Supporting Those Who Dream: How SIIT Integrated ARHT Holograms To Empower Indigenous Storytelling, Cultural Expression, and Entrepreneurship

ARHT had the privilege of collaborating with Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies (SIIT)’s pawâcikêwikamik: The Innovation Collective to support its mission of fostering innovation and entrepreneurship within Indigenous learners and communities across Saskatchewan. This case study explores how SIIT implemented innovative technology, including holograms, to empower Indigenous entrepreneurs and advance innovation.

About SIIT

Established in 1976 by the Chiefs of Saskatchewan, SIIT is one of four credit-granting post-secondary institutions in the province. SIIT’s status as a post-secondary institution is affirmed under the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) and provincial government legislation, specifically through the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies Act. SIIT’s core mission is deeply rooted in serving the 74 First Nations of Saskatchewan as the sole Indigenous credit-granting institution in the province.

SIIT provides a comprehensive array of programs and services tailored to meet the needs of its student population, 90%+ of whom are Indigenous. These offerings encompass Adult Basic Education, Business & Technology, Health & Community Studies, and Trades & Industrial programs. SIIT extends its support and services to the 74 First Nations of Saskatchewan through various locations, including:

  • 3 Main Campuses
  • 10 Career Centres
  • 2 Mobile Units
  • 35+ In-Community Deliveries
  • 5+ Trade Sites

As the only Indigenous credit granting institution in the province, SIIT takes pride in its approach to curriculum development. Rather than simply adding Indigenous components to pre-existing courses, SIIT emphasizes developing curriculum from an Indigenous lens, which helps students understand the subject matter from a unique perspective. This approach ensures that students are empowered by their cultural heritage while exploring diverse fields of study.

Tia Graham, Director of Innovation at SIIT, explains, “We develop our curriculum from the Indigenous lens right from the beginning instead of adding Indigenous components to pre-existing courses. This approach ensures that all programs, from Adult Basic Education to Trades and Indigenous Practical Nursing, have an Indigenous focus.” This approach ensures that students are empowered by their cultural heritage while exploring diverse fields of study.

Supporting Indigenous Innovators

In 2021, SIIT launched pawâcikêwikamik: The Innovation Collective to support grassroots innovation and entrepreneurship for Indigenous peoples across Saskatchewan. To ensure the success of their initiatives, SIIT consulted with Indigenous entrepreneurs, students, leaders, and communities across the province. They gathered input on the necessary resources and partnerships needed to enable individuals to thrive in innovation and entrepreneurship. Based on the feedback received, SIIT developed a range of programs and services designed to address the needs identified by the community directly, including Training and Mentorship (Miyoskamin Innovation & Entrepreneurship Applied Certificate program, Greg Yuel Fellowship, MakerLodge, Innovator in Residence program), Financial Resources (Microgrants and Wraparound Supports), and Community Initiatives (Mobile MakerLodge, Indigenous Dreamers and Doers STEAM Camps).

To cultivate a passion for innovation and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) among Indigenous youth, SIIT’s pawâcikêwikamik: The Innovation Collective has implemented several programs, such as Indigenous Dreamers and Doers STEAM camps, where young individuals engage in free hands-on activities combining technology and culture. The aim is to show that new technologies can enhance traditional ways of being. These programs showcased the potential for new pathways and highlighted how technology could enhance conventional ways of being. “If we want kids to pursue innovation or careers in STEAM, we have to create those exposure points early,” emphasized Tia.

SIIT understands that financial barriers can hinder entrepreneurs’ growth. To address this, they offer wraparound support. “We assist with training opportunities, conference fees, networking events, and more. We want to ensure First Nations entrepreneurs have access to the opportunities that will enable their business growth by removing the financial barrier to participation,” adds Tia.

Recognizing the financial barriers First Nations entrepreneurs face, SIIT also implemented a Microgrant program. This program offers up to $5,000 in seed funding for business growth and expansion. Microgrants provide a crucial steppingstone for entrepreneurs who may face challenges accessing traditional bank loans.

Student positioning camera for ARHT Capture Studio

Mobile MakerLodge Initiative

One of the key initiatives, Mobile MakerLodge, provides technology kits worth thousands of dollars to First Nations communities. The kits are designed to teach community members how to use technology and explore the potential for starting businesses. The Mobile MakerLodge teaches individuals how to utilize tech tools and seeds creatively, empowering them to explore entrepreneurship opportunities. The kits are then gifted to the community, encouraging further innovation.

MakerLodge Initiative

The MakerLodge started with simple sewing machines. “We wanted to start with technologies that felt familiar and non-threatening to our students. For First Nations learners, we have grown up seeing our Aunties and our Kokom’s sew. Starting with sewing machines allowed our students to feel seen and represented. “ explains Tia. Over time, the MakerLodge has evolved to more advanced technologies like 3D printers, VR, laser cutting, film equipment (including an LED volume wall), and holograms, providing wider opportunities for individual expression and culturally driven storytelling.

The Impact on Students’ Entrepreneurial Growth

SIIT leveraged ARHT’s holographic technology to empower students to explore their creativity. By progressively introducing innovative tools like 3D printers, laser cutters, and VR equipment, they encouraged and supported the students to learn more about emerging technologies. Funded by the Western Diversification Program, SIIT implemented two ARHT solutions — CAPSULE and Capture Studio —bringing holography closer to students and enabling them to present their business ideas in an interactive and engaging manner. With its ability to display interactive recordings and immersive content, the CAPSULE has also become a powerful tool for Indigenous storytelling. From creating prototypes and 3D models to developing an app, the students and entrepreneurs supported through pawâcikêwikamik at SIIT have become the driving force behind the innovation fostered by ARHT’s holographic technology. “The holographic technology has opened up new possibilities for storytelling and cultural expression, allowing us to merge tradition with innovation,” confirms Tia.

ARHT hologram display located in the lobby of the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies.

Taking Innovation Further

Thanks to SIIT’s support, Indigenous entrepreneurs are equipped with the tools, resources, and confidence to turn their dreams into reality. With the success of the holographic technology at SIIT’s main campus in Saskatoon, the institution aims to expand its reach to other locations. Tia envisions integrating Capture Studios at SIIT’s two other campuses in Prince Albert and Regina, as well as potential traveling hologram showcases. The goal is to provide more exposure opportunities, create new content, and foster innovation and entrepreneurship in other locations. “By expanding the hologram technology to other campuses, we can create an even larger impact and continue to nurture creativity and innovation among Indigenous communities,” shares Tia.

The partnership between ARHT and SIIT exemplifies a successful fusion of technology and culture, fostering Indigenous innovation and entrepreneurship growth across Saskatchewan. “I feel like we’re just getting started, and it’s really exciting to see what we are going to accomplish next year,” concludes Tia.

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