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Welcome to the archives of the Common Ground Research Forum, a Community-University Research Alliance project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada from 2009-2015.

The Common Ground Research Forum (CGRF) was a $1 million Community-University Research Alliance project funded through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Its purpose was to understand and build capacity for CROSS-CULTURAL COLLABORATION AND SOCIAL LEARNING for regional sustainability around Kenora, Ontario.

The CGRF ran for six years, from July 2009 through August 2015.  It was a research partnership between the University of Manitoba Natural Resources Institute, the Environmental Studies & Sciences department at the University of Winnipeg, Grand Council Treaty #3, the City of Kenora, Obashkaandagaang First Nation, Ochiichagwe’babigo’ining Ojibway Nation, and Wauzhushk Onigum Nation.

In addition to these primary partners, the CGRF engaged eight graduate students and two post-doctoral fellows.  The project also saw the research partners collaborate with dozens of community groups, organizations, agencies and individuals to fund and complete community-led action research projects and events on topics like:

  • Governance models and policies for sustainable resource management
  • Understanding place-based relationships
  • Economic and education partnerships between First Nations, Métis and non-Aboriginal communities
  • Fostering regional sustainable economic development including:
    • Tourism strategies
    • Educational curricula and program opportunities based on cross-cultural learning and sharing of knowledge
    • Industrial partnerships

The $1 million award was split about equally between academic research (graduate students, primarily) and community-led projects.  Community partners were eligible for Community Partner Project grants of $5000 to $10,000, or Community Small Grants event grants of $500.  Partners were able to apply for multiple rounds of project funding upon the successful completion of their first project.

This site is maintained by the former CGRF community research coordinator, Teika Newton.

Background & Governance

Background: Why the CGRF was formed

The CGRF was conceived back in 2008, in part to provide research support to a newly emerging corporate entity, the Rat Portage Common Ground Conservation Organization (RPCGCO).

The lands outlined in brown became the property of the Rat Portage Conservation Organization in 2008.

The RPCGCO is a corporation that since 2008 has held the 450 acres of land that formerly was owned by Abitibi, the company that operated the former Kenora paper mill. The land includes about 350 acres on Tunnel Island, Old Fort Island, and some other adjacent small islands in the Winnipeg River.  The corporation is unique in that it is made up equally of representatives from Anishinaabe and settler communities, including Grand Council Treaty #3, the City of Kenora, and the three First Nations that together constitute the Rat Portage #38 Band: Obashkaandagaang First Nation, Ochiichagwe’babigo’ining Ojibwe Nation and Wauzhushk Onigum Nation, whose traditional areas overlap around this spot. These same entities also had representatives on the Executive Committee of the CGRF to ensure an easy exchange of information and guidance from the corporate partners to the research project.

The RPCGCO’s governance structure, with its equal partnership among settler and Indigenous signatories, echoes the spirit and intent behind our treaty: that as people who share a place, we have an obligation to share in the governance and management of all resources, for the mutual benefit of all our people. Though we have different cultural traditions and different ways of doing things, we respect and honor our mutual systems. We are in this together, as equals.

Though vast parts of Canada are covered by Treaties, the “Common Ground” partnership represented one of the first examples of actually enacting the spirit and intent of a treaty in modern times. As such, it raised interesting questions about how to actually do this in practice, such as:  How can Treaty peoples work together to achieve common goals, while still respecting each other’s culturally distinct processes?

The Common Ground Research Forum was formed with the intention of providing the capacity to try to answer some of these theoretical and practical questions and achieve these goals:

  • What triggers and shapes cross-cultural collaboration and social learning?
  • How does collaborative land use planning contribute to social learning, and how does that learning support sustainable local and regional economies?
  • Increase awareness of sustainable social and economic benefits of cross-cultural collaboration and the Common Ground initiative.
  • Enhance capacity for cross-cultural collaboration, social learning and planning for sustainability.

Governance

The research partners devised a governance structure with a consensus-based Executive Committee responsible for administrative duties, approving and overseeing research projects, and granting community funding awards.

The Executive Committee included representatives from each of the RPCGCO’s constituent communities, from other organizations in the community who were collaborators in community research projects, and from students and research associates. This governance structure allowed input from all partners, and community members were able to both propose projects of interest – either for student research or to be undertaken themselves – and to vet student and other academic research proposals.  Students were required to partner with community members and groups to ensure reciprocity, respect and utility in research design, study methods, and communication of results.

The Executive Committee held quarterly business meetings where they would review current projects, approve new projects, and set goals and directions for the next quarter’s activities.  There were two working subcommittees that met as required.  The approvals and process subcommittee, which received new project proposals from community members, provided a first review, and requested changes if necessary, before passing the proposal on to the Executive level for approval or rejection, as appropriate. The communications subcommittee was responsible for overseeing communications and enacting the CGRF communications plan.  The communications subcommittee was responsible for producing quarterly newsletters, the website, press releases, public meetings, and events for students and researchers to share the results of their work.

Community Partners

The CGRF had more than 40 partner organizations participate in its research and governance over its six-year span.  A list of the most active partners is here.

 

Community Research Projects

Over $400,000 of the $1 million CGRF research budget was allocated to support community-initiated, community-led research in Kenora and Treaty 3 territory. To this end, funds have been released through two funding streams:

Community Partner Projects received awards of $5,000 to $10,000 grants. These projects were undertaken by community organizations pursuing action research in keeping with the themes of the Common Ground Research Forum: cross-cultural collaboration for local and regional economic, social, and environmental sustainability and social learning. Often these projects saw multiple community organizations or multiple stakeholders collaborating to achieve their research goals.

Community Small Grants were smaller grants ($500) awarded to community groups or individuals to support grassroots community events, programs, and initiatives that also supported the themes and goals of the CGRF. This program started in December 2011 and funded approximately 20 different events or activities.

Community Partner Projects

Grand Council Treaty 3 Common Ground Elders’ Gathering

Grassy Narrows Trappers’ Council Grassy Narrows Trapping Workshop & Fall Feast

Kenora Association for Community Living Community Accessible Garden

Kenora Urban Trails Committee Kenora Urban Trails Research Project

Lake of the Woods Arts Community Finding Common Ground Through Creativity

Lake of the Woods Development Commission (Tourism Kenora) Lake of the Woods Discovery Centre Interpretive Forest

Lake of the Woods Development Commission Lake of the Woods Project; Keondaatiziying – How We Will Sustain Ourselves Conference 2013; Tunnel Island Common Ground Board Development & Governance Project

Lake of the Woods Museum Miijim – Traditional Foods of the Lake of the Woods Anishinaabeg; Lake of the Woods Museum Mobile Tour; Reformatting of Bakaan nake’ii ngii-izhi-gakinoo’amaagoomin (We Were Taught Differently) The Indian Residential School Experience

Mary Alice Smith Lake of the Woods Powwow Project

Michelle St. John & Frog Girl Films Colonization Road

Ochiichagwe’babigo’ining Ojibway Nation Historical Analysis of Lake Sturgeon on the Winnipeg River: A focus on the importance of Lake Sturgeon to area communities and an estimation of historical population levels on the Ontario portion of the Winnipeg River

Trylight Theatre Co. The Living History Project 2012: Lake / River / Water; The Living History Project 2013

Community Small Grants Events

The Community Small Grants program launched in December 2011 as a means of extending the CGRF’s outreach to community groups, organizations, and individuals who work at the grassroots level to achieve goals that are complimentary to the goals and themes of the CGRF.

A pot of $10,000, disbursed in $500 grants, was allocated for this fund.

2012 Events

Students traveled to Clytie Bay to listen to stories, participate in ice fishing and watch a netting demonstration.  Students and teachers discussed sustainable natural resource management with Ministry of Natural Resources Conservation Officers facilitating alongside First Nations teachers.  About 60 people attended this event. Photos are available on the CGRF website.

Students to Grade 8 hosted a community winter powwow.   A video of the event is posted on the CGRF website.

  • February 7 – March 20, 2012 – Valleyview Public School: Building Cultural Awareness through Anishinaabe Hand Drumming.

Shawanoong Noodin (Chrissy Swain) of Asubpeeschowaseegong (Grassy Narrows) First Nation is teaching girls in Grades 5 through 7 hand drumming, helping the girls to find their voices and become empowered contributors to their communities.  A short video featuring some of the girls performing Shawanoong’s original song, “No Price of Freedom” during their final class on March 20, 2012 is posted on the CGRF website.

This annual event is an evening of storytelling in the Anishinaabe way with soup, bannock and tea.  It is a great opportunity to interact with one another through history, legends and storytelling.  The event promotes language and culture, involving numerous community partners including the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board and the Kenora Catholic District School Board, Anishinaabe-Abinoojii Family Services, KAHAC, and others.

This year’s event took place at St. Thomas Aquinas High School, with two sessions: an afternoon gathering for students, teachers, and staff, and an evening session for the general public.  Claudine Longboat-White helped students prepare soup and bannock for the evening session. Speakers were Justin Boshey (Lac La Croix First Nation) and Ella Dawn Green (Iskatewizaagegan #39 Independent First Nation).  Mr. Boshey spoke about the Anishinaabe Cycle of Life, and Mrs. Green taught about the use of a tikanagaan and care of infants. Videos of this event are on the CGRF website.

  • February & March, 2012 – Jon Thompson and John Wapioke (aka D. Thought): Rez Rap Revival.

This event drew rap and hip hop artists (and the general public) from the Kenora area, Winnipeg, Shoal Lake, and Toronto to area First Nations for a variety of purposes, the most basic of which is to perform and enjoy music together.  Part of the focus of this event was for artists to network and learn about production methods from each other, to encourage burgeoning artistic enterprise that is poised to contribute meaningfully to the local and regional economy.  It was also a means of encouraging cross-cultural relationships among the various elements of the hip hop community (emcees, Bboys, deejays, artists, videographers, organizers).  Finally, it was an opportunity for participants to discuss ideas and share insights about the complex social and political topics that many of these artists examine through their work.

  • April 21, 2012 Women’s Place Kenora, Kenora Sexual Assault Centre and Debra Wingrove: Multicultural Dream Interpretation: Coming Together to Grow Community.

In this four-hour workshop facilitator Debra Wingrove assisted participants to learn about why dreams are important aspects of understanding higher wisdom, helping us to understand our daily lives and move through problems.  Debra spoke to Euro-Canadian as well as traditional indigenous cultural practices related to dream interpretation.  The objective of this workshop was to help participants identify, interpret and put dreams into personal, communal and global action to build healthy relationships among peoples in our community.  This workshop was open to the general public via the host women’s organizations.

  • May 9, 2012 –  St. Thomas Aquinas Aboriginal Language class: Kinawin Mazina’ignana.  

This year the Grade 9 & 10 Ojibwe classes at St. Thomas Aquinas High School assembled photo books, calendars, and information books about their communities, including a “Traditional Foods” recipe book and a class events book.  The event on May 9 was a book launch during Education Week.  The project involved about 30 students and was presented to the whole school plus invited parents and guests.  CGRF provided funding for the launch event.

  • May 27, 2012 – Kenora Resource Team: Respect Our Diversity.

The Kenora Resource Team hosted this annual, free community event.  The group works to address racism, and uses art and music to create places that bring Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people together in a safe place to discuss overt and subtle racism.

  • June 27 and July 21-22, 2012 – Kenora Metis Council & Wharf Marina: We are Metis!  Living in Our Treaty #3 Territory.  

This project engaged the Metis Youth Council (comprised of both indigenous and non-indigenous youth) in creating displays featuring way of life traditions involving traditional foods, responsible trapping and fisheries sustainability in Metis communities.  Display materials included hands-on materials geared toward both youth and adults, including coloring pages, finger weaving, pamphlets, booklets, and poster display information.  Materials were displayed at the Farmers’ Market in June (around National Aboriginal Solidarity Day events) and at the Bronze Back Classic fishing tournament in July.

  • November 23-27, 2012 – Grand Council Treaty #3 Health Department: Treaty 3 Youth Body Empowerment Week & Sweetgrass Film Festival.

The 2nd Annual Sweetgrass Film Festival ran over the weekend of November 23-25, 2012.  This year’s festival was part of the Treaty #3 Youth Body Empowerment Week, coinciding with National Addictions Awareness Week. The partners in the event were Grand Council Treaty #3, the Treaty #3 Health Council, Treaty #3 Youth Council, the Native Youth Sexual Health Network, Good Life for Young Peoples, Women’s Place Kenora, and the Common Ground Research Forum, through a Community Small Grant.  The program booklet is available for download on the CGRF website.

2013 Events

  • February 5 & 7, 2013 – Northwest Business Centre: Northwest Business Centre Aboriginal Business Days.  

An annual event, in 2013 Northwest Business Centre Aboriginal Business Day events were held in Naotkamegwaning (February 5) and Lac Seul – Frenchmen’s Head (February 7).  These workshops were aimed at new and existing entrepreneurs, and included interactive exercises, roundtable discussions, and opportunities to meet with representatives of industry and education organizations that support entrepreneurship.  Wab Kinew was the keynote speaker for both events.

  • Spring & Summer 2013 – Dennise Pemmican: Ojibwe Language Table.  

The Ojibwe Language Table is a free community forum for members of the general public to gather twice per month to learn and practice speaking the Ojibwe language.  Meetings take place in Kenora at the Seven Generations Education Institute in Market Square.  Funding from the CGRF is being used to cover expenses for material and supplies for the Language Table, as well as to finance the production of an Ojibwe language instruction booklet that teaches Language Table participants about building a traditional birch bark canoe.

  • August 2013 – Good Life for Young Peoples: Good Life For Young Peoples / Oshki-Aa-yaa’aag Mino Bimaadiziiwin “Youth for Youth” Empowerment Camps.

Oshki Aa-yaa’aag Mino Bimaadiziiwin (Good Life for Young Peoples) is a non-profit, charitable organization whose aim is to bring to life the dreams and aspirations of Anishinaabe youth. The organization endeavours to achieve this through confidence-building and culturally-affirming activities. Opportunities to mentor youth are at the heart of the organization – we look to them to provide direction for our future.  In partnership with Seven Generations Education Institute, Good Life is creating the Centre for Good Life and Leadership, a land-based, youth leadership program for Treaty 3 area youth. The CGRF is pleased to contribute three separate grants to each of the Good Life for Young Peoples youth empowerment camps that ran over the summer 2013.  Camps took place at Couchiching First Nation (August 12-16), Grassy Narrows First Nation (August 20-23), and in the Dryden area (a canoe trip, August 30-September 1).  Each camp involved training on healthy lifestyles, leadership and role modeling, substance abuse prevention, cultural identity and youth empowerment.

2014 Events

  • May 2014 – Rat Portage Common Ground Conservation Organization: Common Ground Working Group Communication Piece.  

The Tunnel Island partners prepared a brief communications piece to be distributed to citizens in the partner communities of Kenora, Obashkaandaagaang, Ochiichagwe’babigo’ining, and Wauzhushk Onigum.  CGRF funding has helped to cover production and printing costs.

  • May 2014 – NeChee Friendship Centre: NeChee Friendship Centre National Aboriginal Day 2014 Powwow.
 

This small grant provided funds to cover costs associated with staging the annual Aboriginal Day powwow at NeChee Friendship Centre. 

  • May 2014 – Lake of the Woods Museum: Program Support for “Bakaan nake’ii ngii-izhi gakinoo’amaagoomin (We Were Taught Differently): The Indian Residential School Experience.”

This small grant supported costs associated with bringing in speakers Garnet Angeconeb, and Justice Murray Sinclair as part of the evening programming series that complimented this month-long exhibit.

Student Research

As a CURA project, the CGRF supported both community-led and academic action research.

One stream of funding, just over $400,000, was invested community-led research projects in Kenora and Treaty 3 territory.  17 Community Partner Projects were completed, and nearly 20 Community Small Grants were awarded to support community events and small projects.

A second funding stream applied to graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and undergraduate research assistants. Eight Masters of Natural Resources Management students and one Doctor of Natural Resources and Environmental Management were supported through the CGRF project. Several of these students remain actively employed in the Kenora and Treaty 3 area, and many have produced research products that continue to extend the impacts of their work in the region.

Student Research Projects

Melanie Zurba, PhD  Building Common Ground: Transformative Learning Towards Collective Governance

Dr. Jim Robson, Post-doctoral fellow Cross-cultural Collaboration and Common Ground: Lessons From National and International Experience

Sheldon Ratuski, MNRM – Cultural Landscapes of the Common Ground: Mapping First Nations’ Relationships to the Landscape

Mya Wheeler, MNRM Common Land, Common Ground: Imagining Sense of Place Connections Among Local People

Natasha Szach, MNRM Keepers of the Water: Exploring Anishinaabe and Metis Women’s Knowledge of Water and Participation in Water Governance

Inna Miretsky, MNRM Game Changer: Encouraging Cross-Cultural Collaboration Through a Fun and Interactive Experience in the Interpretive Forest, Kenora

Robert Moquin, MNRM Growing Together: Community Gardens, Cross-Cultural Collaboration, and Social-Ecological Citizenship in Kenora, Ontario

Megan Bob, MNRM Candidate Understanding What Triggers, Enables and Hinders Cross-Cultural Collaboration in Fisheries Management

Brigitte Savard, MNRM Finding Common Ground: Cross-Cultural Collaboration and Urban Forest Management in Kenora, Ontario