About this Project

This unique new initiative involves co-designing and incubating an Indigenous digital arts and cultural entrepreneurship training program for urban and newly-urban Indigenous youth. Our main project hub is located in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and is funded by the Canada Council for the Arts Digital Greenhouse program. It builds upon our work with the Inclusion in Northern Research initiative from 2020-2022 and through proven cultural entrepreneurship training with the University of Minnesota Duluth and Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

An interdisciplinary team, with expertise across the arts, environmental and social sciences, takes a community-engaged and story-based approach to research and arts-based research creation, and provides opportunities to explore Indigenous-led structures and methodological pathways for community members to themselves determine how these systems are experienced. Working alongside urban and northern artists we explore how long-standing practices of storytelling can be used as a material and intergenerational method to visually convey climate realities and shape policy that enhances resilience strategies.

Background and Relevance

The purpose of this grant is to design and pilot curriculum for use by Indigenous learners
in boreal and prairie regions (Manitoba, Northwestern Ontario, Minnesota). This unique
and exploratory Canada-US dialogue was piloted through synchronous Zoom meetings
with a small group of Indigenous youth, Honduran and Colombian students from April to
July 2021, and this grant would allow for the development of a full partnership and rollout
of a collaborative program, starting in January 2023.

This project will create a curriculum for a synchronous 8-week online course on the use of participatory arts, storytelling and the visualization of climate change in Sub-Arctic and mid-latitude locations, namely Canada and the United States (Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario and Minnesota). Local partner organizations include the Arctic Buying Company – Winnipeg and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. 

The program will engage high-school students and young adults in learning about two interrelated components: a) climate change evidence and visualization, utilizing and contributing to the Climate Visuals framework (https://climatevisuals.org/), and b) storytelling, professional photography/videography training. Students will learn about existing evidence for climate change in different biomes across the globe, utilize the key principles of visualizing climate change, and practice how to use photography and documentary filmmaking to collect evidence of climate change in their communities, ultimately creating professional photography and short 3-minute documentary films.

Elements of the photography/videography components for this program have been piloted and tested over the course of three years with Canadian youth as a part of a 2018- 2021 National Science Foundation grant (Award #1758814), and as such addresses key strategic areas identified in the United States’ National Strategy for the Arctic Region released in October, 2022 — in particular, Climate Change and Environmental Protection, Sustainable Economic Development, Cultivating Cross-Sectoral Coalitions and Innovative Ideas and Deepening Relationships with Allies and Partners.

The purpose of this project is to extend the original Arctic focus of climate change visualization work to include mid-latitude/boreal forest environments. The Incubator component of this project was launched in 2022 with financial investment from the Canada Council for the Arts (Award # 7015-21-0023) and the Manitoba Arts Council (Award # 2022-1004). This proposed project will also mentor Indigenous and Black youth in basic/introductory participatory research and fieldwork methodologies.

Adaptive Phased Management (APM) is the name of Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel. Our proposed project will also engage with Indigenous rights holders from Northwestern Ontario, Manitoba and Nunavut with respect to ongoing consultations and community perspectives on the potential impacts of Canada’s proposed Deep Geological Repository for nuclear waste fuel. Additionally, as our project’s community-based work is the closest, most potentially impacted community for the NWMO Revell Site Selection Area – one of two remaining site selection study areas for this proposed DGR – our team will use storytelling, photography and video interviews to explore perspectives from potentially impacted communities. In October 2022 it was
announced the project is also exploring the potential use of Small Modular Reactors and
potential future storage of SMR waste fuel.

The Revell Site Selection Study Area is within the Nelson River Drainage Area, which drains into Hudson Bay through the Nelson River. There are three tertiary watersheds, the Upper English sub-basin, the Wabigoon sub-basin and the Central Rainy sub-basin. Concerns have been raised across the north on possible future contamination of these critical ecosystems.

A decision on this highly controversial project will be made in 2024.

Goals and Objectives

  • Students from Manitoba, Northwestern Ontario and Minnesota will be learning together through weekly synchronous online and in-person sessions and exchange their experiences with both climate change and photographic/documentary film work.
  • The curriculum will be created in English will also include the use of Inuktitut.
  • The curriculum and visual results will be shared in two special exhibitions, one in Winnipeg and the other in Borups Corners, Northwestern Ontario. Borups Corners is adjacent to one of two remaining site selection study areas for Canada’s proposed Deep Geological Repository (DGR) for nuclear waste.

Links to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

This project focuses primarily but not exclusively on UN Sustainable Development Goals 9,
12, 13 and 17.

SDG 9 – Innovation and Infrastructure: Strengthening and developing nuclear energy

Goal 12 – Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

This project addresses how unsustainable energy consumption and production patterns have produced catastrophic effects on climate and environment in the regions addressed in this proposal (Boztas 2017). For the purposes of this project, the conversation about the impact of consumption on climate change will be expanded to a hemispheric dialogue.

Students will specifically focus on the problem of food products, changes in packaging and hygiene standards and resultant issues of waste, waste disposal, lack of recycling and the impacts this has on local watersheds and ecosystems, in particular the Hudson Bay watershed area which stands to be potentially impacted by the construction of a Deep Geological Repository for nuclear waste fuel.

Goal 13 – Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. 

This project explicitly engages with a key problem in combating climate change: Providing convincing evidence to people that engages them to a) recognize climate change and real and relevant and b) actually change their own behavior so that it has a meaningful individual and cumulative impact on climate change (Potter 2012, Venkatraman et al 2015). 

Students will learn about the scientific work on climate change and climate change visualization, to
recognize and create convincing visual documentation that might actually change their peers’ and their societies’ behavior.

Goal 17 – Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development. 

This project brings together learners through international online dialogue, to collectively produce professional imagery and video on climate change visualization. Working together here in Winnipeg with youth originally from the Canadian Arctic, Northern Ontario and Northern Minnesota regions to learn together, create evidence together and to produce powerful imagery that will have an opportunity to influence policy and be seen globally. As such, we are creating a platform here for developing global partnerships and activism among youth across hemispheres and from different climate regimes that will hopefully result in future activism and that provides a practice platform to participate in global dialogue. 

The project is decidedly applied in focus, in that the main outcome is meant to be exactly the facilitation of global youth dialogue across countries, ecosystems and hemispheres, to contribute to this SDG.

Outputs and dissemination plan

Results of the project will be shared with participating communities and broader audiences through two hybrid online/physical exhibitions, through social media, blog posts and local regional media. Video and interactive content will be made available through partner communications platforms as well as Isuma TV. Interviews with youth were conducted in June 2022 for CBC Winnipeg and CBC Igalaaq, and media have expressed interest in following up in the new year on their work.

Continued co-creation of Digital Entrepreneurship training

  1. A collaborative team of Indigenous youth, Elders and knowledge holders will work with scholars, community organizers, artists and non-profit organizations to identify and assess the challenges and barriers that currently exist with participation in the arts economy.
  2. A collaborative team of Indigenous youth, elders and experts will work with scholars, community organizers and non-profit organizations to deliver/teach the curriculum in Winnipeg, MB, with indigenous youth.
  3. The curriculum developed for this project will be accessible to Indigenous communities across Canada, and will be freely usable under a Creative Commons license.

Capacity Development

This Indigenous-led, collaborative program is being co-designed and delivered in partnership with, consultation and involvement of Indigenous artists working alongside experienced and emerging artists, established and early-career community-based researchers. 

Traditional Indigenous knowledge and values will be applied consistently throughout this project. As well, ethical principles and guidelines for working with Indigenous peoples and northern communities in research will also be respected. The project will develop “hybrid values” to guide work respectfully across cultures. 

Workshops being planned will create opportunities for youth to generate knowledge and develop research skills, as such youth and Elders will be provided guidance on documenting all workshops via film and audio. Youth and Elders will be trained in the creative and ethical procedures of this documentation, eg. ensuring consent.

This project builds on work supported through the ArcticNet strategic process for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Our team was able to participate in the consultations and engagement activities which shaped development of this strategy in 2020 and 2021.

ArcticNet, one of the Networks of Centres of Excellence of Canada brings together scientists and managers in the natural, health, and social sciences with their partners in Inuit organizations, northern communities, federal and provincial agencies, and the private sector. This project also builds on extensive digital and cultural entrepreneurship research with the University of Minnesota Duluth and the UNESCO Chair in Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education conducted from 2020-2022.

We will build capacity for local research creation through an arts-based lens in partnership with the Inclusion in Northern Research Initiative, impacts and outcomes will be aligned to and measured against ArcticNet’s new strategic process for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and related Key Performance Indicators. This is relevant to support digital arts-based approaches to research creation, measuring the impacts of our work and identifying areas for improvement. The project will discuss across disciplines, exploring the role of Indigenous culture connectors identify approaches and frameworks communities can use to better measure and communicate results.

An expanded installation / curatorial training project of the 2021-2022 Our People, Our Climate photography and film exhibitions (Glasgow Centre for Contemporary Arts, presented during COP26) will also be presented with additional youth and community voices and perspectives in December 2022 and in February 2023.