First Nations Innovation research project partners at Canadian Sociological Society Conference at Congress 2016

First Nations Innovation research project partners presented some of their research at Congress 2016 in Calgary, Alberta today (Wed, June 1). The following sessions and presentations showcase the range of research being undertaken.

Methods and Approaches for Action Research With Indigenous Communities

Wednesday Jun 01 1:45 pm to 3:15 pm – Science A-104

Session Format: Regular (presentations and discussion)

Indigenous communities increasingly demand that researchers use collaborative strategies to design and conduct their research. Participatory action research that supports positive community social and economic development is a preferred methodology. In Research is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods, Wilson writes “participatory action research is so useful for Indigenous people because it really fits well … into our paradigm, because the idea is to improve the reality of the people you are working with” (Wilson, 2008, p.155). Appropriate action research can provide Indigenous groups and communities with an opportunity to develop their capacity to gather and share their information and stories; create the products (reports, presentations and articles) for required programs, policies and projects; and work with researchers and partners to positively influence sustainable and healthy environments for future generations. Action research brings together action and reflection, theory and practice aimed at both practical solutions to issues of concern to people and the flourishing of individuals and communities (Reason & Bradbury, 2001). However many of the challenges facing Indigenous communities are embedded within wider social relations. Papers in this session will address action research methods and approaches aimed both at community solutions and structural changes that will benefit all Indigenous communities.

Organizers: Dr. Susan O’Donnell, University of New Brunswick, Brian Beaton, University of New Brunswick


Martin Bertrand, First Nations Education Council; Marlène Jérôme – Digital Storytelling as a Means for Reclaiming History: Action Research Project in Lac-Simon

As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission rightfully pointed out in its final report, the: “residential schools were created for the purpose of separating Aboriginal children from their families, in order to minimize and weaken family ties and cultural linkages, and to indoctrinate children into a new culture-the culture of the legally dominant Euro-Christian Canadian society, led by Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald” (2015). In the present context of movement toward decolonization and Aboriginal resurgence, one of the major aims of the decolonization movement is for the Aboriginal peoples to reclaim the institutions, such as education institutions, to enable systematic means to enact for agency, and ultimately empowerment, for the residential school’s survivors and their descendants. As demonstrated by McKeough, Bird, Tourigny, Romaine, Graham, Ottmann, & Jeary, in Storytelling as a foundation to literacy development for Aboriginal children: Culturally and developmentally appropriate practices (2008), storytelling fits with Aboriginal epistemology–the nature of their knowledge, its foundations, scope, and validity. As a matter of fact, it is intrinsically linked to the traditional practices used to transfer knowledge. As a way to reclaim familial history, in Lac-Simon, digital storytelling technologies will be integrated into the elementary classrooms via an eBook creation project based on action research principles, a primary goal in this regard is the reappropriation of First Nations school in order to reclaim the familial history, the language, to foster storytelling abilities as well as to build new intergenerational links. The means to do so will be an eBook creation project on which we shall base our action research, in order to document the impacts. This communication will present the details of the project problematic and the participatory methodology, and outline potential outcomes.

Christopher George, Mi’gmaw-Wolastoqey Center, University of New Brunswick – Rebuilding the Longhouse: Creating space for Indigenous wisdom and ways of knowing

Indigenous societies are recovering and revitalizing Indigenous languages and worldviews as decolonizing tools to build a foundation for intergenerational, holistic growth. In partial requirement of the Master of Philosophy (MPHIL) Policy Studies Degree at the University of New Brunswick I am writing two peer-reviewed papers that focus on ending the intergenerational trauma of settler colonialism. I self-identify as a father with mixed Indigenous and settler ancestry and worldviews. It is important to me to better understand settler colonialism and how it may impact my own children. I have spent my career as an educator and I know how the current status-quo in my territory disempowers holistic, intergenerational growth for Indigenous society. This presentation will share highlights from an Indigenous research study wherein I use reflexive, introspective, and conversational Indigenous Storywork (Archibald 2008) methods to capture insights on transcending settler colonialism. This study’s design will be guided by the Elders-in-Residence at St. Thomas University and the University of New Brunswick who offer post-secondary Indigenous learners a means to decolonize and foster their own Indigeneity. What does a restored nation to nation relationship look like from an Indigenous perspective and what obstacles are in the way, are issues this presentation will address.

Brian Beaton, University of New Brunswick and Keewaytinook Okimakanak Research Institute – Working together to understand digital technology adoption in Poplar Hill First Nation

Poplar Hill First Nation is a remote community in northwestern Ontario, accessible by plane throughout the year and by winter road for a few weeks each winter. Poplar Hill leaders work with other remote First Nations in the region to direct its regional Keewaytinook Okimakanak (KO) operation to support local programs and services. In 2000, KO and its member First Nations were awarded a multi-year, multi-million dollar project from Industry Canada to establish Canada’s Aboriginal Smart Communities Demonstration initiative. Over the past 20 years, Poplar Hill community members worked with researchers to collect information about their use of these digital communication technologies. This presentation will review some of the information collected over the years. The development of a “whole community” survey tool about their digital technology adoption using a participatory action planning process will be the focus of the presentation. This survey tool will be applied in the community over the summer of 2016 to support the community in planning future technology requirements to support local economic and social development initiatives.

David Perley, University of New Brunswick – Connecting with Tobique First Nation to identify local key socio-economic drivers

Tobique First Nation is working with a research team, including the author, to examine the requirements of students to successfully enter into a desired post-secondary program that would lead to their career of choice. Our participatory action research project is examining the importance of culture and traditional knowledge, institutional admissions procedures and policies, and the academic institutional support systems in place and needing to be put in place to help young people complete their academic and career journey. The research involves working with Tobique community members by conducting interviews and facilitating focus groups with key informants to identify insights into the complex relationships contributing to the successful post-secondary and workforce entry experience. Local workshops are planned to strategize required actions to improve student transitions to their desired post-secondary and career objectives. The presentation will include the results of the action research that will include recommendations to address the challenges for Indigenous students in rural and remote communities to successfully access and complete post-secondary programs and then to successfully enter the career of their choice. These findings will also contribute and provide direction to academic institutions and government programs for accommodating required support services for Indigenous youth in successfully moving to their career choice.

Technology and Resurgence in Indigenous Communities

Wednesday Jun 01 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm
Science A-104
Session Format: Regular (presentations and discussion)

Nishnaabeg scholar Leanne Simpson believes that: “resistance and resurgence are not only our response to colonialism, they are our only responsibility in the face of colonialism… resurgence is our original instruction” (Simpson, 2011, p.66). Technology has been called a two-edged sword because it can foster both settler colonialism and Indigenous community resurgence. Papers in this session will address the following questions: How are Indigenous communities using technology for resurgence and/or resistance? How can remote Indigenous communities use technologies to have more control over their education and health services? In what ways are technologies being used to hamper Indigenous resurgence efforts?

Organizers: Rob McMahon, University of Alberta; Susan O’Donnell, University of New Brunswick


Susan O’Donnell, University of New Brunswick; Brian Beaton, University of New Brunswick – An overview of digital technology adoption in remote and northern Indigenous communities

In a related project, we developed a “whole community” understanding of how remote Indigenous communities adopt digital technologies for community, social and economic development. Our approach runs counter to technology adoption models that focus on “individual” and “household” metrics. Instead we focus on the links between digital technology adoption and community activities in small remote Indigenous communities. Our understanding is that technology is adopted within a broader ecology of community support making it possible for these tools to be available for community members. Our paper includes an analysis of the role of community organizations, services and activities in these communities. The interactions that take place in these public spaces in remote, northern Indigenous communities are central to everyday live. These organizations meet many essential needs, provide sustainable local employment and support community, social, political and economic development. The buildings and spaces are places for people to gather and share news, stories and ideas both in person and online. Using our whole community perspectives we review a broad range of research on how remote and northern Indigenous communities are adopting and effectively using digital technologies. The paper will provide a new way of understanding the use of digital technologies in these communities.

Ashley Julian, University of New Brunswick –  Thinking Seven Generations ahead: Mi’kmaq Language Resurgence in the face of Settler Colonialism

Colonialism has assimilated and suppressed Indigenous languages across Mi’kmaq Territory on the Eastern coast of Canada. Language learners and linguists’ now see the need for a resurgence of Indigenous languages across Turtle Island, North America. The continued influences of assimilation by white privileged have systematically suppressed Aboriginal identity, Indigenous languages and cultures resulting in a need for resurgence and revitalization. Thus, the rehabilitation and acts of renewal and remembrance, through relationship building with the land, are the foundations to language resurgence (Corntassel, 2012; Alfred & Corntassel, 2005; Simpson, 2011). In this paper, the shared stories about language resurgence in the face of settler colonialism is discussed in a desired-based lens (Tuck, 2009) and include rich narratives from four Mi’kmaw speakers. Based on the four conversations, their messages on languages are to bring back the old ways, teach verbally to educate the Mi’kmaq language, make learning Mi’kmaq fun and exciting using technology, and to build language nests within our Mi’kmaq communities to keep the language alive for the next seven generations to come.

Rob McMahon, University of Alberta; Susan Ladouceur, University of Alberta; Fay Fletcher, University of Alberta; Alicia Hibbert, University of Alberta; Therese Salenieks, University of Alberta – Exploring Indigenous Community Informatics: Community-Engaged Technology Research with Buffalo Lake Metis Settlement

Researchers from the Metis Settlements Life Skills Journey Project (MSLSJ) at the University of Alberta and Buffalo Lake Metis Settlement (BLMS) are investigating how people living in Metis communities are adopting and using new technologies. Community-based and university-based researchers are learning how people in BLMS might use technologies to support community development and economic growth. In this presentation we discuss the process and findings of this collaborative research initiative. We reflect on some ways that a Community Informatics research process (Gurstein, 2000) used in a First Nations context through the First Nations Innovation project at the University of New Brunswick (Whiteduck, Beaton, Burton & O’Donnell, 2012) translates in the context of a Metis Settlement community. The first part of our presentation describes how we designed our research as a two-way reciprocal learning process aimed at building capacity and knowledge together. This involved the team jointly developing research instruments, tools and a process to conduct interviews with a representative sample of community members. This work was designed to both learn about local technology use in the community and to inform a follow-up targeted research project with the community. The second part of our presentation summarizes key findings from our interviews. We discuss some ways that members of BLMS are using digital technologies to meet self-determined development goals. We also consider how to use our findings for both academic and community outcomes, potentially involving youth at the annual MSLSJ camp through participatory video projects and/or workshops on cyber-bullying.