Current Indigenous Top Ten
August 10, 2016
Vancouver Island University is using one-time provincial funding to reduce tuition for its Community Health Promotion for Aboriginal Communities (CHPA) program, making it more accessible to learners. CHPA launched last year in response to the concerns of Vancouver Island’s First Nations communities, who needed skilled personnel to meet members’ health needs. The certificate program offers training in community development and health education and promotion, and teaches the social elements of health in First Nations communities. “VIU is committed to providing an affordable and culturally safe program,” commented Carol Stuart, Dean of the Faculty of Health and Human Services at VIU.
A York University student has created a social media app that connects Indigenous youth. Grad student Alejandro Mayoral Baños created the app—Indigenous Friends—in order to provide Indigenous youth with a safe online space where they can connect with each other and access resources such as Elders and emergency crisis counselling. Baños, who is from Oaxaca, Mexico, worked with Mohawk elder Blu Waters and the North-South Partnership for Children, a charity that works with 30 remote First Nations communities across northern Ontario. The app has been developed from an Indigenous perspective and embeds traditional knowledge into the interface. The group is approaching high schools across ON to create awareness and encourage participation; schools in the Yukon have also expressed interest in the app.
Yukon College is enhancing its efforts around student retention with the introduction of a new support framework for students who are on academic probation or facing academic dismissal. Drawing on successful university programs in British Columbia and Alberta, the REBOOT program will connect students with the college’s Learning Assistance Centre to develop a personalized plan that fits the students’ schedules and addresses the specific challenges they are facing. The program will target both academic and non-academic issues in the students’ lives, offering sessions and/or workshops on study skills, time management, exam preparation, reducing test anxiety, and personal budgeting tips. Students can also get advice and access to additional resources available in the college and community.
First Nations University of Canada has opened up its Cree 150 Immersion course to casual students, allowing anyone who is interested in learning Cree to register. The Regina Leader-Post describes how the four-week crash course introduces students to the Cree language and culture through a variety of experiences. There is currently a need for more Indigenous language speakers, according to FNUniv language instructor Bill Cook, who added that opening up registration to anyone interested in the Cree language would boost enrolment in future years and increase the number of speakers.
Educators from across Ontario recently gathered at Algonquin College to learn about teaching Indigenous and residential school history. The workshop, called “Stolen Lives: The Indigenous Peoples of Canada and the Indian Residential Schools,” is part of the Ontario Teachers' Federation's summer institutes for professional development. Through hands-on activities, teachers learn how to engage students in discussions and lessons about difficult aspects of Canadian Indigenous history. "I think more teachers need to take the time to learn about these issues so that we can get this message out to our students, but also to the other people in our schools and our communities as well,” said one participant.
The Yukon government is making PSE grants available to more students through an added $376K in funding and the introduction of new regulations under the territory’s Student Financial Assistance Act. Students eligible for the YK Grant will see the maximum annual grant amount rise from $3,740 to $4,590. There is also a $1,500 airfare grant for students studying outside of the territory and students from communities outside Whitehorse are eligible for extra travel funding. Additionally, students can now receive a maximum lifetime amount of 170 weeks of combined financial aid from the Yukon Grant and Student Training Allowance.
A program at McMaster University in its second year is giving Indigenous university students a glimpse of life as a graduate student. The Indigenous Undergraduate Summer Research Scholars (IUSRS) program pairs students with academics, providing students the opportunity to work on research projects. All of the research projects incorporate Indigenous studies, and participating students also experience cultural teachings and activities. The program received a few updates this year, including running for an extra two weeks and partnering with Six Nations of the Grand River on the delivery of all Indigenous cultural activities. The goal of the program, said Bernice Downey, program coordinator of IUSRS, is to encourage Indigenous students to consider pursuing graduate degrees, with the long-term goal of increasing the number of Indigenous faculty members at universities in Canada.
Youth from across the North have been participating in summer camps designed to create interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Many of the camps are partnered with or put on by Actua, a not-for-profit organization specializing in STEM education. In the territories, a team from Actua is travelling between communities to hold workshops at summer camps. Kids get to experiment with technology that they normally do not have access to like robots and music-mixing software. In Cold Lake, Alberta, the Dene Wellness Centre held a camp put on by DiscoverE, a student-led group from the University of Alberta that is a member of Actua. This is the ninth year that DiscoverE has worked with the Cold Lake First Nations. Participants focused on engineering and science by making birdhouses, microscopes, tiny refrigerators, and electronic games.
Confederation College and Lakehead University are celebrating another successful summer for the First Nations Natural Resources Youth Employment Program (FNNRYEP) and the Mink Lake First Nations Youth Employment Program (MLFNYEP). Through partnerships with Outland Camps in northern Ontario, First Nations youth receive training and employment in the natural resources sector. The two camps are run independently, but come together several times over the summer for participants to engage with peers and learn together. Topics covered by the programs include anthropology, geography, dendrology, sustainable energy sources, visual arts, engineering, entrepreneurship, and Aboriginal mentorship. Students help with the collection of valuable tree inventories and other forestry data while exploring multiple areas of the natural resources sector. Many program participants have gone on to pursue further education and training based on experiences at the camp, say organizers.
Students from Dehcho First Nations recently took part in a two-week Exploring the Trades program at Vancouver Island University. The trip, which is funded by Dehcho First Nations, includes campus tours and mini-courses in a variety of trades programs, along with excursions in and around Nanaimo, BC. “They get to come to a university and experience that and experience the city for a couple weeks,” said Doug Campbell, VIU’s Coordinator of Professional Development and Training. “They also get a sense of what it’s like to take courses here. Several are considering a post-secondary career now.”