Grants from the Government of Canada totaling almost half a million dollars will help advance reconciliation projects at Camosun College’s department for applied research and innovation.
The projects are centred on continued steps toward awareness and reconciliation, with vision and collaboration from multi-disciplinary Indigenous artist Carey Newman (traditional name, Hayalthkin’geme).
The Virtual Reality (VR) Witness Blanket Project, a true-to-life simulation of a physical installation assembling 800 objects from residential schools in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, was awarded $351,964. Over the next three years, Camosun Innovates collaborators will scan and represent components for a virtual experience combining history, storytelling and technology to recreate the emotional impact of the installation in virtual reality. The goal is for this VR installation to then be made available to First Nations throughout Canada and beyond.
The second project, Preparing for Totem 2.0, received $101,413. This is the design and fabrication of a device that will make totem carving safer and more ergonomic, while also providing greater flexibility for the next generation of carvers to use second growth trees in place of logs from old growth.
“We’re excited to work with Carey on both of these projects and to continue the collaboration we started several years ago,” says Dr. Richard Gale, director of Camosun Innovates. “This work is a direct application of innovation benefiting Indigenous communities in ways that impact decolonization, reconciliation, and the redefinition of our role in an ecologically sound and just society.”
“I’ve dedicated a significant portion of my career to the work of reconciliation and social responsibility, always looking for ways that my artwork can participate in positive change,” says Carey Newman. “When Richard asked me about working together to create a 3D VR Witness Blanket, I immediately thought about how this would make the work more accessible to more communities, so it was an easy yes.
“Camosun Innovates has an incredible wealth of technological skill and creative vision, so when I began to conceptualise Totem 2.0, I was interested in partnering with them on that project as well,” he continues. “The VR Witness Blanket will make it possible for those most affected by residential schools to bear witness to this monument to our colonial history. Totem 2.0 will develop a process to create totems and sculptures, that utilise second growth trees to both protect old growth trees and replicate their monumental scale. Having both projects funded will enable us to complete them and share them with other Indigenous artists and communities.”
Camosun Innovates will hire current Camosun students and recent alumni to work on these projects alongside technology specialists. This will provide students with the opportunity to work with Indigenous knowledge practices and apply their classroom skills in an applicable context.
The College and Community Social Innovation Fund, which supports these projects, fosters community innovation by connecting talent, facilities and capabilities of Canada’s colleges with the research needs of community organizations. The grants are managed by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), in collaboration with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).