Engaging Indigenous Youth for Economic Reconciliation

Actua camp Hactor

The Forward Summit | WEST 2024 Youth Delegation

From May 14 to 15, over 30 Indigenous students from Calgary Board of Education (CBE) high schools participated in Forward Summit West, forming the Forward Summit West 2024 Youth Delegation. Engaging Indigenous youth is crucial to achieving economic reconciliation, which aims to bridge the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations in Canada, fostering a fair and inclusive economy.

Actua and Forward Summit believe that aligning Indigenous worldviews and Ways of Knowing with the Western education system lays the foundation for Indigenous Peoples full participation in Canada’s economy and is a fundamental element of reconciliation. Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills are essential for success in today’s economy. However, Indigenous youth do not always see themselves as belonging in STEM. To change this, Actua is actively supporting Indigenous youths’ STEM journey.

Indigenous Youth in STEM: Actua’s Approach

Doug Dokis, a senior advisor for Actua’s National Indigenous Youth in STEM program (InSTEM) and Forward Summit Leadership Council member, emphasizes the importance of integrating Indigenous Knowledge into STEM education.

“Indigenous people have always known about STEM,” he says. “Through hands-on, experiential learning, we help Indigenous youth understand how their cultures are integral to STEM, better preparing them for any career pathway they choose.”

From STEM learning opportunities for children in elementary school to land-based for-credit learning for Indigenous youth in high school, and engagement with youth through their post-secondary education into full-time employment, Actua aims to engage youth and advocate for systemic change in Canada’s education system at every key step.

By nurturing Indigenous youth’s confidence and fostering a love of learning, Actua is helping more youth achieve their educational and career goals. The program not only benefits the youth individually, it also creates a pathway that enriches the future workforce with diverse perspectives and talents. This will ultimately drive innovation, growth and equity within Canada’s economy.

Before joining the Summit, the youth participated in a for-credit land camp designed by Actua and the CBE’s Indigenous education team. The three-day Indigenous land-based experience at Camp Chief Hector in Alberta included teachings from Elders and Knowledge-keepers from Stoney Nakoda Nation and Kainaiwa Nation. While at the camp, the youth engaged in activities that helped them see themselves and their cultures reflected in STEM and helped prepare them for their experience at Forward Summit.

Two great examples of this included a Tipi raising and astronomy learning. The Tipi activity investigated the thermal dynamic principles presented by its structure and liner. For the astronomy activity, the youth discussed Indigenous perspectives on constellations and star stories, while also learning about the structure and compositions of stars.

The land has always been the classroom for Indigenous people.

“Whether harvesting an animal for food, plants for medicine, or building a sweat lodge to conduct ceremonies, these cultural practices are essential to teaching youth critical life skills and cultural knowledge,” says Dokis. “These aspects of Indigenous cultures are embedded with high knowledge of STEM, such as biology, chemistry, mathematical formulas and engineering design concepts.”

From Land-based Learning to Industry Engagement

The land camp at Camp Chief Hector provided a land-based opportunity for the youth to connect with each other, with Actua and with STEM. From there, the youth connected with industry mentors and contributed to conversations around reconciliation at Forward Summit West.

“We spend a lot of time talking about being our authentic selves and carrying our identities into every space that we go, especially our cultural identities and knowledge,” says Ethan Boyer, Manager of Actua’s InSTEM program. “The Forward Summit was a great opportunity for the youth to share what they’ve learned and use their voice with some really incredible partners.”

The delegation participated in a youth panel on the first morning of the two-day conference, moderated by Colby Delorme, President of the Imagination Group of Companies. This panel provided space for four members of the delegation (Benji B., Roderick W., Gabby J., and Kaden C.) to share their experiences and proposed actions around reconciliation to an audience of Indigenous and non-Indigenous business leaders. It was a valuable component of the summit because the youth had an opportunity to provide insight that their stakeholders may not have considered, sparking new ideas and solutions. All members of the delegation actively participated in other sessions at the summit as well, alongside Indigenous mentors working in business.

“Our partnership with Actua and Forward Summit is providing invaluable experiences for Indigenous students,” said Lori Pritchard, Education Director, Indigenous Education, Calgary Board of Education. “These experiences nourish their learning spirits, cultural pride, and confidence. Through this partnership, young Indigenous leaders get to engage with Elders and take part in immersive STEM activities. They also amplify their voices as Indigenous people in discussions on economic reconciliation. These activities offer them unique learning opportunities that help shape their identities and aspirations. This opportunity showcases the strength of education rooted in Indigenous ways of being, belonging, doing, and knowing. It also highlights its positive impact on the well-being and success of Indigenous students.”

“Economic and social reconciliation needs to be a top priority for everyone, including Canadian businesses. A part of this includes investments in STEM education equity and working with Indigenous youth throughout their journey toward a fulfilling career,” said Jennifer Flanagan, Actua’s Co-founder and CEO. “Through partnerships that bring together youth, industry and educators, we can progress together in a way that is both meaningful and impactful.”

Advancing economic equity in Canada must include Indigenous youth. Whether it’s making space for them to share their viewpoints as part of broader discussions on economic reconciliation, supporting their education, or providing pathways for direct engagement with future employers, we must do what we can to enable their success. Narrowing economic disparities within Canada cannot happen without this essential group.

 

View Forward Summit | WEST 2024 Actua Youth Delegation

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