Affirming the role of M’Wikwedong Indigenous Friendship Centre as a teaching lodge on climate action and land stewardship within the traditional territories of Saugeen Ojibway Nation in the City of Owen Sound and the Counties of Grey and Bruce, Ontario.
The name of our project comes from the Anishinaabemowin words ‘Gikinoo’amaagewin’ (Teaching) and ‘Wiigwaam’ (Lodge). Through this community-driven action-research project, we seek to affirm the leadership role of M’Wikwedong as a teaching lodge for climate action and land stewardship. As a first step, our project centres creating a community-driven vision for the future of M’Wikwedong as a leader in climate action and land stewardship with the support of other local organizations and Indigenous communities.
The current global climate crisis poses the need for immediate and systematic actions to reduce emissions and foster healthy environments for all. For the Canadian context, the energy transition needs to take place in a way that contributes to redressing – rather than perpetuating – the ongoing settler colonialism that continues to inflict systemic damage on Indigenous peoples and their lands. For Indigenous communities who make urban environments their home, exerting their leadership within energy transition can prove challenging due to limited resources and high service demand. Yet, there are examples that show that urban Indigenous communities have a rich potential for developing and mobilizing innovative knowledge and action for creating healthier and more sustainable urban environments (Indigenous Climate Action, 2018).
Our research methods are organized according to four overlapping phases. Phase 1 centres in ongoing gender and safety reflexivity. The Research Team and Advisory Committee will convene to discuss potential harm that participants might experience as this project unfolds and identify potential solutions. The team will strive to ensure the best conditions for Indigenous women, two-spirit and gender-diverse participants to exert their leadership and share their gifts through this project. Phase 2 will centre in creating time and space for Indigenous community members to learn from Indigenous and Western knowledge on climate transitions and co-creating a shared community vision for climate action and land stewardship in their community. Conversations may revolve around M’Wikwedong’s new facilities, transitional housing complex, or other emergent priorities of community members. 1-5 construction and energy experts may be invited to participate in each of the activities of this phase so that they can learn from the priorities of Indigenous community members. Research activities stem from M’Wikwedong’s programming and include a community feast, cultural workshops, and knowledge sharing about Indigenous and Western understandings of climate change. Phase 3 focuses on building support for M’Wikwedong’s projects. An inter-agency meeting will be organized to discuss intersectoral opportunities for collaboration and commitment in relation to M’Wikwedong’s climate action projects. Phase 4 centres on sharing knowledge with other Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities that are external to M’Wikwedong. Research activities include knowledge-sharing events that bring the urban Indigenous community in Owen Sound with the on-reserve communities of Saugeen Ojibway Nation and walking tours that showcase M’Wikwedong’s journey through this research project./p>
The ethics review process of our project by the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) is advancing. The OFIFC’s Research Ethics Committee reviewed our amended application by the end of February and requested that our team answer three follow-up questions before coming to a decision. Carlos travelled to Owen Sound to discuss these questions with Karen, Paul, Renee and Diane from M’Wikwedong Indigenous Friendship Centre and our team submitted a formal response on March 13th.
While our project finishes its ethics review process, our team continues working on research preparation and capacity-building. On March 2nd, there was an all-staff one-day training at M’Wikwedong on ‘Supporting Two-Spirit and LGBTQ+ Indigenous Youth’ facilitated by a partnership between the OFIFC and the Native Youth Sexual Health Network. The training emphasized that Indigenous youth have the right to self-determine what harm means to them and what supports should look like. Presenters encouraged us to see that ‘change is traditional,’ and shared with us various examples of the historical and contemporary roles and responsibilities of two-spirit and gender diverse people in Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee communities. The training was an excellent opportunity to learn how to address the ways that colonialism, cis-sexism, transphobia, and homophobia impact urban Indigenous communities.
Our hope is that this project will support M’Wikwedong in pursuing its climate action and land stewardship agendas in close relationship with the community members they work with. Additionally, we hope that other Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities will be able to learn from M’Wikwedong’s experience regarding the following areas: 1) culturally-relevant gender accountability for climate action projects, 2) community-driven action research processes, 3) reconciliation of Indigenous and Western knowledge through research, 4) reconciliation between humans and the land within urban environments.
Our project is part of A SHARED Future, which was funded through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Environmental Health Strategic Initiative Team Grant: Intersectoral Prevention Research (2017 – 2022)
Paul Nadjiwan, Karen Houle, and Jeff Masuda
Diane Giroux, Renee Abram, Diana Lewis, Carlos Sánchez, Anna Anbalagan, and Julia Moreau
Theresa O’Connor, Susan Staves Schank, Hillary Trudeau, Ron Root, Shane Chegahno, Nick Saunders, Shari Huber, Anne Marie Shaw, Victoria Serda and Helen Doyle