Indigenous Top Ten

October 9, 2013

First Nations groups reject federal Education Act

With an expected October release of a federal First Nations Education Act on the horizon, several First Nations organizations have released statements rejecting the federal imposition of education legislation. The Union of BC Indian Chiefs, First Nations Summit, the BC Assembly of First Nations, and the Assembly of First Nations are calling on the federal government to put aside the released blueprint for the Education Act and ensure that any legislation be drafted in a spirit of reconciliation and partnership with First Nations. The 12 membership bands of the Prince Albert Grand Council hope to have their own education acts complete before parliament resumes this month, and intend to present their education acts to James Anaya, the United Nations special rapporteur on Indigenous issues, who is currently touring the country to investigate the country’s relationship with First Nations communities. The Chiefs of Ontario have also issued a statement of rejection, stating that “federal unilateral processes fail to recognize First Nations’ priorities, decision-making and jurisdiction.” In a recent interview, AFN National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo voiced concern that the forthcoming act will impose standards that do not reflect Indigenous culture and language, and that funding will not be increased. AFN News Release | Prince Albert Daily Herald | Chiefs of ON statement | CBC | Vancouver Sun

Manitoba First Nations children to receive free books from Parton’s Imagination Library

Children in 55 of Manitoba’s 63 First Nations will soon receive a new book every month from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The literacy foundation started by the country singer sends free books to children from birth to age 5 to encourage early literacy. In many First Nations communities there are no public libraries and no stores that sell children’s books. Karen Davis, an early child education worker from Ebb and Flow First Nation, is the driving force behind the project in Manitoba. She has been working for 6 years on the initiative, raising funds and support. So far, $700,000 has been raised, and approximately $250,000 more is needed to bring the program to the last 8 First Nations in Manitoba. The Dollywood Foundation covers staffing and travel, co-ordinates shipments from a database, and is able to purchase books at a large discount because of the volume of books the foundation buys. Involving parents is also a large part of the program, as children who are read to often perform better once they reach school age. Davis’ hope for the program is for “every child in a First Nation to start school with the enthusiasm where they can say, 'I can read. I know how to hold a book. My parents read to me.'” Winnipeg Free Press (1) | Winnipeg Free Press (2) | CBC

Education gap may be widening

New research presented at a recent conference titled Indigenous Issues in Post-Secondary Education: Transitions to the Workplace suggests that the education gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians is widening, despite gains in the numbers of Indigenous peoples with university degrees. According to 2 of the researchers, the widening gap could be due to the rapid rate at which non-Indigenous Canadians are furthering their education. As the Indigenous youth population continues to grow, closing the education gap has become a prominent public-policy issue. Other research presented at the conference looked at the fields of work of Indigenous graduates, finding large numbers in health care, education, and the public sector. While this could be positive given that these jobs tend to be secure and well-paid, the researchers noted that it could also indicate barriers to employment in other fields. Globe and Mail | Globe and Mail (infographic) | Conference website (includes links to research papers)

Residential school curriculum introduced at all NAN schools

The Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) has launched a new residential school curriculum program to be taught in all NAN schools. The curriculum is “designed to bring awareness to the intergenerational impacts the system had on First Nations people and promote awareness in reclaiming language, culture and skills that were lost during that time,” and includes residential school history, a framework with detailed lesson plans for Grades 9-12, and survivor stories from NAN members. NAN officials spent years developing the curriculum, to ensure its accuracy and effectiveness. Although the program is initially set to be launched only at NAN schools, officials hope to reach out to other jurisdictions and Ontario’s Ministry of Education. NAN Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler stated that including residential school history in all schools will help “increase public awareness and help with healing and reconciliation for all Canadians.” Nation Talk | TB News Watch

Community-based program launched to help PSE student retention

First Nations University of Canada launched the Indigenous Access and Transition Education Certificate (IATEC) program in September on the Piapot First Nation as an answer to problems many students face when transitioning to PSE. Officials at FNUniv say there is a large number of students who struggle with the transition to their second year of studies. The IATEC program is 10-months long, with transitional courses in math, English and science, as well as personal and cultural university preparedness. Students can receive 30 university credits upon successful completion of the program. FNUniv has also developed the Student Transition and Retention (STAR) program. Now in its third year of operation, the program helps students transition from first to second year. Larry Gauthier, FNUniv Registrar, said that the programs help to address some of the issues that stand in the way of student success. Regina Leader-Post

First Nations school teaches language, culture in Lethbridge

The Opokaa’sin Child Development Centre in Lethbridge, AB has opened doors at a new location to accommodate the 60 children attending pre-K and kindergarten. Opokaa’sin means “all the children” in Blackfoot, and it is the first school in Lethbridge specifically for First Nations children. Children from surrounding reserves and from within Lethbridge attend the school, which works with the Kainai school board to implement the kindergarten program. School officials say they hope one day to expand to offer more grades. Global News 

Dalhousie developing Aboriginal studies minor

Dalhousie University is developing a new interdisciplinary minor in Aboriginal Studies, with funding from the DALVision Academic Innovation initiative, announced in June. Currently there are a handful of courses in Indigenous topics across a variety of faculties, but no dedicated program. The project is a partnership among the Faculties of Arts and Social Sciences, Health Professions, and Management, along with the Transition Year Program and the Aboriginal Health Sciences Initiative. The curriculum developer is “starting by researching other universities that have similar programs in place, and then looking at speaking with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students about what they’d like to see, along with faculty and the community.” The project is expected to be complete by spring, with a hopeful launch date of fall 2015. Dal News

JIBC and MNBC sign MOU

Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC) and the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) have signed a 3-year agreement that “recognizes their common interests in education and research fields.” The MOU will allow for better discussions regarding recruitment and retention of Métis students, joint project initiatives, visits by MNBC representatives to educate students on Métis culture and history, and information exchanges between the 2 institutions. JIBC also signed a Métis Learners Protocol which “acknowledges and affirms the consultation and collaboration needed to incorporate Métis ways of knowing in the development and delivery of programs and services.” JIBC News Release

uAlberta celebrates its Aboriginal institutions and programs

Two of the University of Alberta’s Aboriginal institutions and programs are celebrating milestones this fall: The Faculty of Native Studies raised a tipi on September 27 to commemorate its 25th anniversary, while the Faculty of Education‘s Aboriginal Teacher Education Program (ATEP) marks 10 years in October. The Faculty of Native Studies has 437 alumni, is home to the Rupertsland Centre for Métis Research, and offers several native studies degrees, some of which are combined with education and science streams. The ATEP was established a decade ago by the Faculty of Education to meet an acute need for Aboriginal teachers and teachers with an understanding of Aboriginal histories and perspectives in classrooms. “The success and longevity of these initiatives shows the commitment uAlberta has to Indigenous education, from academic instruction to policy development and beyond,” says Martin Ferguson-Pell, Acting Provost and VP Academic. uAlberta News Release

Royal Roads opens Aboriginal Learning and Cultural Centre

Royal Roads University has officially opened its new Aboriginal Learning and Cultural Centre, which will provide a place in which to foster educational opportunities for Indigenous youth and for communication between First Nations groups and the larger community. The BC government invested $600,000 to transform the former Royal Roads boathouse and storage building into offices, classrooms and a large meeting space with waterfront views of Esquimalt Lagoon and Salish Sea. "One of the essential features of the building is to create a space that acknowledges and celebrates the history and culture of local Coast Salish Nations and provides a welcoming environment for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students, staff and faculty," says Royal Roads President Allan Cahoon. The new centre also comes with a new Indigenous Education and Student Services Manager position. Royal Roads News Release | BC News Release