Immersive program combines coding, ceremony and Indigenous knowledge
A program that fuses technology and traditional teachings has come to Edmonton to empower young Indigenous adults with digital skills and deeper connections to their communities.
the Native Friends Association started to deliver its INDIGital Program to PÎYÊSÎW WÂSKÂHIKAN (Thunderbird House) at the Stanley A. Milner Library on May 9. The four-week program introduces a full class of students to the languages and logic of coding, alongside ceremonies, local history and traditional knowledge. The goal of the program, delivered in person for the first time since the pandemic, is to help participants “heal through technology.”
“We start with cultural teachings and grounding our participants in where they live, what the teachings are in the area, but also that we’ve always been people who have technology,” said Danielle Paradis, a writer. and Métis educator who is the program manager for INDIGital.
“Many of us are seen as people of the past. When you think of indigenous people, we are often portrayed as people who were around a long time ago. But we teach our students that we are here, here are technologies that we’ve used.”
The Indigenous Friends Association is a Toronto-based nonprofit that hosts events across the country and online. The donation of free rental space from the Edmonton Public Library and the use of its robots helped bring the INDIGital program here.
Indigenous coders are in high demand, Paradis said, and INDIGital plans to expand its program to include mentorships and certification beyond what’s offered in this introductory course. Currently, students graduate by producing a final project such as a web page, language app, digital story, or online store.
Students leave INDIGital better prepared for the tech job market, and they also leave with a deeper sense of community, explained educator McKenzie Toulouse.
“We’re giving them all these tools that are going to lead them to be more connected to their identity, to embrace their culture, to build that sense of community and support systems within their own social network,” Toulouse told Taproot. .