Biigtigong Nishnaabeg (Pic River First Nation), Ontario

Final Proposal title

Executive Summary

"This is something that is going to help us … give our children the best shot in life. To give them the tools they need without forgetting where they've come from and without forgetting what being a Nishnaabe means to them. They are going to be able to walk with their identity intact and they are going to know that their community was behind that 100% in looking out for them in their future."

– Lisa Michano-Courchene, Education Director, Biigtigong Nishnaabeg

Challenge Statement

By means of active, cross-generational, technology-empowered, real-world participation in the intergenerational transfer of traditional Nishnaabe knowledge through the medium of our language, and the bilingual delivery of modern K-12 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) knowledge, our community will transform our youth into better-educated, more employable, better-grounded, and more holistically Nishaabe people.


We are indigenously embracing the bilingual (Nishnaabemwin and English), K-12 STEM education of our youth. At the end of high school, our youth will have received more than 2,000 hours of mobile-enabled, online Nishnaabe-language immersion instruction in all of our core aadsookaanan (sacred stories). Additionally, our youth will be nearly-completely able to comprehend spoken Nishnaabemwin, will have attained a basic proficiency in coding and robotics, and will possess a strong foundation in mathematics and science. All STEM subject videos and courses will be available under a creative commons license, in both Nishnaabemwin and in English. All of this education will occur online with a strong real-world participation component built into the program. Our community's open source, mobile-enabled, eLearning platform facilitates the learning of the STEM subjects. And, our open source, mobile-enabled, eAcquisition platform facilitates the acquisition of our Nishnaabe language. The entire educational experience is tied together with our community's mobile-enabled meetup platform serving as a bridge between the digital, online world and the material, real world. Our youth are strongly encouraged and empowered to participate not only in online communities, but in the traditional Nishnaabe activities going on in the real-world community, as well.

The Finalist's Perspective

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The Smart Cities Challenge is a competition that calls on Canadian communities to explore how data and connected technology can achieve meaningful outcomes for residents.

The Finalists - $5M Category: Biigtigong Nishnaabeg (Pic River First Nation), Ontario

Question: Tell us about your team and your community.

JoAnne Michano (Biigtigong Band Manager/CEO): We're a community that's a progressive community. We are a strategic community and always look at strategy and have long term vision and long term goals and we are about embracing our culture and our traditions and our ancient ways and looking at how do we do this in a modern world and the aligning of the modern and ancient world.

Question: Why did you enter the Challenge?

JoAnne Michano (Biigtigong Band Manager/CEO): We entered the challenge because we felt that the Smart Cities proposal and that whole process would give us an opportunity to one, save our language and the proposal also allowed us to take a look at STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and our chief has had this vision for a long time. He has a strong belief in STEM and in the necessity of STEM for the youth, not only in our community but the youth across the world.

Challenge Statement: By means of active, cross generational, technology empowered, real world participation in the intergenerational transfer of traditional Nishnaabe knowledge through the medium of our language, and the bilingual delivery of modern K 12 STEM knowledge, our community will transform our youth into better educated, more employable, better grounded, and more holistically Nishnaabe people.

Join the conversation: #smartcitiesCanada

Infrastructure Canada

The Jury's Perspective

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My name is Leanne Bellegarde. I'm from the Peepeekisis First Nation, in the File Hills Qu'Appelle Tribal Council of Saskatchewan. It's in Treaty 4 Territory. I'm the director of strategic inclusion for Nutrien. My home is Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

The opportunity to be a jury member for "Smart Cities Challenge" is really about inspiring the future of this country and challenging Canada to be that all it can be through empowering people and communities to do what they know and do best, serve their people with a view to the future.

I'm really excited to see the proposal of the Biigtigong Nishnaabeg Nation. This is an exciting proposal that is so much about the future of this country because it's about empowering and lifting the fastest growing, youngest demographic indigenous youth. This proposal is really about answering the call to education and employment, all too often areas where we're underrepresented due to undereducation and underemployment. This proposal is really also about empowering the Nishnaabeg ways of knowing and being in a modern-day take on e-learning. This proposal will create leaders of the future in science, technology, engineering, agriculture, and math. They will be able to take their rightful place in the economic participation of this country; one that all of our ancestors, as treaty partners and as sharers in this land, had envisioned hundreds of years ago. Finally, we will see it here, I hope, through the inspirational efforts of the Nishnaabeg.

Spotlight on Finalists cover page

Spotlight on Finalists:
Biigtigong Nishnaabeg (Pic River First Nation), Ontario

Population: 443

Focus Areas:
Economic Opportunity Empowerment and Inclusion

Prize Category:


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