On June 1, 2018, Prime Minister Trudeau and Infrastructure Minister Sohi announced that Biigtigong Nishnaabeg was selected as one of the five finalists in Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge.

More than 200 communities across Canada submitted proposals for three prize categories: $5 million, $10 million, and $50 million. Our proposal was submitted for the $5 million category. We are very honoured and humbled to be one of the finalists. We believe that our proposal will produce significant results that will make profound improvements in the lives of indigenous peoples, and in the lives of all Canadians. We extend our congratulations to all of the finalists and wish them well as we all journey towards moving our proposals forward and making our dreams come true.

On behalf of our Chief and Council, and our proposal writing team – John Paul Montano, JoAnne Michano, and Chief Duncan Michano – we would like to extend our heartfelt appreciation to all our staff and community members who have contributed to the development of our vision and who continuously strive to improve our lives. We look forward to the process into which we are about to enter so that we can develop our final proposal. In keeping with the spirit of our community, we will work together to move our vision forward in creative and innovative ways in order to make meaningful change. And, following tradition, we look forward to your help in developing a final proposal that will rock the world!

Our Smart Cities Proposal follows the direction from our elders to bring our children back to the center of everything we do. We hope to transform our children into better-educated, more employable, better-grounded, and more holistically Nishnaabe people by providing opportunities for active, cross-generational, technology-empowered, and 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, Mathematics) knowledge.

Our proposal is divided into three interrelated projects. First, we will provide 2,000 hours of online immersion video in our Biigtigong Nishnaabe language which will focus primarily on our aadsookaanan (sacred stories). Our elders and ancestors have spoken at length about the importance of our language and our aadsookaanan to our identity as Nishnaabeg. Second, we will provide 1,000 hours of online STEM education, focusing on building the skills and knowledge required by our students to thrive in the modern, technologically-driven world. We will focus on subjects such as coding and programming, robotics, and statistics. And finally, we will create a meetup app that will facilitate for Biigtigong youth real-world connections with our traditional territory, as well as increased relationships with all members of our community, particularly in the context of traditional Biigtigong Nishnaabe activities on our land. All three projects will be housed in an open source, online platform with Creative Commons-licensed materials to be shared with the world.

We are embarking on an exciting journey filled with wonderful opportunities and challenges. Our proposal will empower our community to continue to take responsibility for our most important gifts, our children. By working together, setting our big vision, and continually reimagining our strategies, we will ensure that our children and our future generations will walk this world with a strong sense of who they are as Biigtigong Nishnaabeg and continue to be contributing members to life on Mother Earth.

We look forward to working with all of our staff and community members in developing our final proposal for the Smart Cities Challenge. We are certain that, with your ideas and support, we can produce results that will not only help Biigtigong, but also other communities. We are looking forward to this journey.