Indigenous Top Ten

September 11, 2013

SK and FSIN sign education and employment agreement

Perry Bellegarde, Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, and Brad Wall, Saskatchewan’s Premier, recently signed a bilateral agreement that formalizes their shared intent of increasing employment and education prospects for Indigenous communities. Bellegarde and Wall intend to increase pressure on the federal government to address the funding disparities that exist between on- and off-reserve schools; in SK it is estimated that on-reserve schools receive 40-50% less funding per student than off-reserve schools. The agreement also includes plans for the parties to meet more regularly to discuss education, job and skills training, housing, and any other topics of shared interest. Metro News | Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Obomsawin documentary highlights education for First Nations

Noted filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin debuted her newest documentary film on the weekend at the Toronto International Film Festival, highlighting Shannen Koostachin’s dream to bring a school to Attawapiskat. Hi-Ho Mistahey! explores the wide gaps existing between educational opportunities for First Nations communities and those for other Canadian youth, focusing on the children of Attawapiskat, who have been without a proper school for over 10 years. Chemical contamination caused the old school to be torn down and students were forced to attend classes in portable structures that were cramped and falling apart. 14-year-old Koostachin started a national youth campaign in 2008 when she lobbied the federal government to build a new school and was told it wasn’t a priority. Koostachin died tragically in 2010, shortly after plans to build a new school were announced. Obamsawin calls the youth of Attawapiskat “incredible” and says of Koostachin, “she had a brilliant idea and went to the children, and you can see, in the end, it’s the children who win the war.” Global News | CBC | Huffington Post |

Researchers and First Nations communities address water issues

An innovative new program will combine technical water and wastewater management training with Indigenous theory, law and methodological skills training in order to address the multi-billion dollar water-services gaps that currently exist in Canada. Currently, over 100 First Nations in Canada do not have drinkable tap water. The CREATE H2O Program for Water and Sanitation Security in First Nations will be a collaboration among students, First Nations communities, and researchers from the University of Manitoba, Trent University, and University College of the North. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) has committed $1.65 million over 6 years for the multi-institutional, interdisciplinary research and training initiative, which will train more than 50 students and postdoctoral fellows, many of whom will be Indigenous. Industry partners will work with participants, offering work terms and training workshops.  uManitoba News | Trent News

Finalists announced for First Nations, Métis and Inuit literary award

The Canadian Organization for Development through Education (CODE) has announced the finalists for the inaugural Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature. The Burt Award is a unique literary award and readership initiative, aimed at recognizing excellence in young-adult literature and “providing engaging and culturally-relevant books for young people across Canada.” As well as awarding the top 3 authors with monetary prizes, 2,500 copies of the books will be purchased and distributed to schools, libraries, and Friendship Centres. The finalists are: As Long as the Rivers Flow by James Bartleman, Free Throw by Jacqueline Guest, Shadows Cast by Stars by Catherine Knutsson, As I Remember It by Tara Lee Morin, and Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese. Winners will be announced October 2. CODE News

Lakehead’s new law school to focus on Indigenous and northern issues

Last week, Thunder Bay’s Lakehead University officially launched its new faculty of law and welcomed the first cohort of students to the program. The law school was developed in partnership with local First Nations and the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO), and will focus on Indigenous law and issues relating to northern and rural/small communities. The law school will also offer a legal aid clinic, which will play a role in helping people access legal help, regardless of their income. A new report from the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) calls Canada’s access to the justice system “abysmal,” particularly for low-income people. The CBA report sets a goal for all law schools in Canada to have student legal clinics to help low-income people by 2020, and calls for more federal funding for civil legal aid. Lakehead News | MNO News | CBC | Chiefs of Ontario News

Nunavut fights to preserve Inuit languages

Although among the most vibrant of Canada’s Indigenous languages, Inuktitut is seeing a marked decline in the number of fluent speakers, especially among the youth. According to 2011 data from Statistics Canada, about 63% of Inuit people stated they can carry a conversation in an Inuit language, down from 69% in 2006. The Nunavut government has passed two laws in order to try to address the decline: the Official Languages Act, which gives official language status to Inuit languages along with English and French, and the Inuit Language Protection Act, which aims to reinforce Inuit languages in education and daily life. Nunavut Premier and Languages Commissioner Eva Aariak notes the importance of language instruction both at school and in the home, and the need for financial and human resources in order to strengthen the languages within the communities themselves. Toronto Star

MNO president challenges members to support youth

The Métis Nation of Ontario recently held their Annual General Assembly in Ottawa, where an Economic Development Law was unanimously passed. MNO President Gary Lipinski challenged attendees “to encourage and support young people in believing in themselves so they would seize every possible opportunity.” The MNO operates several programs that provide educational support, employment training, and support for families to lead healthy lifestyles. During the 3-day AGA, Ontario announced funding through the New Relationship Fund for the MNO to hire an economic development coordinator and a traditional knowledge collection coordinator. MNO News | Ontario News Release

SFU sees record Indigenous student intake

Simon Fraser University is welcoming a record intake of approximately 125 Indigenous students this fall semester, adding to the close to 500 Indigenous students already enrolled at SFU. Eldon Yellowhorn, Chair of the department of First Nations Studies, notes the dramatic increase from when he was a student at SFU in the early 1990s, when he was one of less than a dozen Indigenous students. UBC and other Vancouver PSE institutions are also seeing increases in Indigenous student enrolment, many of whom are coming directly from high school. Targeted recruitment efforts, inclusive environments, and student support services are all credited as reasons for this growth, although many suggest that until the percentage of Indigenous students and faculty matches the percentage of Indigenous peoples in Canada, there is still much more work to be done.

Kiuna Institute offers First Nations-focused curriculum

Quebec’s Kiuna Institute is helping to shape the next generation of Indigenous leaders through culturally-inclusive learning and a focus on student success. The majority of courses offered at Kiuna are within the First Nations Social Science diploma program that was developed specifically for Kiuna. Established in 2011 by the First Nations Education Council, Kiuna continues to grow; with close to 70 students this year, Kiuna has added a staff psychologist, an academic and social worker, and a liaison for French and English students to ensure the students have the necessary supports. Classes are offered in English and French, and when possible, in the students’ Indigenous language. Le Nouvelliste (in French) | APTN News

uSudbury and Mushkegowuk Tribal Council bring Indigenous studies to James Bay coast

The University of Sudbury and the Mushkegowuk Tribal Council, which represents the Cree communities of James Bay and northeastern Ontario, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to offer Indigenous Studies courses onsite in Moose Factory. The 2-year pilot project will mark the start of a long-term project to bring university education to the James Bay coast. Emily Faries from uSudbury’s department of Indigenous Studies is teaching the first few classes, which began in September. uSudbury News Release | Northern Life