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Accepted Paper:

How does internet technology create opportunities for First Nations living on Manitoba reserves?  
Debra Beach Ducharme (Ongomiizwin Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing, University of Manitoba)

Paper short abstract:

Despite the challenges we hear about in the news about the dire circumstances in First Nations communities and life on reserves, internet technology helps families’ access information that may contribute to their wellbeing spiritually, physically, emotionally and cognitively. First Nations throughout history have adapted to almost every situation they have encountered since the arrival of Europeans to North America. The loss of traditional food sources, economy and way of life has negatively impacted First Nations’ traditional way of life. In addition to these changes, diseases, residential schools, the Indian Act, and policies of ethnocide almost wiped out the entire population. Fortunately, First Nations are resilient and continue to adapt to the ever-changing environment and challenges of the 21st century, including adapting to a newly technological society. Many First Nations have adjusted to these new technologies and continue to revive and recover to a new way of being. Internet technology has provided First Nations with tools of accessibility including access to social platforms such as Facebook where they routinely share information, ideas and events on a daily basis about themselves, their families, or issues and successes they want to share with the public at large.

Paper long abstract:

There are many ways internet technology improves the lives of First Nations members living on reserve. IT is a tool that can be used to share information about issues affecting the community such as the recent pandemic. Social, spiritual, and special events such as weddings, funerals or elections can all be shared online. If there is a pending lockdown or restrictions, posting information on social media has the ability to reach a large audience in a short time. Information technology is a way of relaying information quickly to large groups of people and it motivates individuals to improve their lives by posting videos of successes they have achieved personally and professionally. Social media provides a forum to teach the language (Anishinabemowin) and culture (mino pimatisiwin) on a daily basis. Private groups are created on social media to share pictures and stories about families, genealogy and history of the community and families living in the community. This information is shared publicly which in turn provides relatives (children who were removed from their communities through the sixties scoop or apprehension from child and family services) to find their families and loved ones. This group is a way to connect with long-lost relatives and keep up to date with family members and friends.

Recently, a young man named Carl was motivated to improve his physical health after he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. He did some research and made a personal commitment to share his story about living with diabetes. Carl did it by posting photos and videos of his present condition and devised a healing plan that included exercise and eating healthy. Each morning he would post the exercise he did each day to show the audience the hope of influencing others in his community. Each week he posted a new exercise and samples of healthy food he consumes while staying away from processed and other unhealthy foods to reverse the effect of diabetes.

Another member in the community posted a phrase of the day in his Anishinabemowin language. Each day he would discuss the weather, how he was feeling or describe a situation or event. He would say the phrase and give the English version as well. The language speaker was proud to share his language with a larger audience. These videos can be used for future reference for others to learn about their traditional language.

Life on reserve can be challenging due to the many social conditions such as lack of safe drinking water and substance abuse that was created historically through oppressive policies such as the Indian Act in Canada. The Indian Act was created to control and erode First Nations’ identity and way of life on their traditional territories. Despite these unjust conditions, First Nations’ resilience continues to thrive and survive on their lands. Information Technology and access to social media provide a public platform to inform the larger community intimate details about how First Nations continue to live in a modern world. Culture in Indigenous communities was never static. First Nations culture, by way of its fluidity, will continue to evolve with the ever-changing societies in which they live. The way of life on reserve may not meet the ideals and standards imposed by colonization, but First Nations continue to remain loyal to their traditional ceremonies, worldviews and their relationship to the land and Gitchi Manitou (creator).

Panel P31
The lived experiences of artificial intelligence in Canadian Indigenous communities.
  Session 1 Monday 6 June, 2022, -