Sudbury·Audio

Science North, Indigenous Tourism working together to inform, educate, inspire

The head of Indigenous Tourism Ontario says the new exhibit at Science North will help improve economic growth and inspire a new generation of Indigenous scientists. That group is working with the science centre in Sudbury to develop a smaller version of the exhibit to travel to municipalities and First Nations.

Indigenous Tourism Ontario worked with the science centre to help create its latest exhibit.

Science North says its new Indigenous Ingenuity exhibit is one of the first times that First People’s ancestral values and knowledge have been broached through the lens of science and innovation. (Science North (sciencenorth.ca))

The new exhibit at Science North in Sudbury, Ont., is a gateway to economic growth and will inspire the next generation of Indigenous scientists in the north.

That's according to the president and CEO of Indigenous Tourism Ontario (ITO) Kevin Eshkawkogan.

The exhibit, Indigenous Ingenuity: Timeless Inventions opened today to visitors at Science North. It marks the first day the science centre has opened its indoor areas since Dec. 23, 2020.

The exhibit will remain at the science centre until the winter when it's scheduled to move to Thunder Bay. Science North and ITO are working together on creating a smaller, travelling version, which will visit municipalities and First Nations across the north for up to four years.

Kevin Eshkawkogan, is the president and CEO of Indigenous Tourism Ontario, meant to improve the socio-economic conditions of Indigenous people through the tourism sector. (Angela Gemmill/CBC)

"This is some genuine action towards reconciliation activities, where it's done in a meaningful way, in a very inclusive way, where we're setting the narrative, we're telling the story and others are simply supporting," says Eskkawkogan.

ITO's mission is to improve the socio-economic conditions of Indigenous people through the tourism sector, such as supporting Indigenous projects to tell their own stories.

Travelling exhibit to bolster Indigenous economies

ITO is working with Indigenous entrepreneurs from the north for the travelling exhibit. It is supporting those people in creating content for the project, as well as products to go alongside the exhibit. 

"We've got lots to share and we just need help getting those messages out to consumers. And the end benefactor is going to be Indigenous people at the grassroots level, and the larger economy," says Eshkawkogan.

Science North CEO Guy Labine says the exhibit will also be important to his centre's recovery phase from the pandemic.

"It's been so long since we've been closed. The ability for us to ... welcome audiences again is critical," he says.

Ontario Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries, Lisa MacLeod was at Science North to announce funding, including $150,000 for the exhibit.

Labine says the Indigenous innovations exhibit, the largest Indigenous exhibit ever at the science centre, will serve "to inform, to educate and to inspire our visitors."

Celebrating Indigenous knowledge could inspire next generation

Eshkawkogan says the exhibit will inform all people about the rich history of Indigenous peoples' scientific achievements over the past thousands of years, which is especially important for the new generation.

"We're coming into a new era where you're going to see a lot of young Indigenous people inspired by the scientists, but also connecting with their traditional methods," he says.

Eshkawkogan says many concepts that carry descriptions of traditional knowledge are actually rooted in scientific rigour and understanding developed through centuries.

We need to work together on things so we all mutually benefit from the area that we love ... northern Ontario.- Kevin Eshkawkogan, president & CEO Indigenous Tourism Ontario

Indigenous peoples have domesticated more than half of the crops in cultivation worldwide and are the origin of inventions such as kayaks, parkas, canoes, rubber and aspirin.

Eshkawkogan says meaningful, collaborative partnerships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups can help to advance entire sectors.

"Without collaboration and partnerships like this, none of us are going to get any further ahead and we're going to hit ceilings. We need to do this type of work. We need to work together on things so we all mutually benefit from the area that we love; and in this case, northern Ontario."

Did you know that Indigenous peoples have domesticated more than half of the world's crops. They invented rubber and even led to the creation of Aspirin. Science North is honouring Indigenous contributions to science in a new exhibit. We spoke with an Indigenous tourism expert who told us how this could create more opportunities across the north. 7:01

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Warren Schlote is a reporter at CBC Sudbury. Connect with him via email at warren.schlote@cbc.ca, or on Twitter at @ReporterWarren.

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