My name is Alix Shield, and I am a PhD student in the Department of English at Simon Fraser University. I am currently working as a Research Assistant for Dr. Deanna Reder’s “The People and the Text” project, hosted through SFU’s Department of First Nations Studies.
In October 2015, I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural gathering of the Indigenous Literary Studies Association at Six Nations. The theme of this gathering was “The Arts of Community”, and the event brought together a diverse group of scholars and community members to the traditional lands of the Six Nations of the Grand River.
My presentation focused on the “I:mex̱ Mobile App” currently being developed by Bryan Myles and the Bill Reid Centre for Northwest Coast Studies at Simon Fraser University, in collaboration with members of local Coast Salish communities in British Columbia. With the establishment of the Office for Aboriginal People (OAP) in 2009, and a revised five-year action plan (2013-18), there has been a call to indigenize SFU. This involves creating awareness of Indigenous perspectives and interests on campus, and acknowledging that such worldviews are not subordinate to those of a settler society.
The I:mex̱ Mobile App attempts to answer this call by making available the visual, cultural, and symbolic meanings embedded in both the Indigenous art of SFU Burnaby, and the unceded territories of the Coast Salish people upon which our campus stands through a series of interactive, geolocated walking tours. With the increased reliance and emphasis on technology at the institutional level (and beyond), the app presents an effective way of garnering the attention of campus visitors – most of whom consider themselves participants in this so-called “digital age”, and also of reconnecting Indigenous youth with traditional narratives. With the importance of technology for today’s “user” in mind, we developed a mobile app named “I:mex̱” (pronounced “ee-mechhh”), meaning “to walk” in the Halkomelem language. The name, and the all of the content of the app, has been developed through an intensive collaborative process with members of these First nations communities.
The app is composed of three parts: the “Coast Salish Land Tour”, the “SFU Art Walk,” and “Aboriginal SFU”:
- The Coast Salish Land Tour provides an interactive walking tour around Lhuḵw’lhuḵw’áyten (Burnaby Mountain), at SFU’s Burnaby campus. For example, looking north from Burnaby mountain, one sees the waters of Burrard Inlet and Indian Arm. These are the home waters of the Tsleil-Waututh people, or “The People of the Salt Water”. You can follow the map using geolocation to see it for yourself, and you also have the opportunity to view several images within the app while reading a short descriptive narrative about the history of this locale.
- The SFU Art Walk section of the app provides a walking tour of SFU’s Burnaby campus and adjacent Burnaby Mountain Park. Works include Tsimshian totem poles by Ray Wesley, Squamish weavings, and a selection of works by Haida artist Bill Reid. In addition to using geolocation to map these sites, the Art Walk also presents information about the meaning and philosophies that informed each piece.
- The Aboriginal SFU section of the app is meant to provide users with a consolidated list of services and initiatives oriented towards Aboriginal students at the Burnaby campus. These include the Indigenous Student Centre, the First Nations Student Association, the Indigenous Initiatives Librarian, etc.
This type of technology seeks to address a noticeable gap in Aboriginal initiatives and acknowledgement at SFU, while simultaneously introducing users to a new form of storytelling – one that has the potential to effect social change through the sharing of knowledge using an experiential learning pedagogy. The app is still in development, but stay tuned for future updates! Follow the Bill Reid Centre on Twitter: @BRC_SFU