Mya Wheeler joined the CGRF in August 2009 as a Master of Natural Resources Management candidate. She defended her thesis, Imagining Possibilities for Shared Place: Sense of place investigations into local connections and visions for the common ground land on Tunnel Island, Kenora, Ontario, in December 2011 – just as she was giving birth to her son, Julian!
Mya’s work began conversations regarding people’s connections, perspectives and possible visions for a piece of land commonly known as Tunnel Island near the center of Kenora, Ontario. She spoke to 25 residents from the surrounding area who have some physical connection to Tunnel Island.
The questions she asked were based on the concept of Sense of Place, which explores people’s connections and perspectives through their physical experiences on the land within the cultural and personal context that shapes the way a place is understood. A person’s sense of place is dynamic and constantly changing thus the results from her interviews are only a glimpse into some of the connections, perspectives, and visions held regarding Tunnel Island and the recently created shared land.
Mya discovered that most of the connections include activities carried out on the land but there were many connections specific to the Common Land, Common Ground movement in Kenora since the year 2000. There are many different perspectives held but some of the main themes included the importance of community building, respect for the place and spiritual significance, the impact of change, and the economic potential of the place.
The visions people communicated were closely tied to the connections and perspectives they held. One result of her study indicated that, when creating a shared place, it is essential to include the wider community in dialogue and allow people to express their ideas by sharing their connections with each other. Furthermore, disconnection to the place can and has occurred physically but also by not involving connected people in dialogue and decision-making.