My journey through the Islands of the North as a researcher…

Image 1: Jide Oni (second from the right), researcher with Mino Bimaadiziwin Partnership posing with the Boreal Homebuilder students

I have had many transformative moments in my role as a researcher with the Mino Bimaadiziwin Partnership where I am learning to build capacity and housing as a mentor in the Boreal Homebuilder (BHB) post-secondary program in both Wasagamack and Garden Hill First Nations communities in Island Lakes, Manitoba. I flew in to these remote communities to mentor students in numeracy, computer use, problem solving;
instilling real life job place trainings and motivation to succeed.

From my first visit, I immediately wanted to be part of these communities due to the warmth and care shown towards me in both communities. This attitude made me feel adopted! To better integrate into the community systems (traditions, values and culture), I attended different feasts, gatherings and started learning Oji-Cree. I know more than 50 words now. I regularly participate in different community sports like volleyball and floor hockey. This active participation engendered communal bonding which improved my relationship with the community leadership and members. Later, I was named “Mukawa” meaning Bear in Oji-Cree.

Image 2: I love my new “Mukawa” meaning Bear in Oji-Cree.

Currently, I am studying the impact of the Boreal Homebuilder (BHB) education program to see if it is a model that can be adopted by other First Nations and other indigenous communities to reinforce youth capacity to resolve on-reserve housing issues. The BHB project is an 18 month post-secondary education program for youths in Wasagamack First Nation and Garden Hill First Nation communities in Island Lake,
Manitoba. This program provides employment with payment through the Mino Bimaadiziwin partnership and provides opportunities to learn not only technical skills but also better social outcomes according to student’s statements during evaluation. Some comments from Wasagamack students about BHB program include:

-“This program has taught me to face my fears.”
-“It has taught me to build my mind to possibilities & given me a more optimistic outlook.”
-“Changed my mindset for the better.”
-“Improved my social life and I opened up myself to new things.”
-“Working with my project partners helped me to be successful.”
-“This program has helped to build my relationship with others.”

By Babajide Oni (Graduate Student, Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba, Canada)

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