Re­claim­ing lost art

Lau­ren­tian pro­fes­sor leading search for work cre­ated by First Na­tions chil­dren

The Sudbury Star - - FRONT PAGE - JIM MOODIE

A Lau­ren­tian prof in­ter­ested in repa­tri­at­ing art­work cre­ated by First Na­tions chil­dren is among more than 150 aca­demics across Canada to share in a new $38-mil­lion re­search fund.

Ce­leste Pedri-Spade, an Indige­nous woman who teaches in the School of North­ern and Com­mu­nity Stud­ies, was granted $248,682 for her work to col­lect paint­ings and draw­ings by res­i­den­tial school stu­dents in Anishin­abe and Al­go­nquin ter­ri­to­ries.

“Her project is just tremen­dous,” said Science and Sport Min­is­ter Kirsty Dun­can, on hand Mon­day at Lau­ren­tian to an­nounce the New Fron­tiers in Re­search Fund re­cip­i­ents.

“There are 200 draw­ings by chil­dren who went to day school or res­i­den­tial schools, and she’s look­ing to iden­tify the owners and re­turn them to the fam­i­lies or the de­scen­dants, and to do so by work­ing with the com­mu­nity to see the best way of do­ing that.”

Dun­can said three peo­ple who spoke dur­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion at the Indige­nous Shar­ing and Learn­ing Cen­tre Mon­day, in­clud­ing Anishin­abek Na­tion grand coun­cil chief Glen Hare, “were sur­prised to know that their draw­ings were part of this 200. It was in­cred­i­bly mov­ing.”

The min­is­ter said the New Fron­tiers fund is meant sup­port “high­risk, high-re­ward re­search,” and Pedri-Spade’s project fits right in with this man­date.

“It’s about the voice of chil­dren, our most vul­ner­a­ble,” she said. “It’s his­tor­i­cally im­por­tant and it’s the right thing to do. It’s about a shared path to rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.”

The first stream of the New Fron­tiers fund is “strictly for early-career re­searchers,” Dun­can noted. “Over the next few years this fund will dou­ble and on top of that will be adding $65 mil­lion a year.”

A former re­searcher her­self, the min­is­ter said when she took on the Science and Sport port­fo­lio her goal was “to re­turn science and re­search to their right­ful place — and that means putting our re­searchers and stu­dents at the cen­tre of ev­ery­thing we do and mak­ing sure they have the fund­ing nec­es­sary for their re­search.”

The Lib­eral gov­ern­ment has made the “largest in­vest­ment in re­search in Cana­dian his­tory,” said Dun­can. “It’s $10 bil­lion in three bud­gets, mak­ing sure they have the labs and tools they need. And we’ve just made a $762-mil­lion in­vest­ment to the Canada Foun­da­tion for In­no­va­tion.”

The New Fron­tiers fund was an­nounced be­fore Christ­mas but the first wave of re­cip­i­ents was only made known this week.

“There was great in­ter­est in it and we were look­ing for trans­for­ma­tive re­search projects,” she said. “One like Dr. Pedri-Spade’s re­ally is trans­for­ma­tive, and that’s what we were look­ing to sup­port.”

The 157 re­cip­i­ents an­nounced Mon­day were funded through what is called the exploration stream of the new re­search fund. More grants will be doled out in the fu­ture through trans­for­ma­tion and in­ter­na­tional streams.

“As so­ci­ety evolves, and the com­plex­ity of the chal­lenges we face in­creases, so must our means of do­ing re­search evolve,” said Ted He­witt, chair of the Canada Re­search Co­or­di­nat­ing Com­mit­tee, in a re­lease.

“The New Fron­tiers in Re­search Fund is de­signed to sup­port leading-edge re­search and exciting new method­olo­gies that have the po­ten­tial to trans­form the way we ap­proach sci­en­tific dis­cov­ery and prob­lem-solv­ing.”

Pedri-Spade hails from Lac Des Mille Lacs First Na­tion in north­west­ern On­tario and holds a PhD in vis­ual an­thro­pol­ogy. Her doc­toral re­search focused on 84 family pho­to­graphs taken by First Na­tions peo­ple from 1905 to 1969.

At Lau­ren­tian she teaches cour­ses on Indige­nous art and pho­tog­ra­phy, as well as Indige­nous world views, vis­ual and ma­te­rial cul­ture, and colo­nial­ism/ de­col­o­niza­tion.

The aca­demic is also an artist, ex­hibit­ing work in both Canada and the U.S.

Her pri­mary in­ter­est, ac­cord­ing to her web­site, is “the role of Indige­nous art in de­col­o­niza­tion, in­clud­ing pro­cesses of re­mem­brance, re­sis­tance, and sur­vivance.”

JOHN LAPPA

Ce­leste Pedri-Spade, of Lau­ren­tian Univer­sity, was one of 157 early career re­searchers to re­ceive sup­port from the New Fron­tiers in Re­search Fund.

JOHN LAPPA

Kirsty Dun­can, Min­is­ter of Science and Sport, takes part in a panel dis­cus­sion at Lau­ren­tian Univer­sity.

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