KORI Resolution (2004)
The creation of the Keewaytinook Okimakanak Research Institute (KORI)
In 2004, the Chiefs of six First Nation communities in Canada’s north mandated the establishment of Keewaytinook Okimakanak Research Institute (KORI) to develop partnerships with academic institutions and with other First Nations organizations with the objective of conducting world class research on Aboriginal issues. The Keewaytinook Okimakanak Research Institute was further mandated to develop strategies to change the way research is conducted about First Nations by working with leaders in the university community.
For the past thirty years, Aboriginal people and communities have been objects of study by university academics. While First Nation communities have cooperated with much of this research, little benefit has trickled down to the community level. Some researchers have shared their work product. Many have not. In some cases, researchers have sold their findings back to the community or offered their services as consultants for land claims or other legal challenges against Canada, the provinces or other defendants. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council have taken action to check the worst abuses by assisting with the development of the Tri-Council Policy Statement Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (2003).
Keewaytinook Okimakanak recognized the need for research that served the interests and needs of community members. KO is one of seven tribal councils in Nishnawbe Aski Nation which represents 49 First Nations communities in Ontario’s far north. KO provides a variety of advisory services for its six member First Nations: Fort Seven, Poplar Hill, Deer Lake, North Spirit, Keewaywin and McDowell Lake. Almost ten years ago, KO embraced ICTs as a tool to develop community-based applications such as Telehealth and KiHS, an Internet high school that provides Grade 9 and 10 courses to students living in thirteen First Nation schools across northwestern Ontario. For these initiatives and others, KO has been recognized as a leader in the expansion of First Nations telecommunications and ICTs in Canada. Industry Canada, a department of the Canadian Government, selected KO to deliver its First Nations SchoolNet program in Ontario. One of the goals of the First Nation SchoolNet program was to extent connectivity and to create broadband applications for First Nations schools across Canada.
Another federal department, Health Canada funded KO to expand its successful Telehealth program from the original six communities to include all 26 First Nations communities in the Sioux Lookout District. As a result of First Nations SchoolNet and Telehealth, KO worked with a variety of Aboriginal and mainstream organizations, including a number of Canadian universities such as Guelph, Laurentian, Lakehead and Toronto. The KO leadership recognized the need to formalize these ad hoc relationships with formal partnerships in strategic areas if it was going to realize an academic shift from studying Aboriginal people to learning with Aboriginal people. The Chiefs wanted to create a research institute to protect the interests of the First Nations communities and to assist with the capacity development of community-based researchers. In addition, the leadership wanted to promote and disseminate action research about First Nations achievements in ICTs and its applications not only by KO but other First Nations across Canada and around the world. The Chiefs no longer want Aboriginal people to be objects of research. They want Aboriginal people to become partners in a learning process that not only provides a greater understanding of First Nations for the general public but also ensures that communities themselves benefit from the research itself.
The KO Research Institute has undertaken a variety of research initiatives since its inception by the Chiefs. It is working with KiHS, KO Internet High School, to evaluate the success of its delivery of Grade 9 and 10 curriculum in thirteen classrooms across Ontario’s far north. It has partnered with three universities, Lakehead, Laurentian and Guelph to develop a strategy to evaluate the expansion of KO’s Telehealth program to all 26 First Nations in the Sioux Lookout District. The Institute is in discussions with the Northern Ontario Medical School and Lakehead University’s Faculty of Education to partner on a number of research projects involving First Nations in Ontario’s far north.
The KO Research Institute plans to support its work by posting information on its web site at www.research.knet.ca and by other means to draw the attention of the general public to Aboriginal issues, especially the connectivity needs and subsequent applications created by First Nations. It will continue to work with communities to improve the research capacity at the grassroots level in order to provide the local leadership with the information they need to make decisions. The Institute is seeking resources to establish and maintain a database of statistical information about and for KO and its members communities.
The Chiefs of Keewaytinook Okimakanak have created a research institute to document, conduct and promote research about issues relevant to First Nation communities, with particular emphasis about the various impacts of ICTs. KORI has developed relationships with a number of universities in Ontario to conduct studies on Telehealth and tele-education. It is seeking partners and resources to do this and more. The KO Research Institute, however, has a much broader mandate. It is to change the way research is conducted by universities within its sphere of influence.