Indigenous Top Ten

November 20, 2013

uSask reports 30% increase in Aboriginal student enrolment

The University of Saskatchewan is reporting an increase of almost 30% in Aboriginal student enrolment this fall over last year, according to Global News. This brings the total number of self-identified Aboriginal students at uSask to approximately 2,000. Candace Wasacase-Lafferty, the uSask First Nations and Métis Engagement Director at its English River facility, says that the facility has been reaching out to First Nations communities as part of efforts to get more students enrolled in university. Max FineDay, President of the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union, says that “being an Indigenous university student still has its challenges.” Programs like uSask’s Aboriginal Student Achievement Program (ASAP) offer support for new students through the creation of learning communities and dedicated advisers and peer mentors. The English River facility provides cultural and spiritual support for Aboriginal students, as does the Aboriginal Students’ Centre on the Saskatoon campus. “They’re comfortable; they kind of settle into their studies a little better because they know there’s a connection to home, even if it’s a spiritual connection,” said Robert Badger, the facility’s Cultural Coordinator. Global News | New York Times

NWT launches new education framework

The government of the Northwest Territories has released a new plan for K-12 education in the territory. The new plan, Education Renewal and Innovation Framework: Directions for Change, provides new approaches to numerous aspects of the education system, based on 2 primary goals: to establish an “effective, relevant NWT education system for all learners,” and to establish an “associated, practical reporting, management, and accountability framework.” The framework defines new foundational approaches to education, incorporating cultural teachings and land-based learning, forming partnerships between communities and schools, and encouraging students to develop a “strong sense of identity.” The NWT government has pledged to renew the K-12 curriculum based on the framework’s approach to education, and to work with Aboriginal governments where there is jurisdictional overlap. NWT News Release | APTN News | Framework

Cambrian partners with TransCanada to offer scholarships

Cambrian College has signed a partnership agreement with TransCanada that will provide scholarships to students in the Power Engineering program at Cambrian. Scholarships will be available to residents of the Town of Greater Napanee, as well as residents of the Tyendinaga – Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte and Alderville First Nations. TransCanada has committed $60,000 for 2-year scholarships for 3 students, with funding covering all tuition, fees, books, and living expenses. The agreement also provides the recipients experiential learning opportunities through summer work terms at local energy generating stations. “Students will gain invaluable experience working with energy sector professionals on a daily basis, learning practical skills and gaining the necessary knowledge needed to help them achieve the careers in the power industry.” Cambrian News Release

New Aboriginal Centre at Bow Valley College

Alberta’s Bow Valley College has opened a new Aboriginal student centre, the Iniikokaan (Buffalo Lodge) Aboriginal Centre. The centre is a dedicated space for Aboriginal learners to access cultural resources and connect with elders and traditional teachings. As well as providing space for individual and group studying, the centre “incorporates many Aboriginal symbols and artifacts of significance to Aboriginal Peoples of Southern Alberta,” providing a space of “serenity” and a “home away from home” for the college’s First Nations, Métis, and Inuit students. In addition to providing support for Aboriginal learners, the centre is “open to all College learners, faculty and staff, so its focus also includes deepening a shared understanding of Aboriginal teachings and ways of life," stated Sharon Carry, BVC President. BVC News Release

Ontario Chiefs join in rejection of proposed FNEA

Recently, members of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN), including Chiefs, Councillors, First Nation educators, Elders and youth, met to declare their rejection of the proposed First Nations Education Act, and to “confirm and declare First Nations Inherent and Treaty Right to control the future of education in NAN territory.” The declaration was made after a 3-day Chiefs Summit on Education, where Deputy Grand Chief Goyce Kakegamic, who holds the education portfolio, stated, “We have a sacred trust to our children and future generations to provide a quality education that respects our culture, values, and traditions while enabling them to live safe, healthy and productive lives, and today we are taking action to make that a reality.” The Anishinabek Nation Chiefs, through the Union of Ontario Indians, has also unanimously rejected the proposed education act, as "an unwelcome intrusion into Anishinabek Nation’s inherent jurisdiction." CBC | Wawatay News | Net News LedgerChronicle Journal | Union of Ontario Indians News Release

TRC gains 1-year extension

The mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has been extended by one year, until June 20, 2015, announced Bernard Valcourt, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development last week. The TRC was seeking the extension of its mandate in order to finalize the gathering of documents relating to the Indian Residential School system and to write the final report. The mandate of the TRC is to learn the truth of the history of residential schools, and to educate the general Canadian public about what occurred. Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Bill Erasmus, who holds the national portfolio for residential schools, noted “The TRC is essential in providing sharing and truth-telling opportunities for residential school survivors and reconciliation for all Canadians.  It is essential that it be allowed to complete its work.” Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy stated, “It’s not only First Nations history but part of the Canadian history overall. We have to educate the general public about this part of our shared history as nations and deal with it collectively as a country.” AADNC News Release | APTN News | AFN News ReleaseManitoba News Release | Chiefs of Ontario News Release

Summer literacy camps help prepare Aboriginal youth for school

Frontier College has issued its report on 2013 summer literacy camps, reporting a 44% increase in the number of children attending the camps over 2012. The summer camps provide “fun, educational activities with the goal of developing language, literacy and numeracy skills,” through individual and group reading exercises, games, arts and crafts, field trips, cultural activities, and guest speakers. 2013 saw the addition of 21 new communities, including the first-ever program in NWT, and the hiring and training of more than 240 staff members, many of whom were Indigenous youth from local communities. The summer literacy camps work to offset “summer learning loss,” which occurs when the routine of learning during the school year is interrupted by summer holidays. Students who take part in literacy camps are better prepared to start the new school year; 98% of parents surveyed said their child was more prepared for school after camp, 80% of teachers and administrators noted strengthened social skills in students who went to camp, and 77% said camp improved school readiness in their students. As part of the program, more than 27,000 books were donated to camp communities. Frontier College News | Report

Ottawa high school creates Aboriginal lodge for students

Ottawa's Rideau High School has converted a classroom into an Aboriginal lodge, with cedar-lined walls, Aboriginal symbols and artwork, and a separate smudging room for cultural ceremonies. The as-yet-unnamed lodge is partially in response to Ontario’s 2007 vision document for Aboriginal education, but for Geordie Walker, Principal at Rideau, "It's really just creating a space where we honour and respect this community." The school has also replaced the mandatory Grade 11 English course with one from the Aboriginal studies curriculum that meets necessary criteria. The lodge may also be used for classes, specifically those that deal with Aboriginal culture and traditional worldviews. Kristin Kopra, Aboriginal education instructional coach for the local school board, stated, “The lodge is just another way, as a board, that we're trying to bring that visibility to the surface so that we're creating culturally responsive, culturally reflective spaces that kids really can take pride in." Ottawa Citizen

BC signs Aboriginal education agreement with school district

The Bulkley Valley school district has signed an education agreement with the province of British Columbia, renewing the province’s commitment to support Aboriginal learner success. This is the second Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement signed with the district, and includes new content such as an 8-week unit called "We are Witsuwit'en" for Grade 4 classes that culminates in a traditional feast in the community; Indian Residential School history and impacts for Grade 7 students through "Untold History: Understanding the Impact of Indian Residential Schools on Canada's Aboriginal People;" and in-depth history of the local First Nations with "Niwhts'ide'nï Hibi'it'ën: The Ways of Our Ancestors," to be integrated into Grade 7-12 curriculum. Peter Fassbender, Minister of Education stated, "Aboriginal Enhancement Agreements continue to yield dividends for Aboriginal students throughout the province and I want to congratulate all those who have come together in support of students in the Bulkley Valley." BC News Release

Inuit youth speak up for education, careers

At the recent Parnasimautik consultations held in Kuujjuaq, Nunavik, local youth representatives made it clear that they want to know more about their future opportunities. Parnasimautik, which means “what you need to be prepared,” is the process by which regional organizations will draft a home-grown development plan, a “comprehensive vision for the development of the region,” which will be presented to the Quebec provincial government when complete. The 18-month consultation process is close to wrapping up, with only a few communities left to visit. A local teacher who took grade 5 students to the consultations afterwards stated, “Most of the students were really interested hearing about the region’s history ... It’s important for them to understand the past so they can be part of the future – even if they don’t understand what part they have.” Youth representative Leanna Angnatuq spoke for her classmates, and focused on “education and employment and how we need to prepare ourselves for college [and] bring more post-secondary opportunities here.” Nunatsiaq Online