Background

Through our work, the First Nations Innovation project supports First Nation self-determination, treaties, and rights and responsibilities for lands and resources. We recognize the nation-to-nation relationship between each First Nation and the Canadian state and we acknowledge that First Nations leadership and communities are innovating in many ways to ensure their ongoing self-determination. We see our research and outreach work as supporting the transformative processes of decolonization that free us all from the colonial relations that are dehumanizing all of us and destroying our natural world.

We recognize the value of research to support and develop understanding, evidence-based policy and transformative change. More than a decade ago, the Canadian government’s extensive research identified many First Nation community development priorities that remain current today. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1996) found that the historical treaties with First Nations were replaced with policies intending to remove First Nations people from their homelands, suppress First Nations and their governments, undermine their cultures and stifle their identity. The Commission also found that First Nations people are seeking a range of remedies for these injustices; most of all they want control of their lives (RCAP, 1996).

Across Canada, remote and rural First Nations face both significant opportunities and challenges related to innovation. On one hand, First Nations have many opportunities to use technologies in innovative ways to strengthen self-determination and improve community services and overall community, social and economic development. These opportunities are particularly obvious for rural and remote communities who can access and use broadband connectivity, networks and applications effectively. On the other hand, these rural and remote communities are economically marginalized due to the ongoing colonial relations in Canada: the failure of Canada to honour First Nation treaties and rights is behind the social, economic and environmental crises that we see in First Nation communities today.

Remote and rural First Nations require innovation to ensure their ongoing self-determination. “Innovation” refers to making services, technologies and processes better by doing things differently and also to inventing new ways to make things work. Our research focus is our First Nation partners and the remote and rural communities on their networks. We are working with and studying how these organizations and communities are using broadband networks and information and communication technologies (ICT) to improve remote and rural First Nation community, social and economic development and services. With our partners, we are aiming to support communities to learn, document and share how to use broadband networks and ICT in innovative ways to better meet community needs.

As self-determining autonomous nations in Canada, remote and rural First Nations are building broadband systems to deliver community services with their members and residents. As they are working towards a variety of innovative, locally-driven broadband development initiatives, First Nations and our First Nations Innovation project are part of a complex web of relationships and networks that share information, resources and learning related to using broadband and ICT in innovative ways.

Remote and rural First Nations First Nation community leaders, through their national organization the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), have adopted the e-Community as an overarching approach for broadband development. This development is fueled by the desire by First Nations to own, control, and manage their local infrastructure and the services using their infrastructure. Our project is supporting these activities by developing understanding about and documenting these activities and providing opportunities to share and learn from these experiences.

Please visit the publications section of our website to access more than 40 publications documenting the results of our studies and work to date. We hope that sharing this information will help everyone appreciate and support the work that First Nations are doing to use technologies in innovative ways to support their communities.

Reference: Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1996). People to people, nation to nation: Highlights from the report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada. Available from:
http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1307458586498/1307458751962