First Nation SchoolNet Helpdesk Reps Meet at K-Net

Industry Canada's First Nations SchoolNet program held their annual Helpdesk meeting in Sioux Lookout the week of June 16. All the Helpdesks were represented from across Canada at this gathering. Pictures of the two and half day gathering are available at JR Isadore and Kevin Burton of the Atlantic Regional Helpdesk arrived on Saturday morning. Taking a tour of their web site and the interactive work that JR and Kevin are putting on-line to support First Nation schools and communities in using and developing the Micmac Aboriginal Language is a rich experience. Check out the Lessons, Vocabulary, Songs, Wli-Nuelewi CD, Talking Books, Prayers and their Talking Dictionary resource material. These on-line resources provide an exciting challenge and model for all First Nation communities to do likewise. Everyone else arrived on Sunday. Tim Whiteduck. from the Quebec Helpdesk along with the four folks from Industry Canada’s FN Schoolnet program in Ottawa (Rachel Roy, Kathleen Schroeder, Will Dubitsky and Jacques Drouin) were met at the Sioux Lookout airport in the afternoon. Tim works with the Kitigan Zibi Education Council in the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg community which is located approximately 130 km north of Hull/Ottawa and adjacent to the town of Maniwaki. Their Learning Algonquin website is a great on-line resource / model for sharing their language. Jeff Cappo of the Saskatchewan Helpdesk flew in that evening from Regina. Jeff has his own IT company (TP Technologies) that provides a variety of services for clients both Saskatchewan and in other parts of the country. Corey Vokey drove in from Winnipeg where he works with Taiga Communications as the Manitoba Helpdesk coordinator. Diane and Ian Cameron (NO Limits, Inc) drove 3 hours from their home in Kamloops, BC to the airport, flew to Winnipeg and then drove to Sioux Lookout. The two and half day meeting was held in the Sioux Lookout Area Aboriginal Management Board conference room at the Keewaytinook Okimakanak office building in Sioux Lookout. The first morning was spent sharing information about each of the regions and the work / challenges that everyone is addressing in their function as the regional helpdesk. A video conference connection was established with the Schoolnet folks in Ottawa so they too could hear about the work being done by the helpdesks across the country. Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning had the Industry Canada folks introducing the upcoming changes that will be taking place within their department. The biggest challenge involves developing a strategy to support First Nation schools as the access to the subsidized DirecPC resource is removed by December 2003. As well, discussions focused around the challenges and opportunities to migrate to and fund broadband connectivity solutions that the First Nation schools can utilize wherever possible. On Tuesday afternoon one group took a charter into Slate Falls First Nation to visit with the Chief and Council and learn about the importance of connectivity in this type of environment. A visit to the local Keewaytinook Internet High School classroom provided everyone with a chance to meet some of the students that are benefitting from being able to access their high school courses from their home community. Slate Falls First Nation is a member of Windigo First Nations Council, a partner with Keewaytinook Okimakanak bringing broadband connectivity into their member First Nations. The other group drove out to visit Pelican Falls First Nation High School and met with Lance Redbourne to discuss the KU-Band high speed connectivity trial. Then the group drove to the Frenchman's Head KiHS classroom to meet with Marlene McKay (KiHS Teacher), Andrea Ignace (Teacher Assistant) and Richard Morris (Education Director). Wednesday morning, Carl Seibel from FedNor joined the group and was able to share how their regional economic development program provided funding support to establish broadband connectivity solutions for remote First Nations in Northern Ontario. A video conference session with the Fort Severn First Nation Chief and Council and their Smart team members was able to provide some additional information about the importance of having broadband connectivity in these First Nations. As well, discussions around working with K-Net staff to plan and coordinate a national Aboriginal Smart Communities conference this fall with regional gatherings in each part of the country linking together promises to be an exciting challenge and opportunity to demonstrate broadband applications at their best! Finally, just before this meeting ended David Fransen the Associate Assistant Deputy Minister of IHAD and Paul Bush Telesat Vice-President of Corporate Relations arrived and was able to meet most of the meeting participants. Even the brief meeting with Kevin and JR at the airport was valuable for everyone to learn about their important work in the Atlantic Region. The meeting ended much like it began with everyone leaving at different times by different means. The great thing about these communication tools is no one has to say good-bye anymore but rather ... “Until we meet again on-line”. Thanks to everyone for taking the time from their busy schedules to attend this important gathering of like-minded people ... what a team!!