Towards a constellation of indigenous FabLabs

The First Peoples Innovation Centre was created in 2012 to support and stimulate social and technological innovation among First Peoples. Among its programs, FPIC has created a digital creation and manufacturing space and program called the “Onaki FabLab”. The main goal of this FabLab is to expose young Indigenous peoples to the digital age and technological knowledge of the 21st century.

FPIC adapted the FabLab (Fabrication Laboratory) model developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a culturally appropriate response to Indigenous youth and enable them to take charge of their own professional future. Indigenous FabLabs recreate social bonds. Integrating the great traditional values of the First Peoples, the indigenous FabLabs place the practical and the experimental approach at the heart of learning.





What is a FabLab?

Fablabs are part of what is called “innovative pedagogy.” Informal and cooperative learning is encouraged by focusing on the creation of objects that can range from robots to 3D prints to new handcrafted creations. FabLabs emphasize experimentation, practice and autonomy.

A FabLab is a place of creation, learning, invention, innovation and mentoring. FabLabs provide access to unique skills, diverse materials and advanced technologies to allow anyone, anywhere, to do almost anything. FabLabs share the goal of making technical invention tools accessible to everyone.

To learn more about the FabLab universe click here.



Nomad FabLab

The FPIC aims not to leave behind young Indigenous people living in often isolated communities. With its nomad FabLab, FPIC offers young Indigenous training that leads to employment.

The FPIC is the bridge between Young Indigenous, Digital skills and Needs of the job market.

A team of instructors from the FPIC and their equipment travels to present to young Indigenous and their communities the possibilities offered by digital fabrication. Like the Onaki FabLab, the nomad FabLab offers basic digital training. Participants from these cohorts can then pursue extended training at the urban fixed FabLabs either in Gatineau or La Tuque, and they can then become assistant instructors or instructors themselves.

Onaki FabLab

The Onaki FabLab located in Gatineau is the first Indigenous FabLab in Canada.

The programming structure was articulated around two main axes : Indigenous pride and technological innovation

A 5-month training program has been specifically developed to meet the needs and aspirations of Indigenous youth. The approach applied the transmission of knowledge inspired by indigenous knowledge transfer: Learning by observation, fragmentation of knowledge into phases of transmission and ongoing practice.

Feminine FabLab

The feminine FabLab is an innovative project that aims to bring indigenous women directly into the digital age. The vision of this project is that the use of new technologies will allow indigenous women to be exposed to different career choices related to the new digital economy. Following the success of the Onaki FabLab, the feminine FabLab was created to establish a more welcoming space exclusively for women and gender minorities. A little different from the Onaki FabLab, the feminine FabLab emphasizes entrepreneurship.

Wawacte FabLab

The FPIC support the Atikamekw authorities and their partners in setting up the first Atikamekw FabLab located in La Tuque. The Council of the Atikamekw Nation (CAN), the leaders of the Atikamekw communities as well as certain economic partners, are happy helped the establishment of a second permanent indigenous FabLab, the Wawacte FabLab in La Tuque. The Wawacte FabLab plays an important role in the region. Not only is it open to young Atikamekw living in remote communities, but it also allows these young people to integrate into different economic sectors in their region and in particular, in businesses requiring digital skills.Visit their Facebook page

Exportation of indigenous FabLabs

In 2021 and 2022, The FPIC aims to open Onaki-style FabLabs that will serve Indigenous youth in Ontario and New Brunswick. These two FabLabs will be designed according to the same configuration as that the one in La Tuque and Gatineau but will adapt to the realities of the communities. However, the goal will remain the same: to develop culturally appropriate learning spaces for indigenous youth and help them find of employment into the promising economic field of the Digital Age, of course, with an indigenous twist.