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Royal Ontario Museum to return human remains and artifacts removed from burial mounds




Artifacts, sacred objects and the remains of ancestors will soon be returned to Rainy River First Nations from the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto, where they have been stored for more than 30 years.

The Anishinaabe community in Northwestern Ontario is home to one of the largest known concentrations of burial mounds, located along the Rainy River. They were excavated and studied in the 1950s-1970s by Walter Kenyon, a curator at the ROM.

Now the Rainy River First Nations and the ROM are in talks to return approximately 4,000 artifacts, including human remains.

“It’s our history. It’s who we are,” said Shawn Brown, a Rainy River First Nations council member.

The Rainy River First Nations comprise seven Anishinaabe bands that lived along the Rainy River, which they call Manidoo Ziibo (Spirit River). The site where the mounds are is called Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung, which means ‘the Place of the Long Rapids.’

Kayleigh Speirs, Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung administration manager, and Shawn Brown, Rainy River First Nations council member, both say they’re excited to see thousands of artifacts returned to the community. (Will McGinnis)

The repatriation process is still in the planning stages and the community is working with the ROM to figure out logistics of how to safely transport the artifacts and where they will go. The hope is to return the artifacts next spring or summer.

The site where the original mound was excavated is now privately owned and finding a safe spot for them within the community is a process.

“I’m excited about bringing them back home and having them back where they belong,” said Brown.

“I don’t think many communities that have artifacts and even ancestors in these museums know that they can actually go and talk to them and ask them if they are from our community.”

Removed for study and not returned

Indigenous burial mounds are found across North America and many were excavated in the 19th and 20th centuries, with artifacts and remains removed for examination. Often what was removed was not returned.

“In the past these communities were often promised when these archeologists came in that they would get this amazing information,” said Kayleigh Speirs, administration manager of the Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre in Stratton, Ont.  

But often the information gathered wasn’t brought back to the communities, she said.

“Now this does give the opportunity — if communities are interested in getting any of that knowledge — it gives them that potential.”

Opportunity for new project

In December 2016, several Elders and representatives from the Rainy River First Nations approached Craig Cipolla, the ROM’s curator of North American Archeology, to discuss the possibility of repatriation.

The Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre is located along the north shore of the Rainy River. (Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre)

A formal request was then submitted to the ROM’s board of directors, which was approved and opened the lines of communication between the communities and the museum to figure out the best approach to repatriation.

“I’m really excited not only to to get things back where they need to go but to be asking your questions in new ways,” said Cipolla.

It has presented an opportunity for a new community-led project, which the museum representatives say will include consultation with Elders.


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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla




Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm




Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover




KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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