Indigenous Digital Media Grants

The eagle flies the highest in the sky, and in a coast salish story people would seek guidance from the eagle to gain knowledge of faraway places. This representational eagle wing relief was created to bring the knowledge to students as they seek guidance in their studies. -- Marissa Nahanee

 About the Grants

Indigenous Digital Media Grants (IDMG) provided one-time financial support to SFU researchers, creators, and makers to cover costs associated with the development of Indigenous digital resources. We welcomed applications for projects that aimed to create forms of “digital media” through processes of digitization, or through the creation of new media (films, podcasts, websites, etc). Two calls for applications were made in November 2020 and February 2021, and the library provided administration support.

Funded by SFU’s Aboriginal Strategic Initiative with one-time funding of about $140,000, and in keeping with the goals articulated in the 2017 SFU Aboriginal Reconciliation Council (ARC) report, this grant is one way of directly supporting projects and initiatives at SFU that will have a “legacy” effect -- through the creation and enrichment of Indigenous digital resources that are relevant to SFU and that have the potential “to create meaningful, sustained change” (p.28) at the university.

As they are completed, links to the projects will be available.


The Brandon Residential School Cemetery Project

Katherine Nicols (PhD candidate, Interdisciplinary Program: Departments of Indigenous Studies & Archaeology)

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The Brandon Indian Residential School Cemetery Project is an ongoing inter-disciplinary investigation into the legacy of missing children and unmarked cemeteries. This work has been spearheaded by the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, who own a portion of the Brandon Residential School grounds and have been advocating for the identification of unmarked graves and formal protection of the schools’ cemeteries. This work has developed into a partnership between Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, and faculty and students from Simon Fraser University, Brandon University, and University of Windsor. 

The Brandon Residential School serves as an example of the difficulties associated with trying to determine where children are buried. The results from preliminary investigations  indicate that there are two school cemeteries, and potential unmarked graves behind the  school which may indicate a third burial ground. Efforts to identify students who died while attending the school using archival records have resulted in a working list of 71 names of children from 13 different Indigenous communities in Manitoba (Nichols 2015). Presently, we are working to respectfully notify and engage with affected Indigenous communities. To continue this work, we have digitized the archival text so that the content is more accessible and key words are searchable. 

Conversations at the Forefront of Indigenous Education

Carolyn Roberts (PhD candidate, Faculty of Education) and Calder Cheverie (Digital arts practitioner)

Please visit the podcast website or listen on Apple Podcasts.

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This project created a podcast series highlighting contemporary conversations, research  and voices at the forefront of Indigenous education. Through a presencing of scholarship, story and the land, this series weaves together the perspectives and work of Indigenous faculty and educators into a pedagogical cloth, emblematic of what “Indigenous Education” looks like in practice. As we work to move away from the traditional, linear models of learning and knowing established alongside the expressions of colonialism in education and Western structures of scholarship, this series invites listeners into a pedagogical paradigm rooted in Indigenous ways of knowing, understanding and being.  

Hosted by Carolyn Roberts, and structured around conversations with Indigenous faculty, practitioners of Indigenized pedagogy, elders, knowledge-holders and community members, the series invites listeners into a deeper understanding of an Indigenous educational paradigm. Aimed at teachers, administrators, faculty and researchers in education, this project supports the (re)thinking of classrooms, uses of curriculum and approaches to pedagogical research and practice. Through this series we hope to support listeners in (re)shaping the way that they understand, approach and work within their learning communities and respective fields.

Digital Home for the Squamish Ocean Canoe Family

Larry (Shucks) Nahanee (Squamish Nation), Lilia Yumagulove (Post-doc at SFU)

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This project built a Digital Home that tells the story of the Squamish Ocean Canoe Family, led by Sḵwxwú7mesh Larry (Shucks) Nahanee, the President of the Squamish Ocean Canoe Family and Chiaxten (“Protocol Keeper”) Wes Nahanee. The website tells the story of  the revival of the Sḵwxwú7mesh ocean-going canoe and traditions, particularly through the annual Tribal Canoe Journeys. This is a story of loss, resilience and resurgence. Through the photographs, stories, reflections, and teachings shared by Wes and Shucks and other Family members, this website will tell a story of the ‘canoe as a teacher’ and how Indigenous pedagogies are attained through canoe journeys, particularly in urban Indigenous context where this canoe resurgence means cultural continuity and healing. 

This story lives on through songs and ceremony but is largely invisible in digital realms. It is a story that remains to be told with every stroke of the paddle as the canoes, the family, and the Nation live through the next millennia connected to the blue routes of their ancestors.

Digitizing Cree: Endangered Languages and Artificial Intelligence

Dr. Eldon Yellowhorn (Indigenous Studies)

The Cree chatbot is available.

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Linguistic diversity in Canada appears threatened as the speech of Indigenous peoples  diminishes. Yet no national policy exists to avert or address this looming mass extinction.  Strategies for revitalizing indigenous languages have taken on more importance since the United Nations declared 2019 the Year of Indigenous Languages. Researchers are encouraged to explore novel synergies that might lead to positive outcomes for endangered languages and we are pursuing this research to add a new tool to that task. This is a national concern in Canada because the factors eroding them were created by federal policy. Therefore, the Government of  Canada created Bill C91, An Act Respecting Indigenous Languages (2019), which passed through the federal parliament and proceeded to royal assent. The intent of this law is to support and promote languages that are in a precarious state. Our work builds on the intent of this legislation and provides a model that other researchers working with similar projects can reference. Using our Blackfoot chatbot as our model, we investigated the potential of advancing this goal with the use of artificial intelligence and robotics. The funds received through this grant supported the initial development of the Cree chatbot

“For the Next Seven Generations”: An Exploration of “Urban Indigenous Women’s Leadership Framework” through the Experiences of Indigenous Women Engaging in a Community-based Leadership Program

Amelia Boissoneau, Krystal Dumais-Ziprick, Samantha Gatley, Raina Jules, Naomi Kennedy, Melissa Lumberjack, Ravina Morgan, Megan Rosso, Jeska Slater, Dr. Michelle Pidgeon, Rebecca Cox, and Andrea Leveille (Faculty of Education)

A video on the project is available for viewing.

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Recognizing the complex inequities that exist at the intersection of anti-Indigenous discrimination and gender-based oppression, this community-led project aims to understand how to develop and sustain Indigenous women’s leadership in an urban context by bringing together academic researchers and community practitioners through the Surrey Urban Indigenous Leadership Council's Skookum Lab, specifically their Ambassadors program. 
The Skookum Lab Ambassadors program is a transformational leadership development program on the ancestral and unceded territories of the Semiahmoo, Kwantlen, Katzie,  Qayqayt, Kwitkwitlem, and Tsawwassen First Nations (Surrey, BC). It offers a life-affirming opportunity for urban Indigenous women to uplift their voices and advocate for much-needed change in the region. Ambassadors are revitalizing kinship systems, reclaiming sacred roles and responsibilities, and building cultural support networks as the foundation for leadership action. The Ambassadors Program creates opportunities for Indigenous women to uplift their voices to advocate for change to sustain their families and their community. 
Two short films have been created; the first focuses on what the Ambassadors program is, and the Ambassadors share their experiences in the program, describing how the program supported their gifts and growth. The second film focuses on what the Ambassadors do, and highlights how an Urban Indigenous Women's Leadership Framework supports work for and with community. These films reflect Indigenous storytelling-in-action - sharing the lessons learned and the teachings of leadership that these women experienced and are enacting due to the Ambassadors program.

From Ceremony Up

Dr. Lyana Patrick (Faculty of Health Sciences)

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This podcast series examines Indigenous self-determination in health and well-being, and how such perspectives can and should inform social and political movements for justice and reconciliation. Interviews will be conducted by Dr. Lyana Patrick and front line workers. The series is an extension of Dr. Patrick’s PhD research on community planning and the intersections of public health, planning, and Indigenous studies.

In this research, Dr. Patrick examined the day to-day labours of frontline workers and the health and well-being of Indigenous people and their environment. Her discussions and outcomes are around emerging theory and practice of Indigenous community planning and creating alternative spaces of belonging through relational practices that emphasize personal accountability, integrity, trust, and the importance of culture and ceremony. These resurgent practices inform an Indigenous community planning paradigm shift that challenges colonially imposed categories of being and belonging and creates community for diverse urban Indigenous peoples.

An Interactive Glossary of Linguistic Concepts for SFU Indigenous Language Revitalists

The Indigenous Languages Program Linguistic Glossary 

Heather Bliss (Linguistics)

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The project aims to develop an interactive web-based glossary of linguistic concepts for students in SFU’s  Indigenous Languages Program (INLP). Students in this program are developing proficiency in their languages (Hul’q’umi’num’, Skwxwú7mesh, and Secwepemctsin1) and learning foundational skills in linguistics. INLP students encounter the following barriers:  

  • Most introductory linguistics materials focus on widely spoken languages such as English, which is very different from most Indigenous languages in Canada.  
  • Linguistics is characterized by extensive use of jargon. Clear and culturally relevant definitions of this jargon are not readily available.  

This project will help address these barriers by creating a glossary of linguistic concepts that  collates information in a way that centres Indigenous languages and Indigenous knowledge.  
1 The INLP has supported 12 language communities. However, in this first stage of the project, we will focus  exclusively on Hul’q’umi’num’, Skwxwú7mesh, and Secwepemctsin as the majority of students are organized into cohorts from these three language communities, with faculty experts in these languages.

Kitselas Data Sovereignty and Digital Mapping

Files and information are available to community members through CedarBox, a BC-based and Indigenous-specific web-based platform.

Dr. Chelsey Armstrong (Indigenous Studies) and Chris J. Apps (Director, Kitselas Lands and Resources, Kitselas First Nation)

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Kitselas (Ts’msyen) peoples have 6,000+ years of cultural heritage tied to our land. However, one of the many legacies of colonialism has been the erasure of this unique land-based  knowledge. As Jim Enote (Zuni) has noted, “More lands have been lost to Native peoples probably through mapping than through physical conflict”. Our project seeks to reclaim, manage, and promote our land-based heritage by accessioning and digitizing our collective community knowledge in a spatial archive. Our goal is to securely digitize Kitselas cultural heritage and land-based data in a spatially relevant way; map-based data is the foundation of Kitselas governance and decision-making, it will aid in our move towards treaty (helping lawyers and  legal teams “make sense” of cultural heritage as it relates to use and occupancy) and will be “usable” to community members and decision-makers seeking to better understand the wealth of heritage tied to specific places in our territories. 


Files and information are available to community members through CedarBox, a BC-based and Indigenous-specific web-based platform.


Materials to Help Learn Ktunaxa (Together, Apart)

Elise McClay (Linguistics)

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Ktunaxa is an isolate language: it is not known to be related to any other languages the way that, for  instance, Cree and Blackfoot are related by virtue of being Algonquian languages. Thus, there is intense urgency to build capacity in the language beyond the current 31 fluent speakers, as its intricacies cannot be approached by studying related languages. 

This project consisted of developing and sharing teaching materials for an off-reserve Ktunaxa language class, established in 2018 for Ktunaxa people living in the Lower Mainland, now open to any interested Ktunaxa community members online. There are approximately 10 students and a teaching team of a fluent Ktunaxa-speaking Elder and two linguist teaching assistants. In this weekly Zoom class, students choose the topics of study for the upcoming week, which the teaching team prepares as custom-made digital language activities designed for screen-share. Classes close with recording a summary of the class, benefiting both students who were present (reinforcing concepts learned), and students with scheduling conflicts (allowing them to hear pronunciation and get explanations for activities unclear from slides alone). The class also collaborates on a yearly group project together, such as writing a story or making a calendar.

Application information

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This grant was available for continuing or limited-term faculty (including tenured and tenure-track faculty, lecturers, librarians, archivists, and limited-term faculty of one year or more), staff, graduate students (at the Master’s or PhD level), and postdoctoral fellows.

Proposals were accepted from SFU departments, Centres, Institutes, or other campus units, and also from individual faculty and graduate students.

Amount and project completion timeline

Up to $10,000 was awarded per project.

Projects should be completed within one (1) year of the award date. For example, projects awarded in December 2020 should be completed by December 2021; projects awarded in March 2021 should be completed by March 2022.

Access to resources

Though the SFU Library is committed to providing open access to digitized resources, we recognize that some culturally-sensitive materials may require further access protocols (as determined by individual or community needs).

Selection process

A selection committee, composed of representatives from the Department of Indigenous Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and SFU Library evaluated the applications.