June 26, 2020
The Wabanaki-Labrador Indigenous Health Research Network (WLN) will be hosted at Dalhousie University in partnership with Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik, Inuit and Innu communities and organizations and with academic institutions stretching across all four Atlantic provinces. WLN will receive $3.5M in operational funding for 5 years with possibility of renewal for a further 10 years.
June 30, 2022
Lakehead University opens Anishinaabe Kendaasiwin Institute
Launch of the Anishinaabe Kendaasiwin Institute. “Anishnaabe knowledge systems” – is central to the mandate of AKI, which seeks to support mino-bimaadiziwin among Anishinaabe peoples, nations and territories through research that is situated in Anishinaabe Kendaasiwin and good relationships.
The Institute seeks to privilege Anishinaabe ways of knowing and being in research, to advance research excellence defined by Anishinaabe peoples and principles, to expand and support Indigenous governed and driven research and to support community building and mobilization between Indigenous peoples
December 7, 2021
The McGill Tribune – Gerald Rimer, BCom ’56, and his three sons, Daniel, David, and Neil Rimer, made a $13-million donation to the university that will go toward renovating the Leacock building and creating a new Institute for Indigenous Research and Knowledge (IIRK). In 2017, the Provost’s Task Force on Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Education released a report that contained 52 calls to action for improving McGill’s Indigenization and decolonization efforts—one of which included the creation of an institute for Indigenous studies and community engagement. T The Institute will have three main focusses: Language, Land and governance.
The IIRK will include an Indigenous language lab, an on-site knowledge centre, and a physical location that will serve as the centre for the Indigenous Studies Program.
July 28, 2020
The university’s Board of Regents recently approved Memorial’s “Research Impacting Indigenous Groups” policy – the first of its kind known in Canadian universities. The policy is designed to ensure Memorial University researchers are accountable to the existing research, priorities and ethics processes of Indigenous groups. It requires researchers to engage with Indigenous groups at the very start of research to put them on a good path as projects develop. It meets and exceeds the Tri-Council Policy Statement on the Ethical Conduct for Research, Chapter 9, Research Involving the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples of Canada.
June 16, 2022
Assoc. Of Atlantic Universities
MOU renews commitment to economic development opportunities and prosperity for Indigenous people in Atlantic Canada.
The signing of an MOU between the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat(APCFNC) and Atlantic Canada’s post secondary institutions signals a renewed commitment to economic development opportunities and prosperity for Indigenous people in Atlantic Canada.
The MOU was signed at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia with members of the academic
community, APCFNC, the Atlantic Indigenous Economic Development Integrated Research Program
(AIEDIRP), and representatives from the Association of Atlantic Universities (AAU).
“Our Chiefs are pleased to be here once again to renew a commitment from post secondary institutions to
improve the lives of Atlantic Indigenous people,” says Chief Bob Gloade, co-chair, APCFNC and Chief of
Millbrook First Nations. “We are especially pleased that colleges have now expressed interested in participating in this opportunity. We look forward to working towards strong relationships with all colleges in Atlantic Canada on research initiatives moving into the future.” “The renewal of the MOU continues a very long working relation between our organizations and the Atlantic universities and now the Nova Scotia Community College. Our continuing efforts are to build strong relations and greater opportunities for our Indigenous researchers.” noted Chief Shelley Sabattis Co-Chair APCFNC.
In addition to 15 Atlantic Canadian Universities, Nova Scotia Community College will be signing the MOU for
the first time.
“The Renewal of the AIEDIRP Memorandum of Understanding marks the continuation of an important research partnership between the region’s universities and First Nations and Inuit communities and their economic development organizations,” says Dr. Rob Summerby-Murray, President and Vice-Chancellor, Saint Mary’s University and a member of the Association of Atlantic Universities (AAU) Executive Committee. “The MOU is also a model for ongoing communication and collaboration with Indigenous communities and it signifies the great opportunity for reconciliation and a renewed relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in our region.”
In addition to the MOU, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) has
announced that APCFNC has been granted institutional eligibility access to all programs open to Indigenous
“We know education is a powerful tool in combatting inequities and lifting individuals and communities,” says John Paul, Executive Director of APC. “This renewal, paired with access to SSHRC programs will allow critical research to continue which informs and improve services and programs for Indigenous people.”
This is the third memorandum of understanding signed between the AAU and APCFNC. The landmark MOU
was first signed in 2011 and renewed in 2016.
March 22, 2023
New autonomous ethics board a first for non-Indigenous post-secondary institutions in Canada
NationTalk: TORONTO – York University will launch an autonomous Indigenous Research Ethics Board (IREB) in July, believed to be a first for non-Indigenous post-secondary institutions in Canada, to further work in Indigenizing research and to ensure Indigenous Peoples have a greater say in proposed research projects.
“There needs to be Indigenous voices and Indigenous Peoples who have a say and control over all aspects of the approval process and not just a consultative piece to it,” says Faculty of Health Associate Professor Sean Hillier, a Mi’kmaw scholar, co-chair of the Indigenous Council at York and who led the team that established the IREB. “What makes this a fully autonomous Indigenous Research Ethics Board is that we don’t report to anybody except the University’s Senate.”
Although York’s Human Participants Review Committee (HPRC) helps ensure the safety and health of Indigenous research participants, there was a greater need for Indigenous-specific knowledges and leadership to ensure appropriate sensitivity to cultural and community rights, as well as roles and responsibilities across any research projects, says Hillier.
The IREB is autonomous from the existing ethics committee. “What makes the IREB different is we’re not meant to be somewhere where you just fill in an ethics application, send it in and it gets approved or denied,” he says. “This is meant to be a process that engages scholars from the moment that they start thinking of research, speaking to them about the ethics and the implications of the work.”
The IREB will be made up of a council that will include five University faculty members, one undergraduate and graduate students – all representative of a diversity of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples and gender identities. It will also include three external elders and/or knowledge keepers, as well as three non-University affiliated Indigenous community representatives.
“Establishing a fully autonomous IREB reflects the kind of relationship Indigenous communities want with universities,” says Faculty of Education Professor Susan Dion, York’s associate vice-president, Indigenous initiatives. “Recognizing the rights of Indigenous communities to steward knowledge production, it places the responsibility for ethical knowledge creation in the minds and hearts of Indigenous communities, which is where it must be. It is a significant move in returning to Indigenous people agency, authority, and sovereignty in knowledge production on this land.”
March 21, 2023
Research booklet created with Inuit knowledge maps ice routes changing with the climate
Bringing data back to community will help the next generation, says researcher
A team of researchers at Dalhousie University are bringing their work on Labrador’s ocean currents, sea ice and travel routes in Nunatsiavut back to the people who helped push it forward.
The work began in 2019, when researchers Breanna Bishop, May Wang, Katrina Anthony and project lead Eric Oliver travelled to different communities to help their understanding of environmental change. Data collection was fuelled by elders, knowledge keepers and community members who were invited to draw travel routes they used to be able to take to show how climate has changed them over the years.
“Based on all of this and a lot of feedback from people who participated, they wanted to see how it would come back to communities so that we could share the maps as well as kind of the safety advice that people were sharing with us as well,” Bishop, a PhD student at Dalhousie, said Friday.
Now Bishop and the team are back in Labrador, handing out the data and maps in the form of paper booklets. The small booklets, printed on water-resistant paper, are designed to be taken on the land where anyone can fill in their own routes.
- Labrador’s Inuit mark out ice routes that are disappearing due to climate change
- THIN ICEThe sea ice in northern Labrador is thinning — fast. Here’s why the Inuit are worried
Each community the group visited has their own booklet. Bishop said it was important for researchers to share the work with the communities involved. “It’s important to have somewhere to look to to reference, especially for the younger generation,” Bishop said. “We wanted to make sure that it was brought back and shared with the community, and not just ourselves as researchers.”
Bishop said she and the team were most surprised by the steps communities are taking to combat climate change, adding she was impressed by the level of resilience and adaptability in the region. “There’s not just one travel route that might get sacrificed if the ice changes; there’s many travel routes that could be used to kind of help adapt to these changing conditions,” she said.
“That was something that I feel like often gets left out of the climate change narrative when we talk about what communities are experiencing, is the power of adaptability and how expert so many Inuit are at adapting to these changes.”
Bishop said she hopes to bring more traditional Inuit knowledge to the academic table, after seeing the value it bring to projects like theirs.
She also hopes continuing to work with people in the communities the team visits can chart the course for her future research. “On this trip it’s a little bit of getting an understanding of what is concerning and of interest, and how I can shape the next couple years of my PhD research to hopefully meet some of the questions.”
Booklets are available at the Inuit community government office in Rigolet, and Bishop is continuing her trip up the northern coast of Labrador this week.
With files from Heidi Atter
October 4, 2021
The Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue and the Université du Québec en Outaouais
The Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (UQAT), the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission (FNQLHSSC), the Université du Québec en Outaouais in collaboration with DIALOG Network – announce the publication of the 3rd edition of the Toolbox of Research… this reference tool intended for First Nations and Inuit, the academic world and the various practice milieus, by adding two new content sections to the Toolbox.
The Toolbox, the first edition of which was launched in 2014 and the second in 2018, was designed to meet the evolving needs of the various stakeholders concerned with ethical issues in indigenous contexts… Various themes are addressed in these new reference articles, including:
- ethics in archaeology
- information governance
- evaluation of ethics in research with Indigenous peoples
- research as a community leverage or social participation of the Elders.
January 25, 2023
U of T research ‘collaboratory’ uses global lens to pursue community-based Indigenous research
NationTalk: University of Toronto News: Indigenous Peoples all over the world have endured a common history. And, as Uahikea Maile notes, the experience of “colonial dispossession, territorial enclosure and the subsequent creation of nation states” is not unique to North America.
Global political resistance against the effects of this shared history – which continues to this day – is at the heart of Maile’s recently established research laboratory at the University of Toronto. Known as the Ziibiing Lab, the new Indigenous politics “collaboratory” takes its name from the Anishinaabemowin word for Taddle Creek, a stream that flowed through the land on which U of T sits until the 19th century, when it was buried to create sewage infrastructure for the city.
“The name is an important reference to that waterway, which still exists and resurfaces from time to time,” says Maile, an assistant professor of Indigenous politics in the department of political science in the Faculty of Arts & Science and a noted Kanaka Maoli scholar, activist and practitioner from the Hawaiian island of Oʻahu. “This responds to the Answering the Call report – produced five years ago by U of T in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission – which contains a recommendation as part of the Call to Action to create significant dedicated Indigenous space, including a greater recognition of these particular underground waterways here at U of T.”
Foreground: Professor Robert Vipond with Assistant Professor Uahikea Maile (photo by Diana Tyszko)
At Ziibiing, says Maile, “We are producing robust, community-based research that is collaborative – not just concerned with Indigenous politics, policy and praxis in Canada but also internationally. And we’re also open to research that is transnational, reflecting how Indigenous politics function across nations and beyond the nation-state.”
Maile says that Ziibiing’s highly collaborative structure “flips the model” of how research labs usually operate.
Instead of being driven by one principal investigator who oversees the hiring, strategy and research agenda, the lab is overseen by a nine-member governing council comprising Maile and eight other Indigenous faculty members from the Faculty of Arts & Science.
Ziibiing is highly interdisciplinary, which is important, given the complex nature of Indigenous politics. On its governing council, there are representatives from not only political science but geography, history, religion and English.
Maile wants to support researchers in their own pursuits, which is why Ziibiing provides training in knowledge mobilization. In addition to generating reports and briefs – and training participants on how to apply for grants and observe proper research protocols – the lab boasts its own vocal booth where researchers can record podcasts, oral histories and interviews. One of the latter is already available: REDsurgence, a series of thought-provoking conversations hosted by Anishnaabe journalist and speaker Riley Yesno, a PhD candidate in political science.
A quick scan of research projects underway at Ziibiing highlights its international outlook. Post-doctoral researcher Sardana Nikolaeva is preparing a report on diamonds and Indigenous politics in Russia’s Sakha Republic. Yojana Miraya Oscco is developing a new podcast as part of her dissertation research concerning Andean Indigenous political thought and resistance to extractivism in Latin America. Post-doctoral researcher Karl Gardner is working on Indigenous deportation and anti-deportation in Canada and Australia and Yesno – who is a research assistant at Ziibiing – is examining the land back movement across Canada.
Maile’s own personal research exemplifies the collaboratory’s transnational aspect. For many years he’s been monitoring and challenging the proposed construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope, an international project to build a large-scale telescope in Hawaiʻi on Mauna Kea. Mauna Kea is one of the most sacred dormant volcanoes in Native Hawaiian religion and culture; Maile and others who’ve been opposing the telescope’s planned construction cite not only its threat to territorial sovereignty, but to aquifers and local biodiversity.
“My research considers the kind of transnational ways not just nations, but institutions and corporations, have become entangled in global forms of dispossession of Indigenous Peoples’ territories and ongoing occupation,” he says.
He adds that research is the ground from which action arises – action that is best taken as part of a collective. “Coming here to U of T, that’s how I treat my Indigenous students from all over the world. They’re not just individuals, they are representatives of their nations and their communities.”
The lab, shown here at its launch in October, produces community-based research with an international outlook (photo by Diana Tyszko)
They are also linked to the communities around the world, whose concerns and philosophies they often share. In discussing responsibilities to Indigenous Peoples around the world, Maile invokes two Hawaiian concepts. One is kuleana, or the obligation to care for the land and the place you are in. The other is kulana, which involves using one’s power and position for the betterment of the collective.
“Leaving home was not something that I desired as a child, but it became a way for me to walk in my ancestors’ footsteps,” Maile says. “Some left Hawaiʻi to secure international treaties that then bestowed international forms of recognition on the Hawaiian Kingdom. And they also left Hawaiʻi to lobby the United States congress when the annexation treaty was defeated in 1897.
“So Hawaiian internationalism is a tradition of our community and I’m taking and carrying that mantle not only in my educational pursuits, but also in my work here at U of T. This is why we say that Indigenous Peoples do not just concentrate on understanding the political forms of sovereignty in the communities where we live: as Indigenous Peoples, we are sovereign peoples no matter where we go.”
October 28, 2020
Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (UQAT)
The Canada Research Chairs Secretariat has awarded $500,000 to UQAT to fund the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Women’s Issues, which is held by Suzy Basile, a professor at UQAT’s School of Indigenous Studies. The Research Chair aims to highlight, document and map the experiences of Indigenous women from various parts of the world in governance, relations to the land, and research and knowledge on the environment.
The Chair’s research program will focus on the decolonization efforts necessary for the full and complete participation of Indigenous women in land governance, the strengthening of their capacities through the study of their relationship to the environment and the advancement of their society.
In addition to the funding provided by the Government of Canada, the Chair benefits from significant support from the UQAT Foundation through a five-year financial contribution of $100,000 entirely dedicated to scholarship.
May 31, 2021
University of Alberta: Rupertsland Centre for Métis Research
Métis Nation of Alberta and the University of Alberta renew a long-standing partnership to provide quality education, training and research to the Métis people of Alberta. The Memorandum of Understanding honours the ongoing relationship between the MNA, RLI and the U of A, while also commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Rupertsland Centre for Métis Research (RCMR), which was established May 31, 2011 at the U of A as the research arm for the RLI and the MNA, and as Canada’s first Métis-specific academic research centre.
The new agreement will advance several post-secondary goals, including:
- continuing to conduct research specific to Métis concerns through the RCMR
- supporting Métis students in attaining post-secondary education
- goal of becoming a post-secondary institution offering courses and certification, to result in credit transfer agreements with the U of A
- Increasing the number of Métis academics, fellowships and employees at all levels of the U of A through partnership agreements between the U of A and RLI, as well as Métis course development.
The agreement also enables the RCMR to continue taking on high-calibre research projects and creating events that build knowledge about Métis peoples for both Métis and non-Métis audiences. Supported in this next phase by funding from RLI and the MNA, the RCMR serves as an expansive academic research program specifically designed for Métis concerns, including historical research and Métis rights, research and analysis capacity on general policy areas such as health, labour, land use and resources, and contemporary Métis issues.
“The new MOU not only strengthens the relationship that already exists between the MNA/RLI and the University of Alberta, as well, it ensures the sustainability of the RCMR as a leading-edge research unit engaged on a research journey that deconstructs old research frameworks and supports the co-creation of knowledge with the Métis nation,” said Nathalie Kermoal, Director of the RCMR and U of A Faculty of Native Studies‘ associate dean academic. Since its inception, the RCMR has focused on forging local, provincial and national connections with Métis communities, building research capacity to advance Métis-specific research, and training and employing student researchers.
August 31, 2020
University of British Columbia
NationTalk – On August 11, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) and an Indigenous Knowledge Protocol Agreement (IK Protocol) were signed by the Tŝilhqot’in Nation and the University of British Columbia. says Chief Myers Ross. A key feature of the MOU and IK Protocol is to ensure that research is undertaken with cultural safety, an approach that recognizes and addresses systemic power imbalances and fosters a culture free of racism and discrimination, thus creating a safe arena for Indigenous partners. In addition, the agreements recognize the intellectual property rights of the Tŝilhqot’in knowledge and solidify the Nation’s data ownership and control. Further, the MOU establishes a foundation for future research collaborations that incorporate Tŝilhqot’in knowledge, community needs and sustainable environmental practices and opportunities within Tŝilhqot’in Nen (lands).
- the Indigenous Research Support Initiative (IRSI) at UBC provides professional research support and services to Indigenous communities and university researchers in order that they may undertake collaborative projects based on community-led interests, reciprocal relationships, and principles of mutual accountability and understanding.
Located in Syilx Okanagan Nation territory at UBC’s Okanagan campus, the Centre for Environmental Assessment Research (CEAR) at UBC supports research about environmental assessment (EA) processes and methods and helps integrate this information into practice. Research conducted and supported by CEAR contributes to resource development by furthering knowledge about the role that EA plays in helping to advance natural resource management practices that benefit Canadians.University of SaskatchewanUniversity of VictoriaDalhousie UniversityMemorial UniversityUniversity of CalgaryUniversity of Alberta: Rupertsland Centre for Métis ResearchUniversity of GuelphOfficial Federal Government Response: Sept, 5, 2019
October 30, 2020
University of Calgary
Indigenous Research Support Team (IRST) is an advisory entity that provides guidance on Indigenous research and scholarship as well as opportunities that support culturally responsive and collaborative research. IRST will be the first point of contact for all UCalgary researchers doing any work within the broader Indigenous landscape.
August 13, 2021
University of Guelph
Global News – A new Indigenous research lab to be situated in its arboretum is believed to be the first of its kind at a Canadian university. Nokom’s House will be a permanent, Indigenous land-based and community-engaged space with wellness and good relationships in its core, the university said. “Nokom” is abbreviated from “nokomis” — an Ojibway word that means “my grandmother.”
The university has approved a budget of $2.4 million for the project and a fundraising campaign is also underway, with over $53,000 already committed. Construction is expected to begin in 2022.
August 29, 2022
University of Northern BC to create Indigenous Research Ambassador program
Prince George, B.C. – A new set of research internships and scholarships at UNBC will equip Indigenous students with the skills to introduce respectful, culturally sensitive and collaborative community-based research tools to fellow students using Indigenous and non-Indigenous research methodologies.
The Indigenous Research Ambassador Program and the Mitacs Indigenous Research Award are being offered in association with Mitacs, a national not-for-profit research organization, which in partnership with companies, government and academia develops the next generation of innovators with vital scientific and business skills through unique research and training programs.
The Mitacs-supported initiatives will create 10 six-month internships and 12 Indigenous student awards.
“Mitacs is demonstrating valuable leadership in cultivating research capacity and fostering diversity in those who conduct that research,” said UNBC President Dr. Geoff Payne. “Partnerships on such critical areas of need are vital to advancing Truth and Reconciliation while also providing rich, experiential learning opportunities for UNBC students.”
The Indigenous Research Ambassador program will engage students in research and experiential learning opportunities, connect them with researchers and communities, facilitate leadership and mentorship opportunities and celebrate and promote research and cultural connection to the natural world. UNBC is also providing participants with laptops to assist with digital equity.
“Mitacs is pleased to be collaborating with UNBC on this important initiative that will offer experiential learning opportunities to Indigenous students while also developing more diverse, community-oriented research tools,” said John Hepburn, CEO, Mitacs. “We look forward to seeing the difference these ambassadors are sure to make.”
The ambassadors will participate in a wide range of activities, including the following:
- Working with Indigenous researchers and knowledge holders for an introduction to research.
- Advising fellow students about research-related opportunities at UNBC.
- Providing advice to the Office of Research and Innovation and Office of Indigenous Initiatives on how to improve student programming, celebrate research and get students involved in research.
- Assisting with the creation of digital content related to student and faculty research.
- Establishing an Indigenous “science fair” during Research Week.
- Working with external partners to build connections within the research community.
UNBC students wanting more information can contact Indigenous Research Ambassador Program lead Marion Erickson.
Here is the link to the Indigenous Research Ambassador Program application form.
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August 17, 2021
University of Saskatchewan
The Indigenous Strategy, ohpahotân | oohpaahotaan (“Let’s Fly Up Together”) will be gifted in a ceremony on Aug. 20 to the University of Saskatchewan (USask) on behalf of the Indigenous Peoples who informed and validated the process as a companion to the University Plan 2025. The ceremony marks a historic event for USask as it celebrates the first Indigenous Strategy that has been solely created by Indigenous people at a Canadian U15 research institution.
April 1, 2020
University of Saskatchewan
Dr. Caroline Tait, a USask medical anthropologist and member of the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S), has been awarded $1.5 million from CIHR to lead the national centre that will co-ordinate health research and training with the leads of the eight other regional Indigenous health research networks.
As well, with $3.5-million from CIHR over five years and in-kind support from the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) and MN-S, Tait will lead the Saskatchewan NEIHR network to foster health research within Indigenous communities, working in partnership with the FSIN, MN-S, the Whitecap Dakota First Nation, and a team of more than 60 researchers and community partners.
March 14, 2019
University of Saskatchewan
The Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre (IPHRC) and the Saskatchewan Centre for Patient-Oriented Research (SCPOR) have developed an in-person training module for Health researchers, ”Building Research Relationships with Indigenous Communities” (BRRIC), is the first of its kind in Canada. It seeks to provide researchers with the basic tools and knowledge to build meaningful research relationships in a good way with Indigenous peoples and their communities. BRRIC also incorporates traditional Indigenous knowledge and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. It is designed to provide researchers with the necessary policies, frameworks, and Indigenous ethical standards needed to respectfully engage with Indigenous communities and patients including
- the history of Indigenous health and research in Saskatchewan;
- existing policies and frameworks guiding research with Indigenous communities such as OCAP™, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action, Tri-Council Policy Statement Chapter 9 and
- protocol on how to respectfully and meaningfully engage communities in research projects
October 17, 2021
University of Toronto
The Varsity – Led by Dr. Suzanne Stewart, director of Waakebiness-Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health, the Indigenous Research Network (IRN) is a new Indigenous research initiative launched on September 29 and supported by the Division of the Vice-President, Research & Innovation (VPRI). The IRN’s mission is to create a community of academically interconnected researchers in an effort to inspire Indigenous research at U of T.
The goal of the IRN is to establish a framework of participatory Indigenous research that respects and preserves the cultures, histories, and ways of knowing of Indigenous communities, and endeavours to undo the harms of colonization.
One of the IRN’s core missions is therefore “[to] help support Indigenous research sovereignty and self-determination which are important aspects of reconciliation.” The IRN joins together Indigenous researchers and scholars across all three U of T campuses. “It is designed to evolve as needs of the community change as the network is there to help contribute to help provide support, build networks and connections,” the IRN wrote.
April 20, 2020
University of Victoria
University of Victoria
The BC Network Environment for Indigenous Health Research (NEIHR), based at the University of Victoria, aims to increase and accelerate Indigenous-led research through key partnerships, programs and supports.
Charlotte Loppie, an internationally recognized leader in Indigenous health and professor with UVic’s School of Public Health and Social Policy, was awarded $3.5 million over five years from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, which is funding nine networks across Canada. The network will support an environment where First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples can set their own research priorities, have equitable access to funding and work collaboratively with researchers, while foregrounding Indigenous knowledge systems and approaches to research.
September 28, 2022
Vancouver Island University: Using technology to support Indigenous data sovereignty
Dr. Shanna Lorenz, VIU’s 2022 Fulbright Canada Visiting Research Chair in Indigenous Studies, is working with Indigenous communities on a data gathering app.
Dr. Shanna Lorenz’s research is supporting Indigenous data sovereignty thanks to a digital app called Our Data Indigenous, which she helped design alongside faculty and First Nations community data specialists in Canada and the United States.
“We’re in this moment when there is an amazing data sovereignty movement,” says Lorenz, Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) 2022 Fulbright Canada Visiting Research Chair in Indigenous Studies. “Many organizations are demanding that Indigenous communities have the right to collect, control and protect data.”
Lorenz is part of the app development and education teams for the Our Data Indigenous app, which uses digital surveys to collect quantitative and qualitative data. A keystone of the app, which follows First Nations OCAP® Principles, is that research is done in a way that respects the traditional knowledge and values of Indigenous peoples.
“Indigenous people are making telecommunications technologies their own and finding ways to adapt and transform them, so they fit Indigenous aesthetics, uses and modes of sociality,” said Lorenz. “It’s really powerful when researchers can develop technology in a collaborative way.”
While at VIU for a four-month term, Lorenz will be evaluating the app and working with Indigenous communities in BC on a pilot project to add geographic information system capabilities. This will allow communities to use the app to easily collect and map geospatial information related to environmental monitoring, cultural sites and language usage.
This pilot project builds on two years of previous work on the Our Data Indigenous app. The original research project, called “kitatipithitamak mithwayawin: Indigenous-led countermeasures to Coronavirus (COVID-19) and other pandemics, then, now, and into the future” was created in response to the pandemic and involved 11 Indigenous partner organizations. The phrase kitatipithitamak mithwayawin is Cree for to “hold ownership and control over the health and well-being of our own.” Responding to a call by First Nations Health Authorities, Chiefs and Councils, the app was created to collect real-time COVID-19 data using culturally sensitive, Indigenous-developed surveys.
An offline pack that establishes a local area network.
One of the early stumbling blocks the team had to overcome is the digital divide in Canada. Many Indigenous communities the team worked with had weak or non-existent telecommunications infrastructure. That meant the app needed to work offline. The team created an offline pack, (consisting of a local computer, router, tablet and portable power station) that establishes a local area network (LAN). The LAN allows people to access surveys on a tablet or cellphone and then save and visualize data on a local computer.
Surveys have since evolved from focusing on issues related to the pandemic to topics such as language and cultural revitalization, mental health, land-based knowledge, food sovereignty, economic development and others. The app allows community data specialists to create, administer and visualize their own surveys depending on their community’s needs.
“These communities are Indigenizing research methods themselves. For example, survey development in First Nations communities may look different than it does in other settings,” said Lorenz. “It may involve layers of discussion and collaboration and pulling together multiple interests within the community. That doesn’t necessarily happen in the academic setting.”
Lorenz, a settler scholar from xučyun, unceded Chochenyo-speaking Ohlone territory in Northern California, is an Associate Professor from Occidental College in Los Angeles. She holds PhDs in Music and Performance Studies (University of Pittsburgh and New York University) and is completing a master’s degree in Environmental Studies at the University of Manitoba.
April 28, 2023
York University leads $318.4M first-of-kind inclusive next-gen technology research initiative
$318-million Connected Minds initiative to bring equity and inclusion to murky waters of AI
NationTalk: A massive seven-year interdisciplinary research initiative led by York University – backed by substantial federal research funding — is setting out to tame the unruly world of AI and other disruptive technologies, so humans can benefit equitably from advances in a machine-driven world.
Along with marvellous innovations in medicine, education and entertainment, rapidly emerging technological advancements are also delivering unintended consequences, and some communities are being left behind. Making sure everyone benefits from the technological boom reflects York’s signature mission to create positive change in the world, both locally and globally.
“We don’t want to slow progress in technology, but rather, work together to be more thoughtful about the consequences – and try to mitigate the negative outcomes and optimize the positive ones,” says Doug Crawford, a York University Distinguished Research Professor in Neuroscience who is the inaugural scientific director of the first-of-its-kind enterprise.
The Connected Minds project will bring together experts from York University and Queen’s University who are working across many different fields including liberal arts, engineering, health, law, life sciences, and the arts to develop a framework to guide future innovations in technology with a focus on inclusivity.
“Receiving this second CFREF award in the last two competitions reflects York’s leadership as a research-intensive university that from its inception has understood the importance of an interdisciplinary approach in tackling complex, global problems. Connected Minds is particularly timely as we consider the implications of AI for creating a more equitable and inclusive world,” says York president and vice-chancellor Rhonda Lenton.
The researchers say putting some parameters around technological disruption would avoid the type of headline-grabbing pitfalls experienced by the AI text generator ChatGPT, almost as soon as it hit the market. Guidelines would also ensure underrepresented groups could enjoy the benefits of our shifting and evolving technologies and play a role in their creation.
“York is an international leader in interdisciplinary research. The federal government’s substantial investment will unite York’s incredible strengths with Queen’s health specialties to chart new territory in socially responsible research for a rapidly changing digital world,” says Amir Asif, York University’s vice-president research and innovation.
“We’re seeing a changing society with increasing intermingling between humans and machines and a host of different technologies,” says Pina D’Agostino, vice director and founder of York University’s IP Innovation Clinic at Osgoode Hall Law School and vice-director of Connected Minds. “The social framework – the law – hasn’t kept pace. What we’re trying to do is develop technologies and frameworks that are socially responsible before they are disseminated in society, so we get ahead of the biases that may arise. That way underrepresented communities don’t get sidelined as technologies progress.”
The initiative’s equity focus will be applied to many projects that are already underway at the two universities, and also to the issue of Indigenous data sovereignty. Through an Indigenous Advisory Circle and partners, researchers hope to explore a framework for use of Indigenous Peoples’ data in a digital environment.
“Our work will seek to address the unexpected consequences of technological innovation, like the growing digital divide between broader society and Indigenous Peoples in terms of access to internet and also the colonization of it as well,” says Sean Hillier, associate director of York University’s Centre for Indigenous Knowledges & Language and associate director of Connected Minds.
“We continue to see researchers in Indigenous communities saying, ‘how do we implement ownership, access, control and possession of our knowledge in a virtual world?’ We don’t have the capacity to do so.”
Already, more than 50 community groups are stepping up to engage in the research, a signal that the initiative is tapping into a recognized need. The City of Vaughan, for example, has contributed $36 million in land. Mitacs, which funds research and innovation, has contributed $1 million for internships and trainees. The Baycrest Health Centre – Rotman Research Institute, which studies aging and the human brain, is giving $2 million.
Potential projects include explorations into a more inclusive metaverse, virtual reality and community organizing, technologies for healthy aging and how the human brain functions when people interact with AI versus each other.
“We’re trying to figure out the way machines work, but we also need to understand the way the human brain works,” explains D’Agostino. “That’s the secret sauce in the machines and the technology. As we try and blossom machines, we have to link them up to the way we think. Something like empathy, for instance, will they ever have that?”
Another project is an Indigenous online gaming metaverse in which Indigenous Peoples can learn traditional language and gaming at the same time by engaging in land-based learning that recognizes the physical, mental, and spiritual connection to the land that is part of Indigenous identity.
“We hope that with our checklist, anytime someone innovates they won’t only think from a mainstream perspective,” says D’Agostino.
Technological disruption is only going to grow, adds Crawford, and it’s not too late to create guidelines to shape the future in a way that incorporates the values of equity, diversity and inclusivity.
“Here at York and at Queen’s, we have engineers and scientists involved in a number of technologies, some of them related to health, transportation, communications and computer vision,” Crawford notes.
“We hope to bring this new perspective to that. The other part is developing the paradigm. If we are successful in that approach, then the aim is to beta test here at York and Queen’s and have a broader effect on the way research is done in Canada and the world,” he concludes.
The CFREF grant of $105.6 million dollars when combined with the contributions from multi-sector partners, municipal governments, and collaborating partners is valued at $318.4 million, making Connected Minds the biggest York-led research program in the University’s history.
Connected Minds will also expand Canada’s research power and create opportunities for early career up-and-comers.
September 8, 2022
Yukon University: Yukon First Nations Climate Action Fellowship releases draft summary Reconnection Vision and Action Plan
NationTalk: The Yukon First Nations Climate Action Fellowship is stewarded in partnership between the Council of Yukon First Nations, Assembly of Yukon First Nations – Yukon Region, Youth climate Lab, RIVER and Yukon University.
The Fellowship is co-lead by Yukon University’s Indigenous Knowledge Research Chair Jocelyn Joe-Strack and RIVER co-lead Jodi Gustafson.
The Yukon First Nations Climate Action Fellowship has released a Draft Summary Reconnection Vision and Action Plan (RVAP) for Engagement along with a short film about the plan and an engagement survey to hear from northerners about their relationship to reconnection in their lives and communities.
The 20-month Yukon First Nations Climate Action Fellowship is comprised of 13 Yukon First Nations youth fellows from across the territory and aims to decolonize climate policy in the North by empowering youth to lead the charge.
Since January 2021, the Fellows who see themselves as the ‘Children of Tomorrow’ have been working diligently on the RVAP. The short film about the plan, available at yfnclimate.ca was made by fellow Jared Dulac and shares the philosophy, work and reconnection journeys of the Fellows.
The launch of the RVAP – Draft Summary for Engagement marks an important milestone for the Fellowship and a major accomplishment for the Children of Tomorrow. Through sharing conversations, ceremony, art, storytelling, they have deeply explored important questions about disconnection, reconnection, barriers to reconnection, climate action and the Yukon First Nation Final Agreements.
As the RVAP describes, “…the heart of climate change lies within our disconnection from Spirit, Self, Each Other and Earth. This disconnection is at the foundation of the systems we live, learn and work within. This is the root cause of climate change and what we must focus on changing and taking action upon”. The RVAP presents the philosophy of ‘Reconnection is Climate Action’ and the theory of change – where the Children of Tomorrow are developing a climate action plan rooted firmly and solely in the traditional values and teachings held sacred by Yukon First Nations. The goal of this action plan is to encourage all people in the Yukon, Canada, and beyond towards their own reconnection journey. The draft RVAP is a vision of what could be if we were all able to live whole and connected lives.
The Fellows are currently engaging with Yukon First Nation communities, governments, knowledge holders and grassroots organizations. Next steps include the launch of a Working Group of community leaders and visionaries to help the Fellows refine the RVAP and develop actions for the final plan. The final plan will be released in early 2023 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of ‘Together Today for our Children Tomorrow’ and the two-year anniversary of the Yukon First Nation Climate Action Gathering that was held in 2020.
The Draft Summary for Engagement along with an engagement questionnaire can be found on the Yukon First Nations Climate Action Fellowship website at yfnclimate.ca/yfnrvap.