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Ryerson University School of Urban & Regional Planning

Recording Our Truth Documenting change and visioning the future in Nishnawbe Aski Nation

Sharing values of community ownership, self-determination, and honouring history, Recording Our Truth, a 2018 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Development Grant led by Dr. Shelagh McCartney and project partners Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN), brings together academic co-applicants with Indigenous and community partners to work towards mutually defined goals through this research project. Nishnawbe Aski Nation—one of our aforementioned partners—spans 550,000 square kilometres of northern Ontario and represents 49 First Nations across a territory covered predominantly by boreal forest and waterways. Over the last century, this territory has undergone many changes resulting from colonial interventions in pursuit of economic development and resource extraction. As with similar northern lands throughout Canada, together forming the Mid-Canada Corridor, this territory has long been characterized as uninhabited and unspoiled; a potential economic driver in need of ‘opening,’ modernization, and development. However, the Mid-Canada Corridor has and continues to be home to a majority of Indigenous people living in Canada— 45,000 within the NAN territory alone. Recording Our Truth will document the ongoing cycle of colonial interventions in First Nations housing and community development and its outcomes.

The research proposes an alternative process of land use planning based on the values, goals, and aspirations of community members in order to achieve a higher level of community well-being through three main objectives:

1. Document spatial and morphological shifts within the NAN territory across the scales of home, community, and region from the period of enforced settlement to today. 

2. Analyze spatial and morphological shifts to understand the historical and ongoing relationships between built forms, home environment, policies, and programs. 

3. Partner with one First Nation to vision how across scales development could take place that reflects local values, goals, and aspirations, while documenting the physical and well-being changes this would create. Together with community leaders and members an alternative model will be developed for future development guided by self-determination and self-governance.

Recording Our Truth seeks to shift power to First Nations peoples to articulate their experience since enforced settlement and build a common narrative. Researchers, professionals, and policy-makers across the place-making disciplines must actively engage in breaking the cycle of colonial land use regimes by interacting with new possible forms, while also understanding the role their disciplines have played in dispossession. ReMapping presents an alternative process—which may be more widely applied in the future—directly linking community wellness objectives with land use, decolonizing the development of home.

Project Partners

Supported by

This research is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.