Designing, Planning and Partnering with Indigenous Communities

At SMM we aim to build relationships. Through embracing accountability and forging new paths toward collaboration, we ensure our partnerships with Indigenous leaders and communities are grounded in the spirit of truth and reconciliation.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission summary report states: “Together, Canadians must do more than just talk about reconciliation; we must learn how to practice reconciliation in our everyday lives – within ourselves and our families, and in our communities, governments, places of worship, schools and workplaces. To do so constructively, Canadians must remain committed to the ongoing work of establishing and maintaining respectful relationships.”

SMM has been fortunate to work on numerous projects – ranging in scale, complexity and type – with Indigenous representatives as both clients and primary stakeholders. These projects and the experiences we have gained from them have taught us a great deal about responsible design and consultation. In all cases, our partnerships with Indigenous communities have resulted in projects that are balanced and enriched with the knowledge, culture and tradition of the people intended to use them.

As such, we acknowledge it is not only important to deliver a great product, but to facilitate an inclusive process as well. To us, as the caretakers of these design and planning projects, this means allowing processes to be guided by the unique needs and aspirations of your  community. Inspired by the figurative form of the sharing circle, in which knowledge and wisdom are passed between all participants in a mutually respectful manner, our approach to identifying issues and developing solutions is centred on listening and engaging.

SMM has engaged and advocated for collaboration with Indigenous leaders as advisors on various projects, including such individuals as: Nahanni Fontaine (Status Ojibway and MLA for the riding of St. Johns in Winnipeg), Dr. Niigaanwewidam Sinclair (Anishinaabe, author and professor in Native Studies), Dr. Julie Nagam (Métis and Chair of the History of Indigenous Art in North America), Clarence Nepinak (Pine Creek Ojibway First Nation), Barbara Nepinak (Pine Creek Ojibway First Nation), Allan Luby (past Chief Dulles First Nation), David Blacksmith (Ojibway from Cross Lake First Nation and Elder) and Mary Richard (Métis and Indigenous activist and politician).