Celebrating Indigenous Boarders: Making for New Cultural Understanding of Indigenous Urban Youth Landscapes in Newfoundland

Lay Summary 

In partnership with post-secondary institutions, museums are skillfully leveraging their public engagement roles as trusted learning commons. With the use of interdisciplinary, cross-cultural programming that engages with tangible/intangible cultural knowledge, museums promote collaboration, creative analysis, and critical thinking with school populations and the general public. In this way, museums have re-emerged as spaces of learning where important public engagement has developed to form new understandings about our diverse populations.

Memorial University’s commitment to Indigenization and decolonization of its spaces has benefited through this innovative project, bringing the faculties of Education, and Humanities and Social Sciences, together with The Rooms and First Light Friendship Centre to foster engagement with contemporary Indigenous culture. Decolonization is fundamentally about shifting perspectives away from colonial mindsets around Indigenous Peoples – mindsets that see Indigenous Peoples living on reserve, with a loss of culture, language and traditions. While this is true for some of the population, it is not the whole story. It ignores 61% of Indigenous Peoples who live in urban centres, and the ever-increasing percentage of the population who are university educated, prosperous and celebrate culture and tradition.

At its foundation, this project integrates MakerSpace opportunities with Boarder X, a touring exhibit celebrating Indigenous identity through urban skater artwork and VR environments. This project utilized The Rooms programs which promote STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) opportunities for learning by building connections between visual literacy, curriculum, students, families and artists. This project explored Indigenous literacies, weaving in youth cultural workshops and school related projects. Pre-service teachers, artists, educators and makers all participated. First Light, aided by undergraduates, created MakerSpaces for students and families that celebrate Indigenous culture and making. Students created works of art and objects of material culture for public display at The Rooms MakerFaire in November 2019.

This project consisted of a series of events intended to use public engagment to help foster engagement with contemporary Indigenous culture.

1. The first meeting took place in October.This meeting focused on the organization of the November schedule and floor plan. The Rooms hosted MakerStations where artists and pre-service teachers focused on a different techniques, projects, or activities related to making using their area of artistic expression (music, digital composition, textiles, etc.) to promote Indigenous pedagogies, visual literacy, cultural heritage or natural history.

2. The second meeting took place in early November. At this meeting pre-service teachers met with Anne Pickard-Vaandering, Education Officer (Art) and Darryn Doull, Curator of Canadian Art. Preservice teachers from the Faculty of Education, where the focus was Literacy and Digital Learning will be partnered with artists and asked to create a MakerSpace for presentation on November 27, 2019. The pre-service teachers were able to share STEM and STEAM approaches with the artists who will share their area of artistic expression with the students. Together they created a MakerStation blending the Arts, Indigenous learning and STEM and STEAM technologies. These stations focused on learning about the arts, culture or natural history of the Province. The MakerFaire will be a day long event hosted at The Rooms on November 29th. It will be a Public Engagement Event. Invitations were sent to local schools to participate in the event. Parents, grandparents, caregivers and families were also able to join. There was a rotation of MakerSpaces, and we employed a graduate student to document the event with photos. A celebration/reception occured at the end of the day where student projects were shared. A curated exhibition showcasing the student skateboard and textile projects was created during the MakerFaire and remained on display for a short time in The Rooms.

3. Michael Langan from Colonialism Skateboard company delivered a series of guest lectures on November 27th and 29th. He spoke about First Nations and the intersection of culture, art and boarding practices at the ROOMS in a workshop for pre-service teachers, participate in a Coffee and Culture event at the rooms, guest lectured in Dr. Rochelle Côté's  OCI4205 course, and then delivered an evening keynote at a final public engagement event.

Faculty of Education
Accelerator Fund for Public Engagement
St. John's
Newfoundland and Labrador
Public engagement
Start date 
1 Oct 2020
Partner Organization 
The Rooms
First Light NL