Reconciliation: New program connects Indigenous youth with technology

A new program in Ottawa is connecting Indigenous youth with technology.

IndigeSTEAM, an Indigenous founded and led non-profit dedicated to reconciliation in STEM/STEAM fields, offered the course in Ottawa this weekend.

STEM is science, technology, engineering and math. The A in STEAM can represent arts, architecture and agriculture, IndigeSTEAM explains.

Ruby Keays and her sister spent their Sunday learning about robotics at the IndigeSTEAM workshop.

“I feel like stuff might get more advanced and I might actually need to, so it’s pretty important to do that,” Keays said. “Its cool there are people like me here. It’s just really fun to make them and stuff. The competitions are fun but stressful.”

IndigeSTEAM’s mission is the provision of Indigenous-led and culturally relevant programming to support a better future for Indigenous youth in STEM/STEAM. They do this in spaces that are ethical and respect Indigenous culture and Ways of Knowing, bringing Indigenous STEM role models to train non-Indigenous and Indigenous STEM professionals.

This is the first workshop being run by IndigeSTEAM in Ottawa and it is sponsored by local technology company Kinaxis. The program is based on successful workshops that IndigeSTEAM has run in the past in Alberta. Dane Henshall, an Indigenous software developer, led Sunday’s workshop. He says giving Indigenous youth the chance to experience technology and all it can offer opens doors to future careers and knowledge they can use on a daily basis.

“If any Indigenous kid is inclined that way I’d like them to have the support they need to choose it as a path. There are a lot of opportunities in technology right now, a lot of money and good jobs,” Henshall said. “I think It’s important that these opportunities are available to Indigenous kids and adults.”

The free robotics workshop is for self-identified Indigenous youth grades 3-9, hosted at Mādahòkì Farm on West Hunt Club Road, which has become a focal point of the Ottawa Indigenous community. Parents were welcomed and encouraged to stay and participate with their kids. Ashley Keays, Ruby’s mother, says this is a great way to get to know other people in the community.

“I think it’s important, especially for First Nations children, to be able to access different educational opportunities in this field,” Keays said. “In Indigenous knowledge, we have a lot of important teachings, important ways of knowing and seeing that are similar to this. I think it’s a great opportunity for the kinds to expand their minds and think about different career paths.”  

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