Ulnooweg embodies the philosophy of interconnectedness. They aren’t one organization doing one thing, Ulnooweg is three organizations taking a transformative and complex, community-centred approach.
It started in 1985 with Ulnooweg Development Group, which remains today as a non-profit organization providing support to Indigenous entrepreneurs throughout the region. “It originally came to birth from the ‘60s scoop era when kids were coming back into the community trying to find culture and heritage,” explains Ulnooweg Chief Operating Officer, Chris Googoo. “When they met in the mid-80s, the community came up with a broad mandate focused on three things.” Those three things were:
- Economic and social welfare of Indigenous peoples
- Training, education and research
- Provide support for recognized benevolent and charitable enterprises
This early mandate carried the organization through to 2000, when it entered the phase described as “early growth.” From 2010 to today, Ulnooweg has undergone rapid growth, including the formalization of the second entity: Ulnooweg Education Centre. The Education Centre exists to undertake and advance education and research that weaves together Indigenous knowledge with modern science and technology.
- Visit the Ulnooweg website to see a complete timeline of organizational growth and accomplishments.
More recently, the Ulnooweg Indigenous Communities Foundation was established to help build new relationships and collaboration between the philanthropic sector and Indigenous people and communities. The Foundation raises funds and makes grants to qualified donee communities and charities that are addressing Indigenous needs and opportunities. The Foundation also advances education through financial support to students.
In all three entities, Ulnooweg is committed to harnessing the potential of youth leaders. Through the different organizations and all its expansions, they remain steadfast and dedicated to promoting opportunities to access Indigenous culture and language, all while building meaningful educational pathways that support employment and entrepreneurship.
The breadth of programming and services provided in the region is diverse and vast. Ulnooweg has recently: delivered robotic arm curriculum in local schools, continues to grow its curriculum that centres the ocean as a way of life, established five community climate battery-run greenhouses to support land-based learning and food sovereignty, and ensured Indigenous culture and language within all of this. Partnerships with organizations like the Canada Space Agency inspires youth through programs that include teachings from astronauts and even launching a miniature Mi’kmaw basket and eagle feather to the International Space Station! In 2021, Ulnooweg acquired Windhorse Farm (renamed Asitu’l
isk – ah-see-doo-lisk), ensuring the rightful stewardship of the lands and forest that Mi’kmaq have called home for thousands of years.
- Watch the A Windhorse Celebration video.
“Our culture is our strength” guides the work, and with this, Ulnooweg embodies interconnectedness, innovation, and intergenerational responsibility that Indigenous peoples have to lands, waters, and communities to ensure the well-being of all.
When asked why this work is important, Chris uses an analogy to explain. “Humility is important in our culture. I think of an ember, it’s my job to keep the ember burning, and my job is to nurture the youth who are going to take care of that fire in the future. That’s my job.”