The Need

Kite’s RecogNation project addressed the under-representation of the distinct cultures and knowledge of contemporary Indigenous identities in the education of Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth. We believe that introducing these identities more notably in the education system has enhanced the experience of both Indigenous and non­-Indigenous students at schools in the Lower Mainland by providing Indigenous students with a platform to showcase their cultures and identities while providing non-Indigenous students with new knowledge.

Our Work

Kite Vancouver began the initial research for this project in September 2016. The first phase was the design, development and implementation of assemblies across the Vancouver school district. We distributed surveys to various classrooms to gain a deeper understanding of the students’ needs, we built a contact list of relevant Indigenous artists interested in performing at the assemblies, and we established relationships with administrators, various teachers, and Aboriginal Education Enhancement teams across the city. This began to shape our understanding of the individual schools and how our assemblies would fit in the larger school picture.

To bring Indigenous voices into this project, we decided to have the assemblies led by Indigenous youth. We began to form committees of Indigenous students at our contact schools, and Kite facilitated discussions of assembly content, format, and theme with these committees, giving them an opportunity to create a unique assembly tailored to the attitudes of their school and peer group.

Our pilot assembly was held on April 4th, 2017 at Vancouver College. It was led and MC’d by three Indigenous students at the school from the Musqueam Nation; these three students opened and concluded the assembly, setting tones of sincerity and significance while explaining to their peers the assembly’s importance to them and to the school. The involvement of the students was an integral part of the assembly’s success.

Next Steps

RecogNation was in its second research phase until recent discontinuation. The pilot assembly provided us with invaluable experience and feedback that we have taken on to shape how we may continue our work. Over the past year, we were continuing our project in a research paper inclusive of Indigenous and non-Indigenous voices from the UBC First Nations and Indigenous Studies Program, from public schools around the city, and from other relevant partners. Besides research, we were working on relationship-building with the local First Nations as well as the other stakeholders involved in this project. It is still important for us to work closely with members from the host nations so that all our work is informed on issues such as territory recognition and the cultural appropriateness of what is being exchanged; however, we’ve ultimately decided that we need to choose a new way forward before committing to another project on this vulnerable topic. Look forward to hearing about a potential collaboration with the Emerging Media Lab in 2019.