Raising Awareness About Research Among Students in Indigenous Communities

- 3 min
Des jeunes autochtones de la Kahnawà:ke Survival School travaillant dans un laboratoire

On April 10, 2024, some fifteen students from the Kahnawà:ke Survival School went to Université de Montréal’s affiliated hospital research centre, the CRCHUM, to learn about the day-to-day work of research teams and conduct laboratory experiments.

For the occasion, Gareth LimThierry AlquierStephanie Fulton, Dr Vincent Poitout and Dr Dominique Trudel opened their laboratory doors to the students, aged 13 to 15. All day long, they took turns taking part in scientific activities designed and adapted especially for the occasion. Among other things, they had the opportunity to load a DNA gel, examine neuronal cell cultures, use two types of microscopes, and put tissue sections on slides.

“I think it's useful to learn by doing. The good thing about science is that it's easier to get [students] interested in it by bringing them into a lab, showing them what the day-to-day work of researchers looks like and letting them get their hands dirty.”

Antonia Walsh 
Teaching assistant at the Kahnawà:ke Educational Center

The equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) committee of the research centre, which provided support for the day’s events, was represented during the visit by its EDI advisor, Nyanyui Siliadin.

“It is important that research teams continue to meet First Peoples,” says Siliadin, “inviting them to come and discover our laboratories and collaborating with Indigenous organizations in a partnership of cultural security in order to innovate together with the two-eyed seeing approach. Welcoming students and faculty from the Kahnawà:ke Survival School to the CRCHUM is a best practice that we encourage. We sincerely thank everyone who participated.”

Encouraging vocations

The goal of the visit from the Kahnawà:ke Survival School students is to raise awareness among young people from the Indigenous community not only about research, but also about the field of science in general. This introductory day is an initiative by Gareth Lim, a researcher at the CRCHUM and Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine at Université de Montréal.

Des jeunes autochtones de la Kahnawà:ke Survival School travaillant dans un laboratoire

“It was always my intention to promote research among the new generation and inspire them to pursue careers in research and I chose to focus was mainly First Nation peoples, as they are often underrepresented in the field of research. I wanted to change that.”

Gareth Lim 

In 2020, Lim got in touch with Alex M. McComber, Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at McGill University, former Director of the Quebec Indigenous Mentorship Network, and community member of Kahnawà:ke.  Through various discussions and establishing common interests, Lim was introduced to Kathy Walsh, Science Curriculum Consultant at the Kahnawà:ke Educational Center. Together, they organized introductory science workshops in various classes at Kateri School and the Kahnawà:ke Survival School. In 2022, for example, they led a workshop on the discovery of the human body for the elementary level classes. In 2023, Lim was accompanied by Dr Laura Drudi, researcher at the CRCHUM and vascular surgeon at the CHUM, to visit Kahnawà:ke Survival School, where they raised awareness among high school students about suturing blood vessels and their collective passions for medicine and science.

In the future, Lim would like to create a summer program, in the form of internships, that would allow high school and CEGEP students from Indigenous communities to work at the CRCHUM and gain more knowledge and experience in research.



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Des jeunes autochtones de la Kahnawà:ke Survival School travaillant dans un laboratoire