers during its peak.