Indigenous Top Ten

May 8, 2013

New Michif language early childhood learning project launched

An educational concept to instruct young learners in the Michif language has now turned into a reality with the launch of an imaginative learning tool.  The Michif Language Learning Project was inspired because access to Michif speakers can be problematic in many communities. It was this lack of early learning resources that prompted Marilyn Bean and Jan Ovans of the Cowichan Valley Métis Association to apply for a Canadian Heritage grant to develop an early childhood Michif immersion project. The 2 women wrote script and Métis elder Stella Johnson provided the translation. Crucial to the project was the art and animation needed to appeal to this age group, which was provided by Earlene Bitterman. “I see this tool has the ability to adapt to any aboriginal language, and it just might be the instrument we need to preserve our aboriginal languages,” said Bitterman. The team have completed an application for another project this year to provide expanded vocabulary as well as interactivity in order to appeal to Métis youth. Michif Language Press Release

First Peoples' Cultural Council launches new First Nations language planning handbook

The First Peoples’ Cultural Council (FPCC) has released an all-in-one guide to language planning and policy development.  A Guide to Language and Planning for BC First Nations Communities provides a foundation for community-based language revitalization efforts, from surveying speakers to developing a community language plan and implementing language policies and programs. Aimed at language planning teams (language authorities), educators, First Nations leadership, and policy makers, it provides useful information, resource lists and templates for community use. “Each of BC’s 34 languages has a diversity of dialects and limited resources for the comprehensive activities that are needed for revitalization, so many communities sharing the same language are working together. This guide provides the necessary tools and frameworks to facilitate community collaboration and promote effective language planning,” said a FPCC spokesperson. The guide was developed based on extensive research into best practices in language planning and policy development, and was informed by successful language revitalization initiatives both in BC and around the world. FPCC News Release

New Zealand approach to Maori education an exemplary model for First Nations education in Saskatchewan

When Larry Steeves, an associate professor at the University of Regina, learned about the Te Kotahitanga program in New Zealand schools, he was blown away by how much it has boosted the education outcomes for thousands of Maori students and recognized how adopting such a program in Saskatchewan could have profound effects for Aboriginal students. The Te Kotahitanga program was first introduced in select NZ secondary schools in 2001. In 2003, 12 schools were involved and by 2012 it had proven so successful that 46 schools were taking part in the project. The project challenges traditional approaches to education, explains Steeves. For 3 years, project facilitators support teachers as they focus on Maori learning and achievement, and morph their classrooms into places of observation, feedback, construction and shadow-coaching. Evidence of Maori student performance in those classrooms is then used to inform problem-solving and decision-making throughout all levels of the school, leading to comprehensive school reform. The focus on Maori culture, Steeves says, is key. “If we want to improve educational outcomes for First Nations kids here, then they need to be connected to their culture—it’s as simple as that.” He says what’s interesting about the Te Kotahitanga is its use of peer-tutoring and co-operative learning models, and how effectively it uses “hard data” from the classroom—whether that’s from testing or student feedback—to inform changes at a school level. Regina Leader-Post

National Chief Atleo to visit winning schools of AFN student video contest

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) announced the winners of its AFN Student Video contest on Monday. Otter Nelson River School in Cross Lake, Manitoba and the iCount school in Moricetown, BC will receive a visit by National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo and others in the coming weeks as a reward for their wins. AFN invited First Nation students in Grades 1 to 12 to create videos about their schools as part of national education advocacy efforts supporting First Nation education. Students were asked to explain what they like about their school, how it’s making a difference in their lives, and what they would change to make their school even better. “These students deliver incredibly powerful messages with great creativity and energy. Their experiences and commitment to their schools must guide us now to ensure that every student is fully supported to achieve success,” said Chief Atleo. AFN News | AFN Student Video Contest

New Saskatchewan Aboriginal youth task force aimed at education, employment

This spring Saskatchewan First Nations and Métis youth will have an opportunity to participate in a dialogue on education and employment challenges, and identify the types of supports they believe would be most helpful to them in achieving their goals. Last Thursday, the province announced the launch of the Aboriginal Youth Task Force, chaired by Saskatoon Fairview MLA Jennifer Campeau. “We want to hear from First Nations and Métis youth about what works, what does not work, and what they think we need to do to make programs targeted toward young people work better,” said Rob Norris, Vice-Chair, legislative secretary for First Nations Engagement.  “We really want to understand more clearly their interests in, and questions about, education, employment and entrepreneurship.”  Youth between the ages of 16 and 25 are encouraged to meet with the task force, which plans to visit 12 communities in the province. Saskatchewan News Release | Regina Leader-Post

uCalgary initiative boosts Aboriginal medical student admissions

According to Ian Walker, director of admissions for undergraduate medical education at the University of Calgary, the school has seen a sharp increase in the number of admitted Aboriginal applicants since it began a new initiative aimed at levelling the playing field. The new data – presented in late April at the Canadian Conference on Medical Education in Quebec City – showed it’s possible to increase enrolment of Aboriginal students without changing the admission standards for all students or setting aside reserved spots for those with Aboriginal background, said Walker. Since 2010, uCalgary has been using a scoring system that compares and ranks Aboriginal applicant MCAT scores and grade-point averages against a historical data set of Aboriginal applicant scores, rather than against the non-Aboriginal applicant pool. There’s no difference in the average grades received by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students in their first year of medical school. In fact, said Walker, those students who would not have gotten into the medical school using the old admissions method actually very slightly outperform the class average. Calgary Herald

UBC Aboriginal Access Studies program equips students with skills for success

One of the first students to register in the University of British Columbia’s Aboriginal Access Studies program is set to cross the stage at convocation this June with his bachelor’s degree in Cultural Studies. Jordan Coble, a member of the Westbank First Nation, began studying in the program when it was first offered at UBC’s Okanagan campus in 2007. Aboriginal Access is designed to provide Indigenous students with a solid foundation as they are introduced to university studies. Adrienne Vedan, director of Aboriginal Programs and Services, stresses the importance of providing holistic support for student academic and social success. “Each student brings a unique skill set with them and we build upon those skills to ensure a successful transition from their first year of studies into their degree programs.” Once enrolled, students take 3 first-year university courses per term. They earn prerequisites they might not have, and gain admission requirements for programs in line with their long-term academic goals. From just a few students in 2007, the program now has 154 students. Of these, 73% have remained in PSE studies, says Vedan.  UBC Reports

Portage College’s Round Dance celebrates Aboriginal culture, community partnerships

Portage College’s annual Round Dance celebration on April 20 was used as a forum to honour and give back to the communities it supports and partners with, and to show the value and importance of its Aboriginal culture. The event was also used to officially launch a new service for students - The Virtual Mentor and Elder Program. The virtual program allows Portage students to interact with 3 very high profile Aboriginal people -- Lisa Bourque-Bearskin, Dr. Evelyn Steinhauer, and Elder Francis Whiskeyjack. The trio will be monitoring the site and responding to student inquires.  The site will serve 2 purposes, one being that the mentors and elder will be posting cultural content for students to access. The other service will focus on personal interaction. The mentors will be available to help students who have needs or issues, or just provide a friendly ear. Portage College News

Ontario budget lends more support for Aboriginal education success

Ontario’s 2013 budget, tabled last Thursday, includes significantly more funding for Aboriginal communities in the province. For the 2013–14 school year, the government will continue its investment in projects that support the implementation of the First Nation, Métis and Inuit Education Policy Framework. The goal of the framework is to increase Aboriginal student achievement and help close the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students. The government will continue to explore strategies to support the successful transition of First Nation students from on-reserve to provincially funded schools. In addition to the more than $45 million in ongoing support, the government will provide $5 million per year to improve student achievement for Aboriginal students. 2013 Ontario Budget

Native Access Program to nursing boosts number of Aboriginal nurse graduates in Saskatchewan

Through the University of Saskatchewan and the recruitment of students through the Native Access Program to Nursing (NAPN), the Aboriginal nursing shortage in the province is being addressed. "Aboriginal health professionals have a much better understanding of the needs of their communities," says Lois Berry, associate dean at the College of Nursing. "They can help other healthcare professionals do a better job at serving those needs for the aboriginal population.” The NAPN program works closely with Aboriginal students to aid them with achieving a nursing career. With advisors and support systems, students are guided through various areas, including meeting academic pre-requisites for entry into the nursing program. Emergency support services include childcare and healthcare supplements—along with helping students overcome personal challenges. Advisors with NAPN travel to band schools in First Nations communities as part of the recruitment process. Once students confirm they want a career in nursing, they are assisted through the process with mentorship. Nearly 300 Aboriginal students have graduated from the NAPN program since its inception 25 years ago. Regina Leader-Post