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Helping Indigenous youth uncover history and discover career possibilities

June 29, 2021

In an ongoing commitment to inclusion & diversity, we were able to support the University of Calgary’s Indigenous Youth Engagement Program

Some of the most impactful educational programs attribute their success to a hands-on, interactive format and relevant subject matter. The University of Calgary’s Indigenous Youth Engagement (IYE) Program is setting an example for this style of education and—in keeping with Stantec’s ongoing commitment to inclusion & diversity—we were fortunate enough to initiate a partnership to support it in 2019. While over the past year the program had to adapt to the restrictions faced throughout the pandemic, our support gave the organizers additional resources to take their programming online and engage a wider audience.

Our Indigenous Relations program promotes connection and collaboration with Indigenous communities and the institutions that support education and community learning for Indigenous students. One of our engagement goals is to promote learning in STEM fields and exposure to STEM-related careers for Indigenous youth. This collaboration with the IYE program not only aligns with those objectives, but also allows us the opportunity to connect with students directly to enrich their educational experience. 

A bit about the program

The goal of the Indigenous Youth Engagement (IYE) Program is to encourage students to consider studying archaeology at the post-secondary level and provide exposure and understanding of what archaeology looks like in Canada. Through a series of in-classroom seminars and field trips, students learn about the importance of archaeology to historical understanding and storytelling while participating in interactive activities simulating excavations, finding artifacts and fossils, and learning about what happens to them after discovery. The program engages participants on a deeper level, inviting them to in-person visits to live archaeological digs on Indigenous lands where there is also an opportunity to learn about the history of local Indigenous communities.  

In early 2020, we were eager to send some of Stantec’s archeology staff to work directly with the students and show them around some of our operational excavation sites, but when the pandemic hit that was no longer possible. Relying on the creativity and adaptability of IYE leaders, we were able to support a new approach.

Helping the IYE adapt

In September 2020, the IYE program launched in a new, virtual format, teaching students about important aspects of archaeology and how it relates to Indigenous heritage. While this virtual aspect of the program was a long-standing intent for the future of the program, pandemic circumstances fast-forwarded the concept and presented the perfect situation for exploring and implementing the new format.

With our support, the IYE Program was able to hire two graduate students to analyze Alberta Education curriculum for grades 7-12 and develop the online programming tied into Alberta’s social studies and science curricula. The intent was to offer an enhancement to what the students are already learning with an immersive understanding of archaeology as a profession and its significance on Indigenous lands.

The team put together six lesson plans focused on:

  • Alberta Geography: Territories, Treaties, and Languages–Decolonizing Archaeology
  • Alberta Prehistory: Bison, Faunal Analysis and Taphonomy
  • Alberta Prehistory: To the Point! Projectile Points in Alberta
  •  Alberta Prehistory: Exploring Rock Art
  • Artifact Analysis: Ceramics
  • Excavation Techniques: Mapping Units

Even when the in-person components of the program can resume, the virtual programming developed will provide an additional stream of access to the material, welcoming more students and communities to benefit.

The IYE looks forward to welcoming students back to archaeological excavations when the situation permits, and some of our Stantec archaeologists are eager to work alongside the students to enrich their experience and provide insight into their careers. We are proud to continue our support for this program through the 2021-22 school year and can’t wait to see how it will grow and evolve. 

Learn more about Indigenous Relations & Partnerships and Inclusion, Diversity & Equity at Stantec.

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