Urban Aboriginal Economic Development in Sault Ste. Marie: Environmental Scan

In 2009, a 'learning circle' methodology was used to develop an Environmental Scan on Urban Aboriginal Economic Development (UAED) for Sault Ste. Marie. The Environmental Scan explores the history of UAED and its current context in this locale. Read more

In November 2008, a group of approximately sixty researchers, practitioners and policy makers gathered in Ottawa to explore “Urban Aboriginal Economic Development” in Canada. The three-day meeting, organized as a ‘learning circle’, was facilitated by John McBride and Ray Gerow, and was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). The purpose of this initial ‘learning circle’ was two-fold: first to begin to determine the nature and extent of economic development within urban Aboriginal populations; and second, to explore and support the ‘learning circle’ methodology as a research method for the three-year national project.

Gayle Broad, an Assistant Professor in the Community Economic and Social Development (CESD) program at Algoma University, was invited to attend this initial gathering. Prior to travelling to Ottawa, Gayle met with representatives of the Sault Ste. Marie Indian Friendship Centre’s employment counselling unit to obtain their input, and also informally discussed the concept with a number of other community members in the Sault Ste. Marie area.

After a brainstorming session with NORDIK researchers at Algoma University, a list of approximately 20 individuals and organizations were identified as potentially having an interest in the field of Urban Aboriginal Economic Development (UAED). The first circle was held in early March 2009. Christine Sy, a graduate student at Trent University and a local Anishinaabe-kwe, was hired as a research assistant to organize and support its development. John McBride attended the initial Learning Circle to provide guidance and training on the research methodology.

The Sault Ste. Marie and Area Learning Circle determined that in order to plan and develop further, they need to know the current environment of the urban Aboriginals of Sault Ste. Marie. The Circle determined that an Environmental Scan would be beneficial to explore the history of UAED and its current context in this locale. A second research assistance-ship was obtained from the national research program, and Derek Rice was hired to undertake such a scan in the fall of 2009. He was assisted in this work by Natalie Waboose, a researcher at NORDIK, and by Gayle Broad, NORDIK’s Research Director. The environmental scan was later completed by Ian Brodie with the supervision of Gayle Broad and Research Coordinator, Jude Ortiz.

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