ICP students partner with Indigenous Nations for 11th year

Maggie Low and Jessie Hemphill in silhouette, planning

On April 18, Musqueam welcomed SCARP's Indigenous Community Planning students, as well as faculty, partnering Nations, family, and invited friends, to gather in Musqueam's Cultural Centre. There we heard the findings and plans from 2023's ICP cohort, who had, throughout the year, teamed together to create plans in partnership with local Indigenous nations to consider challenges and projects they face today.

SCARP recognises that we work, learn, and grow on the unceded lands of the Musqueam people. We also recognise that recognition of this fact is only the beginning of our due diligence. SCARP also honours and cherishes its partnership with Musqueam Indian Band, and also all partnerships arising from SCARP Indigenous Community Planning. 
Brett Sparrow, Musqueam representative and ICP alum, welcomes all present
Musqueam Cultural Centre, its guests gathered
Jessie introduces all presenting students

Within this space, even a cloudy day washes the room in bright daylight, and its circular format naturally brings a feeling of gathered community. Throughout the day, there were words of recognition, gestures of thanks, and renewals of commitment and partnership. 

What is ICP?

Indigenous Community Planning trains a new generation of community planners who will break with the colonial legacy and culture of planning in order to work in respectful partnership with Indigenous communities. Founded in 2012, ICP is a concentration of SCARP's Master of Community and Regional Planning program.

We seek to equip emerging community planners with the necessary theory, skills, knowledge, and capacity to support Indigenous communities in achieving their own aspirations for land stewardship, cultural revitalization, strong governance, health and well-being. 

Our approach is grounded in community and land-based learning, emphasizes mutual and transformative learning, and integrates these principles with grounding in Indigenous worldviews: ways of being, knowing, and doing.

Some ICP practicums represent continuations of ongoing partnerships between SCARP and an Indigenous nation.

The day developed organically, presenters and audience members often switching spaces as representatives of the various Nations brought their valued words and recognition of Good Work. 

An Indigenous community member recognising Good Work in ceremony

Students were also given a dynamic and developing say in how things should progress. They responded to each development together, at one point even wordlessly knowing to gather in a huddle to rapidly plan next steps.

ICP students in sudden planning huddle

Each presentation prioritised introducing their partner nations and elaborating on their stories. Together, we heard not only of the work of each student team and possibilities for the future, but the context of each Nation’s lands, history and current challenges, culture and traditions, and primers on their lenses on the world.

The ICP students, their partners, and their partnerships

For the Squamish Nation

Finding the way forward:

Collaborative approaches to planning in Indigenous communities 

Presented by MacKenzie Schmidt, Sophia Elliott, and Marie-Gabrielle Bechard
Theme: Trail-blazing

The presenting students assisted with creating the Squamish Nation’s generational plan. This plan is meant as the broad overarching plan to trickle down to many other intended plans for over the next 25 years. This contextualises why this plan especially needs iterative partnership, communication, and trust. 

Giving thanks

As a rite before their presentation began: presenters stood, as women, as matriarchs, as receivers. These students, who, in the spirit of partnership and learning, had worked with a Squamish Knowledge Holder and artist for five hours to craft traditional drums, now lifted them in song together, a song of thanks and recognition. All women who knew the ceremony and it what it represented stood and sang along. One by one, community members stood and recognised the Good Work of the respect shown with this ceremony and all that it meant. In turn, the presenters were thanked for witnessing the Good Work with coins.

Principles the students learned from Squamish nation:

  • Learn the advice of the Squamish
  • Listen and engage
  • Genuinely care
  • The People go through it together
  • Support the Squamish in asserting their rights and title

Non-Indigenous planners must decolonise themselves and planning processes in a way that challenges power relations.

Women with traditional drums, their drumsticks raised above their heads
First presentation, Sophia Elliott speaking

For the Qualicum Nation

Soul-food planning:

Food as a bridge to building connections

Presented by Roraigh Falkner and Nathan Leong

The focus and spirit of these students' work was community-setting, food security, and sustainability and awareness. This project addressed the impact Indigenous communities have faced since and because of colonisation to their health, ecosystems, social structures, and food systems.

Often, though, especially with Indigenous partnerships but in all things, what is planned and accomplished is often not as important as how it is done: with what approaches, what values, and what interrelationships forged and nourished.

Prioritising relationship building set the foundation of our work.

The content of their plan changed and refined throughout based on feedback throughout the process (a good omen), to become less formal, more results-oriented, and with deliverables in easy-to-digest format. 

We realised early on the power that food has to connect us all to our culture, our community, and to our lands. Food is intrinsic to culture, and can convey the memories of lived experience, celebrations, and comfort.

The team planned food-themed youth activities to spark community engagement. Food was even used as art, and the youth involved were asked what their creations represented. Even these representative activities yielded crucial themes and symbolic depictions of what the community needed.

There was also an Environmental Scan Report, of those on and off reserve alike, regarding housing, food security, culture, and more.

The presenting planning team described how planners at their best immerse in the community:

Don’t go in with a mode of efficient productivity framework: come in ready to listen to community needs and wishes… As a visiting planner, don’t limit your role as a planner: be what the community needs of you. Cook, clean, organise, build relationships.

Roraigh Faulkner and Nathan Leong arm-in-arm at the Q&A
An Indigenous women and man speaking on the students of Presentation 2

For Siska Indian Band

Following the current:

Honouring the past to guide the future of planning

Presented by Ali White and Bea Borres

Siska has had a Comprehensive Community Plan since 2013. This project has been an evaluation of the final stage of Siska’s Comprehensive Community Plan: “Have We Arrived?” In other words, the presenters examined the extent to which each of the goals of the community’s CCP have been achieved. With the help of a Siska Knowledge Holder, they integrated Siska language, Nłeʔkepmxcín, into their presentation.

The practicum students deployed Relational Theory in their approach: getting to know community members and ways, with reciprocity and connection above all else. They worked towards needs and priorities of Siska members, rather than coming with a pre-determined plan of their own: or, as they put it:

Plan with rather than for.

Once the team identified the remaining steps needed, they found a clever way to proportionately identify community members’ priorities, giving those present symbolic currency to invest in each priority to their desired proportions, like a representative vote. They incorporated youth and elder discussions to broaden the scope of the priorities captured.

Siska and ICP have held a continued partnership since 2016. Previous practicum work had implemented the Siska CCP’s emergency planning actions in response to wildfires and other emergencies.

Lessons they shared:

  • Communication, communication, communication
  • Trust takes time
  • Stay in your lane
  • Leave space for the unplanned

Planning is a tool for Indigenous self-determination. [ICP] practicum work is really not about us.

Ali White and Bea Borres presenting
Students presenting

For Musqueam Indian Band

Planning for connection

Presented by Amy Liebenberg and Bryce Henney

Musqueam developed their first Comprehensive Community Plan in 2011.

The approach framed by Musqueam is a non-linear spiral, encompassing spiritual, physical, economic, and traditional/cultural realms, at the family, community, government, and business/industry level. The planner, meanwhile, is a support for a community that knows how to plan for themselves.

The project engaged by the students tackles two key questions:

  1. How can the planning team and administration better engage with the community?
  2. How do community members interact with their CCP and related planning work?

Keep it simple: if you hold a plan lightly, it offers space for collaboration, for growth, and for the unexpected.

Lessons learned by the students included improved engagement, discussion and inclusion of specific groups, and accessibility. These approaches and values ensure that a plan may approach a state of being by everyone and for everyone. 

We are settler planners; we can never claim to Indigenise planning or even to provide an Indigenous perspective. But rather it’s important for us to strive to decolonise our own practice, and also to embed it in a living-systems worldview.

Amy Liebenberg and Bryce Henney presenting
 Amy Liebenberg and Bryce Henney

A sense of continuity

"Show of hands, how many people here with us today are ICP alumni?"
Numerous hands shoot up from a crowd
Leonie Sandercock introduces an alum of ICP's first ever cohort
Leonie Sandercock speaking at a table
"Come on everybody, all ICP students and alumni together!"
All ICP students and alumni together
Professor Leonie Sandercock, co-chair of ICP receives many dozens of hugs and a loving farewell during her final event before retirement
Leonie and Maggie sharing a big smile
Maggie and Jessie share in Leonie's gift opening

Lots of hugs and sweet moments

More gifts of thanks exchanged
Groups gather to pose

Jessie and Maggie receive gifts of thanks
Students, faculty, gathered in cheer outside

  • Research and projects
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