Living Lab emerged as a collaborative and inter-disciplinary initiative between UVic and the community over the Fall /Winter of 2015-2016 coordinated by the UVic Institute for Studies and Innovation in Community-University Engagement. Community groups involved in Indigenous food systems and ecosystem restoration such as Songhees Academic Youth Leadership (SAYL), coordinated by Charlotte Charlie, and the PEPÁḴEṈ HÁUTW̱ (PH) – W̱SÁNEĆ program, coordinated by Judith Lyn Arney, along with local schools such as Oak Bay (with teachers Dave Ashurst and Derek Shrubsole) involved in Bowker Creek restoration, were interested to have their youth and staff access and connect university, local government and NGO resources and expertise.
The Ph.D dissertation by W̱SÁNEĆ community member and Professor Nick Claxton on the recovery of the traditional reefnet fishery in 2016, https://www.uvic.ca/news/topics/2016+reclaiming-the-reef-net-fishery+ring, the in-depth marine restoration and education work by regional NGOs World Fisheries Trust and Sea Change Society, the ongoing work by the UVic-Community mapping collaboratory and others at UVic working on multi-disciplinary projects with the community were also driving forces. The national Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the growing interest by the UVic Office of Indigenous and Community Engagement and Science Venture to support Indigenous land-based learning and community engagement provided wrap around support and momentum for the project. John Taylor, a UVic Biology professor and resident of Oak Bay, was very inspired by the Oak Bay Community Green Map, which includes Indigenous place names, history and ecosystem knowledge. He was excited about connecting his Department and students with local hands-on science and restoration projects with Indigenous youth, schools and the broader community. With the support and guidance of World Fisheries Trust and community -UVic partners, John co-created an NSERC Promo Science proposal in 2016 with the new project collaborators and each year this has provided seed funding for Living Lab science projects and events. The Horner Foundation provided funding focused on the Songhees Nation and youth from 2017-2019. The UVic Aboriginal Service Plan funded by the BC Ministry of Advanced Education has core funded Living Lab’s work from 2018-to date (2020) with academic leadership from Professor and TSAWOUT Chief Nick Claxton. In 2020 Living Lab also received a Community Engaged Learning Grant from UVic to support community-based and led archaeology and ethnobotany work with Professor Darcy Mathews on the Tl’Ches Islands. The Departments of Geography, History, Indigenous Education, Education and Environmental Studies have each given significant in-kind time and resources as has the Capital Region District, World Fisheries Trust, Science Venture and local Songhees and W̱SÁNEĆ Nations. All remain involved on the Steering Ctte and Advisory along with Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers.
A major inspiration and focus for the beginnings of Living Lab’s work was the launching of the book- Knowing Home: Braiding Indigenous Science with Western Science in the Fall of 2017 at First Peoples House co-authored by former UVic Professors Gloria Snively and Lorna Wanosts’a7 Williams. Lorna is from the St’at’yemc Nation (Mt Currie) and is also past Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Knowledge and Learning and 2019 recipient of the Order of Canada) https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/knowinghome/ andhttps://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/knowinghome2/.