The kihci-okâwîmâw askiy Knowledge Centre is the result of the revitalization of the former Indigenous Land Management Institute.
The kihci-okâwîmâw askiy Knowledge Centre is the result of the revitalization of the former Indigenous Land Management Institute. (Photo: Submitted)

New centre at USask honours Indigenous connection to the land

Guided by Indigenous peoples, the new kihci-okâwîmâw askiy (Great Mother Earth in Plains Cree) Knowledge Centre at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) serves as a resource for Indigenous communities and organizations seeking land-related information, training, and research partnerships.

The kihci-okâwîmâw askiy Knowledge Centre is founded on the principle that the land is our first teacher and of central importance to Indigenous peoples.

“We aspire to build a centre that works with and for Indigenous communities,” said Candice Pete-Cardoso, director of the kihci-okâwîmâw askiy Knowledge Centre. “We aim to develop constructive and collaborative partnerships with Indigenous peoples, communities, and organizations.” 

The kihci-okâwîmâw askiy Knowledge Centre is the result of the revitalization of the former Indigenous Land Management Institute. The Indigenous Land Management Institute (ILMI) was established in 2008 to address the applied research needs of Indigenous communities in land and resource management.

Initiated by the College of Agriculture and Bioresources at USask, the revitalization project began early 2022 with a priority of establishing a steering committee to guide the development of the new centre. 

The steering committee is comprised of Indigenous peoples representing Indigenous-led national and provincial land organizations, an Indigenous grassroots organization, an Indigenous USask graduate student, Indigenous rights holders, kêhtê-ayak (elders in Cree) and USask Indigenous Memorandum of Understanding partner organizations.

The members represent 13 First Nations from Treaty 4, Treaty 6, Treaty 10, Métis Local 10, and the regions of Syilx Okanagan and bigger Liǧʷiłdax̌ʷ Nation in British Columbia.

“The steering committee members are stewards of the land, they value the importance of ecological balance and the importance of the health of Mother Earth,” said Pete-Cardoso, who serves as co-chair of the steering committee.   

Incorporation of Indigenous language has been an important part of the centre’s development. Six different Indigenous language groups are represented by the steering committee. 

“In our languages are the teachings, stories, and ceremonies that describe our moral obligations to the land,” said Pete- Cardoso. “Land management requires interdisciplinary problem solving, collaborative knowledge, and teamwork across disciplines. It requires braiding both Indigenous knowledge of the askiy (land) and Western knowledge.”

One initiative of the centre is to provide professional development opportunities that are relevant to Indigenous communities. A new Askiy Workshop Series starting this fall will support Indigenous land managers, technical staff, and those working with Indigenous communities to tackle multidisciplinary land-related issues. The free workshop series will feature presenters from Indigenous organizations and USask faculty.

“The kihci-okâwîmâw askiy Knowledge Centre will be networking with open lines of communication and knowledge sharing to help land managers, along with First Nation Communities throughout Saskatchewan,” said steering committee member Loretta Delorme, land manager for Cowessess First Nation.

Another initiative is the development of an Askiy Research Lecture Series to share land-related research at the USask and highlight the relationships that have developed through research partnerships. 

“Our hope is that when an Indigenous community or organization reaches out to us with a specific land-related question, that we can connect them to the USask researchers with the relevant expertise,” said Dr. Melissa Arcand (PhD), academic lead for the centre and steering committee co-chair. 

An Askiy Mentorship Team will also be established to foster new relationships between faculty, students and Indigenous communities. 

“An important component of reconciliation is the call for new relationships. These relationships, the steering committee and their work, are examples of reconciliation in action. There is also a deeper call here as we know that we are building this for those that are yet to come,” said Pete-Cardoso.

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