THUNDER BAY — Science North has launched a project it says will dramatically expand its Indigenous outreach efforts and incorporate Indigenous knowledge and perspectives more broadly throughout its programming.
The agency announced it would undertake the new project, dubbed Indigenous Ways of Knowing, at a press conference in Thunder Bay on Monday, backed by a $200,000 donation from TD Bank.
Science North says the “sector-leading initiative” will help the agency meet its commitments to reconciliation, providing capacity to boost outreach to Indigenous communities and incorporate Indigenous knowledge widely across its programming.
“It’s important for us to include all different perspectives, and that will be the first time that’s done in a science centre in our country,” said Science North CEO Ashley Larose.
The project will see Science North “invest time engaging with elders and youth, learning about Northern Ontario Indigenous communities' needs and wants as they relate to Science North’s operations and programming, with the ultimate goal of creating an organization where Indigenous people feel a strong sense of belonging.”
Goals include inspiring Indigenous people of all ages to engage with science, ensure culturally appropriate research and language inclusion, increasing economic and employment opportunities, and advancing implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action.
“It’s transformational,” Larose said of the project. “Especially when we’re talking [about] communities where there may not be road access, for us to get in there and properly serve them, and provide equitable access to our programming — funding like this is critical.”
The agency, which operates Canada’s second-largest science centre in Sudbury and has plans to build a major science centre in Thunder Bay, serves all of Northern Ontario, a territory Larose noted includes over 100 First Nations and 100,000 self-identified Indigenous people.
The project will be funded through early 2024 with the $200,000 contribution from TD Bank. That comes through the bank’s TD Ready commitment, which has seen over $2.5 million donated to community projects in Northern Ontario since the COVID-19 pandemic began, said district vice-president Michael Nitz.
“This is a perfect project that aligns with our willingness to engage Indigenous communities and make sure we work towards truth and reconciliation,” he said. “We have a lot of work ahead, but we feel this is one step towards making sure all programs at Science North have an Indigenous lens to inspire youth and communities to be engaged.”
Science North has previously launched the Indigenous Ingenuity travelling exhibit, exploring links between Indigenous traditional knowledge and modern technology.
The Indigenous Ways of Knowing Project will be led by Science North’s Indigenous Initiatives Steering committee.