Aki Kikinomakaywin Program Offers Hands-on STEAM Learning Opportunities for Indigenous Youth in Northern Ontario

NORDIK Institute is launching its new Aki Kikinomakaywin (Learning on the land)  program, which offers hands-on, Indigenous science, technology, engineering, arts, and  math (STEAM) training for Indigenous youth.  

The program will run for one week in July at Lakehead University and Confederation  College in Thunder Bay.  

Aki Kikinomakaywin is a women- and Indigenous-led program that teaches Indigenous  youth from Northern Ontario First Nation communities Indigenous ways of knowing and  being through learning on the land through the use of western science techniques.  

Aki Kikinomakaywin will be running a week-long camp in Thunder Bay at Lakehead  University and Confederation College this summer 2022. The program is free to youth  ages 12-14 and covers all costs for accommodation, transportation, and food. In future  years, programs will be run in both Thunder Bay and Sault Ste Marie, Ontario.  

Youth participating in the program will learn from local Elders, Water Walkers, and  Knowledge Holders about Indigenous water laws and governance, as well as how to  complete an Indigenous Impact Assessment using Indigenous ways of knowing and  being.  

Youth will learn how to code sensors to collect environmental data and learn how western  science techniques can be used to support Indigenous science, while also becoming more  confident in university and college settings.  

“The Elders have said that we need to teach our young on the land. Mother Earth is our  education system, she is our pharmacy, our kitchen, our everything. By learning on the  land, our young will come to understand she is our everything” said Dr. Susan Bell Chiblow, Assistant Professor at the University of Guelph, NORDIK Research Associate  and, and Anishinaabekwe from Garden River First Nation, who is a Co-Lead to the  program.  

“The youth will learn that we all come from water and need to protect the waters. They  will gain the understanding that water is life, is alive with spirit, and is medicine. They 

will understand that as Anishinaabek, we always did science. This will provide confidence  in who they are and potentially assist them in career decisions,” Dr. Chiblow said. 

Aki Kikinomakaywin is led by an Advisory Group that is comprised of Indigenous women  who are all leaders in the education field and their communities.  

This Advisory Group is led by Marnie Yourchuk the Education Program Manager at  Mamaweswen, The North Shore Tribal Council; Erin Desjardins is a Stewardship Intern  at Matawa and Four Rivers, as well as an M.Sc. candidate at Lakehead University; Lisa  Harris is the Coordinator of the Niijii Indigenous Mentorship program at Lakehead  University; Mary Wabano-McKay is the Vice President of Nyaagaaniid, Anishinabe  Initiatives, Equity and Student Success at Algoma University; Nicole Nicolas-Bayer is the  Director of Mukwa Waakaa’igan at Algoma University; Carolyn Hepburn is the Dean of  Indigenous Studies and Academic Upgrading at Sault College, and lastly Jasmine Baxter  is an Environmental Technician with Matawa and Four Rivers who is also completing her  Honours B.Sc. in Environmental Science at Lakehead University.  

Dr. Gayle Broad, Professor Emerita at Algoma University and Research Associate at  NORDIK Institute, has also played an integral role in developing the program.  

Aki Kikinomakaywin is also fortunate to be partnering with Water First and Let’s Talk  Science to provide engaging water-focused and coding hands-on western science  activities.  

“Aki Kikinomakaywin is an important program aiming to support Ontario’s northern  First Nation youth in learning about careers in STEAM,” said Haley MacLeod, a Ph.D.  Candidate at Lakehead University and a Co-Lead on the program.  

“Allowing youth to learn from local Elders and Knowledge Holders will provide a unique  opportunity to get youth excited about their own knowledge systems and future career  opportunities. I am excited to help get youth on to the land and in the lab and to provide  more education opportunities in the North,” MacLeod said. 

Applications and additional information are available on the program’s website at  akikikinomakaywin.com.  

NORDIK Institute is excited to aid in this program. This program will benefit Indigenous  youth in Northern Ontario through providing them with unique learning opportunities  and provide a model for future land-based learning opportunities in the region.