Indigenous Top Ten

October 31, 2012

First Nations and PSE communities remember SIIT president

Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies President and CEO Randell Morris passed away unexpectedly on October 16 at the age of 47. Morris had spent 20 years at SIIT, the last 5 of which he served as President and CEO. "Our sympathies, thoughts and prayers go out to Randell Morris's family," said SIIT. "As a member of the George Gordon First Nation, Randell was a strong leader and he will be greatly missed by all his friends, staff, and students." "Randell was a leader and visionary within the post-secondary education system in Saskatchewan," said the province's advanced education minister. "His success in building SIIT into a highly successful, culturally sensitive learning environment is a testament to his contributions to post-secondary education." National Chief Shawn Atleo said Morris "dedicated much of his life to ensuring education was a vehicle to advance the aspirations of First Nations learners." SIIT News | Saskatchewan News Release | AFN News Release | Saskatoon StarPhoenix | CBC

Indigenous languages on decline but some rescue efforts working

According to Statistics Canada, about 213,490 people claimed an Indigenous language as a mother tongue in the 2011 Census, which represents a drop of about 3,620 people, or 1.7%, since 2006. The Cree languages, Inuktitut, and Ojibway were the 3 most common of the 60 Indigenous languages reported. With many Indigenous languages endangered, efforts to stop language demise and promote revitalization are underway. For example, First Nations University of Canada offers major degrees in Cree and Saulteaux, and minors in Dene, Nakota, and Dakota. The institution is also pushing faculty and administration to gain facility in Cree. In Tyendinaga First Nation, a language-revitalization program at the Tsi Tyonnheht Onkawenna Language and Cultural Centre has succeeded in building language capacity in the community to a point where the community can now perform its own longhouse ceremonies without outside speakers. The Census provides some indication that school and community initiatives such as these are working. In 2011, more than 31,500 First Nations children aged 5 to 14 reported they were speaking their First Nation language at home -- a growth of 19%, or about 6,000 more children, since 2006. The AFN states that "greater support for First Nations language immersion, both in formal school settings and in community-based settings, would be an appropriate way to build a new way forward following the apology for residential schools in 2008." Statistics Canada | APTN | Canadian Press | AFN News

Follow-up on AFN rejection of Ottawa's education reform plan

"Refusing to collaborate is not an option," declared a recent Globe and Mail editorial. The editorial said First Nations leaders should put the interests of children first and set aside their historical grievances and mistrust of the federal government, while for its part the Conservative government should consult the AFN before introducing new native education legislation. In an interview with CBC's Information Morning about the AFN's decision, Morley Googoo, who holds the education portfolio on the AFN Executive and is the AFN regional chief for NS and NL, said that a unilateral approach by the federal government on education reform may not meet the needs of the diverse First Nations communities across Canada. He stressed that "with anything this major and this important and close to our hearts, which is our children, communication is going to be key along the process," and that treaty rights need to be respected in moving forward.  In an op-ed published in the Vancouver Sun, Mark Milke, a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute, wrote that AFN's decision "was an example of a react first, ask questions later approach." He cited data to claim that reform to the reserve system is needed, including options for off-reserve education. Globe and Mail | Vancouver Sun | Information Morning

NS First Nations students' graduation rate reaches 75% in 2011-12

According to Mi'kmaw Kina'matnewey's annual report, the secondary school graduation rate among First Nations students in Nova Scotia was 75% in 2011-12, more than double the national average of 35%. The report also shows that more than 400 First Nations students went on to enrol in PSE last year and more than 100 graduated from PSE institutions at the end of the 2011-12 academic year. Literacy, numeracy, and student retention rates in elementary and high schools continued to rise and efforts to maintain and revitalize the Mi'kmaq language remained strong. The executive director of Mi'kmaw Kina'matnewey attributes much of the success to the focused professional development of teachers at all grade levels and low student-teacher ratios that help instructors focus more on the needs of individual students. Mi'kmaw Kina'matnewey News | Chronicle-Herald | Annual Report

Nunavut DEAs overwhelmed, report finds

The groups responsible for delivering education in Nunavut communities say they don't have the resources to meet the responsibilities the territory has given them. District Education Authorities (DEAs) purchase textbooks, operate on-the-land programs, and hire elders in schools. In 2008, the new Education Act gave DEAs new responsibilities, such as running early childhood education programs and crafting student behaviour policies. A report commissioned by the Coalition of Nunavut District Education Authorities found that DEAs are so overwhelmed that their office managers barely return phone calls even when requests are repeated. The coalition says the Education Act increased workloads without adding more staff or funding. It's seeking full-time office managers, not part-time staff. The coalition also wants Nunavut's education department to listen to its concerns. CBC

Saskatchewan aims to narrow Aboriginal graduation gap by 50% by 2020

As outlined in its new Plan for Growth, the Saskatchewan government aims to reduce the difference in graduation rates between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students by 50% by 2020. The province intends to work with First Nations partners, employers, and PSE institutions to build on promising programs underway that help transitioning First Nations students who are moving off reserve to pursue jobs and education opportunities. The plan also states that the government intends to build on successful programs such as the Northern Career Quest Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership and the Active Measures partnership together with tribal councils, PSE institutions, northern communities, training providers, and the federal government to accelerate essential skills training and increase First Nations and MĂ©tis employment. Saskatchewan News Release | Saskatchewan Plan for Growth

RRC president on Indigenous initiatives

In an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press, Red River College President Stephanie Forsyth said the institution wants on-campus family housing and is considering more degree programs, in particular a Bachelor of Indigenous Adult Education. Faculties of education offer courses in adult Aboriginal education, but not specialized degree programs. "We're being asked to seriously look at it" by the Aboriginal community, Forsyth said. The development of on-campus family housing that could accommodate Aboriginal students, particularly those who cannot leave their families behind while coming to Winnipeg to study, is also a priority. "How do we enhance Aboriginal engagement? That's critical for Manitoba," said Forsyth. One way to engage Aboriginal students: "We would like to see family housing on this campus." Winnipeg Free Press

Trent president calls for more online education opportunities for Aboriginal students

If an Aboriginal student cannot come to Trent University, then perhaps Trent can come to the student. That was one idea proposed by Trent president Steven Franklin, who was on Parliament Hill last Tuesday to meet with the chairman of the federal Aboriginal Affairs committee. "One of the key areas that we feel should be fully developed is how to make online learning available in aboriginal communities and how to make sure we are designing the appropriate kind of course for aboriginal youth who maybe aren't in a position to come to the university," Franklin said. Trent, which currently has 63 undergraduate students enrolled in its renowned Indigenous Studies program, is anticipating an influx of Aboriginal students. Now is the time to ensure the institution has the means and supports in place to welcome them, Franklin said. Peterborough Examiner

Nunavut institutes social media ban at schools

Teachers at Nunavut schools are upset following the territorial education department's decision to block Facebook and YouTube at schools in order to save on bandwidth usage. The president of the Nunavut Teachers' Association says he's unhappy that teachers weren't informed about the ban beforehand. Instructors need access to these sites, in particular YouTube, because "many teachers are using very current material off the net in their lessons." Teachers are "trying to work around" the ban and do the best they can. Nunatsiaq News

OWA, Queen's Engineering sign MOU to boost Aboriginal student enrolment

On October 22, the Ontario Waterpower Association (OWA) and the Queen's University Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science signed an MOU focused on encouraging and enabling increased access for Aboriginal students to the university's engineering programs. "I look forward to working with the OWA and its members on advancing our shared objectives," says Queen's engineering Dean. "As Aboriginal communities in Canada increasingly manage their natural resources and build foundations for economic development, they will need more skilled engineers in many sectors—including waterpower." Queen's Engineering News