RSD12 Kihcihkaw Askî, Live October 10

igniting the fire of our ancestors’ ways of knowing


Lewis Cardinal introduces the first designated urban Indigenous cultural and ceremonial grounds

walking with

Dwayne Donald

3 talks

Diane Roussin
Amber Dion and Terri Cardinal
Shalene Jobin

treaty resource kit

Rhonda Gladue & Megan Auger

walking and the wâhkôhtowin imagination can help us re-story ourselves

—Dwayne Donald

Hosted by the Indigenous Knowledge & Wisdom Centre | October 10, 2023 | kihcihkaw askî (sacred land) | Edmonton, Alberta, CAN

Indigenous Knowledge & Wisdom Centre believes in preserving and revitalizing First Nation Peoples’ languages, cultures, and identities by providing a centralized venue for education and First Nation tradition to come together. Under the direction of the Treaty Chiefs in Alberta, IKWC is a long-term sustainable initiative delivering a legacy of knowledge and lifelong learning to educate First Nation students. IKWC provides a culturally appropriate and responsive educational environment for First Nation students seeking a deeper connection to culture and lifelong learning.

Indigenous land in Treaty 6 territory,  ᒥᐢᑿᒌᐚᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᐣ amiskwacîwâskahikan (Beaver Hills House), is a traditional meeting ground, gathering place, and travelling route of the nêhiyawak (Cree), Anishinaabe (Saulteaux), Niitsitapi (Blackfoot), Métis, Dene, and Nakota Sioux.

Indigenous worldviews have been rooted in systems thinking for thousands of years. Many Indigenous epistemologies are based on holistic, universalist, and de-centralised modes of perceiving the world and its natural systems. These stand in contrast to dominant Western epistemologies, which are based on linear, hierarchical, and discrete modes of thinking.

—Jodi Calahoo-Stonehouse is Cree and Mohawk from Michel First Nation


Calahoo-Stonehouse, J. (2022). Indigenising & Decolonising Social Innovation: Lessons for Systemic Design.  Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design, RSD11.

Lewis Cardinal at kihcihkaw askî | Photo: Samuel Martin/CBC

The Indigenous Knowledge & Wisdom Centre (IKWC) and the City of Edmonton partnered to designate the first urban Indigenous cultural and ceremonial grounds in Canada—kihcihkaw askî, which in the Cree language means sacred land. This joint initiative has been overseen by an Elder Counsel and has been undertaken in the spirit of peace, friendship and respect.

Vision, kihcihkaw askî (sacred land)

We envision a welcoming space for the general public, while honoring the vision of the Elders to hold a sacred space for diverse Indigenous cultures to practice ceremonies and transfer knowledge. We will preserve a natural space within the city of Edmonton for present and future generations to heal, learn, and connect, one where the positive movement towards reconciliation will be led by Indigenous knowledge and worldviews.


We Need a New Story: Walking and the wâhkôhtowin Imagination

—Dwayne Donald, University of Alberta

I have come to see this river valley walk as the most important contribution that I can make to the complex task of repairing Indigenous-Canadian relations and renewing them on more ethical terms. Indigenous-Canadian relations will not be repaired and renewed by an educational commitment to provide students with more information about Indigenous peoples. The holistic complexity of human perception is disregarded when teaching and learning is reduced to a simple telling of information about certain selected topics of interest. To make progress on these divisive issues, educators must be willing to experiment with curricular and pedagogical approaches that provoke their students to engage in such topics in qualitatively different ways. I am not suggesting that all our problems will be solved if everyone walks beside a river and allows themselves to be inspired by the wâhkôhtowin imagination. However, I do believe that walking is a fundamental way that human beings perceive the world and come to story their place in it. Wisdom teachings around the world make this connection consistently clear. As I see it, teaching and learning theories that dominate formal education have left out this important insight. The intimate connections between movement and knowing need to be taken seriously if we wish to reconceptualize human life and living. Walking and the wâhkôhtowin imagination can help us re-story ourselves—individually and collectively—as real human beings bent-over-holding-hands-in-reciprocity-with-all-our-relations.

 Innovation in Indigenous education

Registration includes welcoming remarks by Lewis Cardinal, a river walk with Dwayne Donald, treaty resource kit presentation by Rhonda Gladue & Megan Auger, and talks by Diane Roussin, Amber Dion & Terri Cardinal, and Salene Jobin.

our Children will learn our ways, our history, our customs and our traditions.

—Indian Chiefs of Alberta, June 1970, Citizens Plus

Dr Shalene Wuttunee Jobin, First Nations University of Canada, President, Academic
Photo: Tristan Talalee Photography © 2022


Lewis Cardinal welcomes guests to kihcihkaw askî, the first designated urban Indigenous cultural and ceremonial grounds in Canada. Dwayne Donald’s in-person session includes a walk done at kihcihkaw askî. Offered online are workshops on the Treaty Resource Kits and Virtual Library by Rhonda Gladue and Megan Auger of the IKWC Research Team. Featured speakers are Diane Roussin, Amber Dion and Terri Cardinal, and Shalene Jobin.

As I write these words, I look out the window of my apartment onto the bend in the North Saskatchewan River. kisiskâciwani-sîpiy ᑭᓯᐢᑳᒋᐊᐧᓂᓰᐱᕀ, swift-flowing river, is created from the joining of the North and South Saskatchewan Rivers with its headwaters beginning in the Rocky Mountains (Newton 2009). It is the kisepîsim ᑭᓭᐲᓯᒼ, Great moon month, January in 2016, and the river is frozen, yet still alive. The banks of the river tell an archaeological and geological tale. The river has an ancient history, and yet it is still carving spaces in the present; so, too, are the Cree and other Indigenous peoples. Like my people, this river has witnessed many changes, and yet constants remain. In this work I draw from the time-honoured words of the past that still flow into our collective presents and futures.

—Shalene Wuttunee Jobin, Grounding Methods, Upholding Indigenous Economic Relationships

Jobin, S.W. (2022). Upholding Indigenous Economic Relationships: Nehiyawak Narratives. University of British Columbia Press, 2022, p. 3.

Indigenous entangle­ments

Collective self-determination

The relationship between knowledge and governance and collective self-determination is a fundamental right described as collective self-determination by Kyle Whyte, an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

I understand Indigenous governance according to two related conceptual constellations: resurgence and collective continuance, both of which are expressions of collective self-determination. Collective self-determination refers to a group’s ability to provide the cultural, social, economic, and political relations needed for its members to pursue good lives. In my understanding, resurgence involves thinking about collective self-determination while grasping the full impact of systems (or structures) of settler colonialism on Indigenous lives today and into the future. (Whyte, 2017)

Traditional ecological knowledge

A study of Australia, Canada and Brazil concludes that “Indigenous-managed lands represent an important repository of native vertebrate species richness in three of the six largest countries on earth” (Schuster, 2019, p. 4) and urges nation-to-nation partnerships as a way forward. Placed in the context of environmental policy, Rebecca Tsosie, of Yaqui descent, refers to this as traditional ecological knowledge.

It is perhaps more useful to speak of the category of “traditional ecological knowledge.” Indigenous peoples are unique because they have a longstanding and intergenerational presence upon their traditional territories, and this “ethics of place” is deeply embedded within their cultures and social organisation. For most indigenous peoples, sustainability is the result of conscious and intentional strategies designed to secure a balance between human beings and the natural world and to preserve the balance for the benefit of future generations. (Tsosie, 2018)


Contemporary global urbanisation also deeply affects Indigenous communities, reinforcing the inclination for people to move off the land to urban environments and away from traditional ways. Jessica Bolduc, Anishinaabe-French from the Batchewana First Nation, refers to this generation as edgewalkers. 

Edgewalkers are a new generation of Aboriginal leaders who have no patience for the status quo, who are deeply interested in the potential of the future and who have a hunger to contribute to a better world. We’ve learned from the past and are using our Indigenous worldviews and understanding of modern systems to shape future possibilities that value the well-being of all. (The Walrus, 2015, 00:25)

Relational systems thinking

An ancient Haudenosaunee philosophy, The Seventh Generation Principle, considers seven generations into the future and guides decision-making for energy, water, and natural resources. Foremost, there is an understanding that we are all related and communicate through stories that seek to heal self and systems. Melanie Goodchild, Anishinaabe/Ojibway, expresses relational systems thinking as a dynamic interface theoretical model.

… relational systems thinking is an Indigenous standpoint, in which the relationships between everything are the most important elements of the work that you’re doing. … So when we would take on a design project, for example, if I were a designer, I would think about the medicines that would be necessary because when we’re doing our type of complexity and system scholarship, it’s about healing self and systems. So it’s not as much transformation of systems as it is healing those systems. And so that happens in a place of relationship with all of the elements—if we want to call it a system. (Soriano et al, 2022, 39:59)


Soriano, A., Vink, J., & Prakash, S. (with Agid, S., Ahmed Ansari, Melanie Goodchild, & van Amstel, F.) (2022). Confronting Legacies of Oppression in Systemic Design: [Video file]. Proceedings of Systems Thinking and Design, RSD11. Article 012.

The Walrus (2015, April 23). Edgewalkers | Jessica Bolduc | Walrus Talks. [Video file]. Retrieved from

Tsosie, R. (2018). In Nelson, M.K. & Shilling, D (Eds.), Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Learning from Indigenous Practices for Environmental Sustainability (p. 235). Cambridge University Press.

Whyte, K. (2017). What Do Indigenous Knowledges Do for Indigenous Peoples? SSRN

RSD12-kihcihkaw askî organisers

RSD12 is a project of the SDA


Shaunte Fryingpan, Research/Resource Developer,


Indigenous Knowledge and Wisdom Centre
kihcihkaw-âski sacred land

Photo: kihcihkaw askî (sacred land). Source: City of Edmonton.

Copyright Information

Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (ISSN 2371-8404) are published annually by the Systemic Design Association, a non-profit scholarly association leading the research and practice of design for complex systems: 3803 Tønsberg, Norway (922 275 696).


Open Access article published under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License. This permits anyone to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or form according to the licence terms.

Suggested citation format (APA)

Author(s). (20##). Article title. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design, RSD##. Article ##.

Publishing with RSD

Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design are published online and include the contributions for each format.

Papers and presentations are entered into a single-blind peer-review process, meaning reviewers see the authors’ names but not vice versa. Reviewers consider the quality of the proposed contribution and whether it addresses topics of interest or raises relevant issues in systemic design. The review process provides feedback and possible suggestions for modifications.

The Organising Committee reviews and assesses workshops and systems maps & exhibits with input from reviewers and the Programme Committee.

Editor: Cheryl May
Peter Jones
Ben Sweeting

The Scholars Spiral

In 2022, the Systemic Design Association adopted the scholars spiral—a cyclic non-hierarchical approach to advance scholarship—and in 2023, launched Contexts—The Systemic Design Journal. Together, the RSD symposia and Contexts support the vital emergence of supportive opportunities for scholars and practitioners to publish work in the interdisciplinary field of systemic design.

The Systemic Design Association's membership ethos is to co-create the socialization and support for all members to contribute their work, find feedback and collaboration where needed, and pursue their pathways toward research and practice outcomes that naturally build a vital design field for the future.


Verified by MonsterInsights