Yellowknives Dene First Nation Housing Strategy

Regions: North Slave Region

Tags: social sciences, housing, well-being, needs assessment

Principal Investigator: McCartney, Shelagh (3)
Licence Number: 16765
Organization: Ryerson University
Licensed Year(s): 2022 2021 2020
Issued: Jan 21, 2021
Project Team: Leah Cooke, Jeffrey Herskovits, Courtney Kaupp, Jason Snaggs, Nora Taylor, Agatha Laboucan, Jennifer Drygeese, Johanne Black, Juanita Sangris, Lena Black, Machel Thomas, Margaret Erasmus, Niroshi Witharanage, Ryan Peters, Sarah Gillis, Justina Black, William Lines, Cecilie Beaulieu

Objective(s): To identify the availability of adequate, affordable and appropriate housing for Yellowknives Dene First Nation members.

Project Description: This licence has been issued for the scientific research application No.4908.

Yellowknives Dene First Nation (YKDFN) has identified the availability of adequate, affordable, and appropriate housing for their membership as a critical priority. The research team are looking towards the creation and implementation of a community-based solution. The unique climatic, geographic, and cultural factors of YKDFN have meant existing one-size fits-all government interventions have failed, and continue to fail, to appropriately provide YKDFN members with homes.

The primary goal underlying the project is to ensure YKDFN members’ homes contribute to their wellbeing. Through a community-led process the establishment of a decision making framework will prioritize and operationalize community members lived experiences in housing to shape community design. Throughout this process the interdisciplinary, multi-sectoral team will cultivate practical skills in design, community planning, and building science in YKDFN.

As part of the ongoing YKDFN Housing Strategy, this project looks undertake intensive community engagement around the design of future community homes, including design charrettes, prototyping and sharing circles. This community-based approach recognizes the lived experience of community members, redefining the relationship between members, their homes, and the community through self-determination in design. Using a collaborative design process, this project removes the typical barriers between participants and design process and looks to demonstrate how all community members– from youth to Elders– can contribute to the change they want in their community while also addressing a critical issue. As part of the current research stage, a household survey, sharing circles, and community consultations will be held in YKDFN to understand the housing need of all community members as thoroughly as possible.

A needs assessment is a vital component of housing strategies for First Nation communities in Canada. Housing has historically been created by government agencies using a ‘one size fits all’ approach without input from the community or an understanding of the type of housing that is required. As a result, housing design has frequently been inappropriate and not aligned with specific cultural or geographic contexts. The needs assessment will aim to answer the question of what amount and type of housing community members are interested in for the communities of Ndilo and Dettah. Two activities are being undertaken as part of this phase of work: sharing circles and surveys. Each of these is guided by specific research questions created through partnership with community partners and methods are developed to ensure a diversity community voices are centered throughout the process. Surveys will form the basis of the quantitative component of the Housing Needs Assessment. These will be completed with community members who live in randomly selected housing units within YKDFN. Surveys will have two components: 1) household- which includes only objective information on the housing unit and can be completed by any adult living in the unit; and 2) individual- which will contain subjective, residential satisfaction question and will be completed by all adult members of the household. This two pronged survey design builds off previously successful work completed by McCartney (forthcoming) and Riva (forthcoming). The household survey will be divided into the following sections: demographic household information; general household questions; crowding; housing quality; and household economic activity. The individual survey will be divided in the following sections: demographic information; perceived household conditions; perceived community conditions; food security and traditional activities, and wrap up questions. Rather than focusing on a head of household model, commonly used in needs assessments, this one recognizes that individual occupants may experience the same home differently. By gaining an understanding of how different demographics respond to their homes, this assessment looks to create targeted solutions for those experiencing greatest housing need. Sharing circles complement quantitative data by documenting needs or issues that fall outside the scope of the survey materials. Two methods of recruitment will be used for sharing circles, creating general and targeted circles which look to ensure that the full diversity of community voices are appropriately captured. The circles also allow for participants to share their values, goals, and aspirations for change for the future of their community. Community partners have already identified several populations which will form targeted sharing circles including: Elders, hunters and trappers, youth, and women. Sharing circles are chosen for their appropriateness in providing a platform for sharing stories and life experiences. Rooted in the oral tradition of First Nations peoples, they provide a tangible alternative to the Western hierarchical reliance on textual data, placing clear value on other ways of. The circle also recognizes the interconnectedness of all knowledge—the connections between physical, emotional and spiritual worlds— which is critical to the understanding of housing. In allowing participants to share their unique knowledge and experience, they can learn from one another and work towards solutions in an iterative manner, building capacity and strengthening networks within YKDFN.

First Nations dissemination is a primary goal for the findings of this project. The key target being the Yellowknives Dene First Nation Chief and Council, Staff and community members. Beyond this group, findings will be shared with other First Nations outside the territory as determined appropriate by YKDFN. Digital newsletters will be created following each community visit for the project and disseminated to YKDFN community members via the Band Council website, email list, and as part of the monthly newsletter from the Band office. Academic dissemination will focus on theory development related to First Nations conceptualizations of housing as well as lived experience and occupant-based housing evaluation frameworks. Theory development will take place at all project stages. This project will produce articles for publication in peer reviewed, open-access journals, such as the International Indigenous Policy Journal, Journal of Planning Education and Research, Housing Studies, and Planning Theory and Practice. Information based on project findings tailored to a broader, general audience will be added to YKDFN’s website. The Together Design Lab will use their existing reach to share website content. Additionally, project content will be shared through existing channels such as Ryerson’s Office of the Vice President Research and Innovation, Office Faculty of Community Services, and School of Urban and Regional Planning. The project team will look for wider sharing channels to reach a broad public audience, including their existing capacity and networks to share knowledge through social media, as appropriate.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from January 22, 2021 to December 31, 2021.