Dawn Pratt, a Saulteaux chemist from Muscowpetung First Nation in Saskatchewan is the founder of Askenootow STEM Enterprise Inc.
It’s a consulting business that shares its knowledge of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with Indigenous youth in classrooms or workshops.
Pratt’s business, which is a 19th century Cree word meaning worker of the earth (it was also her great grandfather’s name), is still in the beginning stage, but she has already had a lot of interest from educational institutes and Indigenous organizations for her to help them Indigenize STEM for Indigenous youth.
“We need more stem professionals we have lots of lawyer lots of teachers your starting to see doctors but we need more we need more doctors more pharmacists,” Pratt tells APTN News.
She was introduced to chemistry when she was in Grade 3 or 4 and says she loved doing experiments with chemistry sets that her parents gave her.
She completed her Master’s in Chemistry at the University of Saskatchewan and graduated with a Master of Science degree in chemistry in 2011.
She says it’s wrong that there’s a stereotype that Indigenous Peoples are bad at math and science.
“I think it is a stereotype because I think it’s a matter of how our education system is delivered especially in math and science. Its a struggle for people who teach they themselves don’t even like math and science right.” says Pratt.
She points out that Indigenous Peoples have been putting science to use for hundreds if not thousands of years.
“Like the science of tanning hides I always think that’s so interesting because it has to do with the chemistry of the hide as well as how they use the fat of the brain, the fatty brain of the buffalo. That’s chemistry involved in tanning hide I think its really interesting,” she says.
Pratt goes on to say, many of our traditional ways incorporate science and that our ancestors taught it to the settler when they arrived in North America.
“We had to teach them how to survive especially in our harsh winters and we taught them how to survive we taught them what foods they needed to eat like that’s all biology and chemistry,” says Pratt.
Pratt’s consulting business Askenootow STEM Enterprise Inc. hasn’t been able to go into the classrooms quite yet because of the pandemic.
She has been working with some clients online to help them Indigenize STEM for their Indigenous students by helping develop curriculum and workshops.