Lakehead University

Lakehead University

December 06, 2007 12:06 ET

Collaboration Between Lakehead University Faculty and Aboriginal Community Partners Leads to Substantial SSHRC Funding

Research Initiatives to Benefit Aboriginal Language and Learning

THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Dec. 6, 2007) - In partnership with two Aboriginal organizations, four members of Lakehead University's Faculty of Education are pleased to announce a collective total of $436,000 in Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) funding for partner-based research which aims to benefit Aboriginal communities.

Principal investigator Dr. Ethel Gardner, partners from the Grand Council of Treaty #3, and co-investigator Dr. John O'Meara have collaborated on a research plan to receive $225,000 in SSHRC funding which will develop a comprehensive, collaborative, and strategic plan for the retention and revitalization of the Anishinaabe language-more commonly known as Ojibwe. Likewise, with $211,000 in SSHRC funding, a research team comprising principal investigator Dr. Seth Agbo; co-investigators Drs. Lisa Korteweg, John O'Meara, and Ethel Gardner; community partner Keewaytinook Okimakanak (Northern Chiefs), and Director Brian Walmark and members of Keewaytinook Okimakanak Research Institute (KORI), will explore community perspectives pertaining to the Keewaytinook Internet High School (KiHS). As a culturally relevant educational platform, KiHS holds the potential to accommodate educational needs of Aboriginal youth in Ontario's far north. Both funding amounts will be allotted over a three-year period.

Gardner, Professor and Chair of the Department of Aboriginal Education, worked with team members to develop a project which addresses remedies to the growing decline of the Ojibwe language. Though it is one of three Aboriginal languages in Canada deemed to have the best rate of survival, it is seemingly losing ground among First Nations communities. English is becoming the language used most often by Band offices, schools, First Nations organizations, and community leaders at gatherings and assemblies.

Through extensive research, all partners involved in the project aim to develop a plan, over a fifteen-year period, to retain and cultivate a fluent, understood, and respected language in all communities and among all community members. "Together," says Gardner, "Lakehead University researchers, Aboriginal graduate students, education and language technicians, and Treaty #3 participants will gather a variety of data on the state of this language in all 28 Treaty #3 communities." Researchers will implement a pilot project for language revitalization in each of the three Treaty #3 Tribal Councils.

"As our language keepers become older, we are quickly losing our Anishinaabe wordsmiths and our links to the 'old' language," says Ogichidaa (Grand Chief) Arnold Gardner. "Our long-term goal in working with Lakehead University is to develop tactics to ensure we have fluent speakers of every age and within every community, and to give our traditional language the exposure, understanding, and respect it so deserves."

Agbo and Lakehead faculty members have worked closely with the KO Northern Chief's Council and its research wing, KORI. Together, these group members will investigate community perspectives, opinions, and attitudes about KiHS, a virtual secondary school established in 1999 to serve Aboriginal students in grades nine and ten.

The KiHS was created so parents in remote and isolated First Nations communities would not have to choose between ensuring their children receive quality education and sending them far from home to attend high school at such a critical time in their adolescence. Each class is taught in a physical classroom location by an accredited teacher, responsible for classroom management and student tutoring and mentoring. KiHS is the first digital high school in Canada to be established and operated by First Nations, and is now based in 15 remote First Nations communities across northwestern Ontario.

"Lakehead University has a long-standing relationship with KORI" emphasizes Agbo. "We are aware of the difficult circumstances that arise when separating children from their families and community members for schooling purposes, and solutions are in the works. Over the last three years, we have collaborated with the KO Northern Chief's Council and KORI to determine the most appropriate way to implement and evaluate these solutions. Researchers at KORI are sharing their expertise to help us achieve these enhancements in the most direct and effective ways possible."

"Our research partnerships are based on community needs, mutual respect, and capacity building," says Brian Walmark, Director of KORI. "We work with people and organizations with similar missions-to foster learning and educational success." Members of KORI have collaborated on past projects with Lakehead University's School of Nursing and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.

Media: Please contact Heather Scott to arrange interview times with Lakehead University faculty or Aboriginal community partners.

About Lakehead

Lakehead is a comprehensive university with a reputation for innovative programs and cutting-edge research. With a main campus located in Thunder Bay, Ontario and a campus in Orillia, Ontario, Lakehead has over 7,700 students and 2,250 faculty and staff, and is home to the west campus of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. In 2006, Research Infosource Inc. named Lakehead University Canada's Research University of the Year in the undergraduate category. For more information on Lakehead University, visit

Contact Information

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    please contact: Lakehead University
    Heather Scott, Communications Officer
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    Lakehead University
    Eleanor Abaya
    Director of Communications
    (807) 343-8372