Indigenous Top Ten

December 4, 2013

New Aboriginal education council at Carleton

Carleton University has established a new Aboriginal Education Council made up of students, staff and faculty, and representatives from local First Nations communities. The council is designed to ensure the implementation of Carleton’s long-term coordinated strategy on Aboriginal issues, including providing guidance on “programs, courses and services that have an Aboriginal focus.” The council will also serve as a resource on the educational and support needs of Aboriginal students, staff and faculty. Chair Anita Tenasco, Kitigan Zibi’s Director of Education, stated “The Aboriginal Education Council wants to help provide all Aboriginal students every opportunity to learn and expand their horizons. Education is the key to First Nations, Inuit and Métis people moving forward in a positive way.” Carleton recently opened a new Aboriginal centre, called Ojigkwanong, which means morning star in Algonquin. The centre was designed by Indigenous architect Douglas Cardinal, and is a hub for the more than 600 Aboriginal students and faculty at Carleton. Ottawa Citizen | Carleton News Release

Indigenous leaders sign Aboriginal Protocol Agreement with Lakehead’s law faculty

A new Aboriginal Protocol Agreement has been signed between Lakehead University’s Faculty of Law and the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, the Union of Ontario Indians, Grand Council Treaty #3, and the Métis Nation of Ontario. “This protocol agreement establishes a much-needed process for ongoing engagement with the Aboriginal community so priorities from our perspective are identified and understood,” said Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Goyce Kakegamic. The agreement establishes semi-annual meetings where Indigenous leaders and representatives from the new law faculty will meet to discuss Aboriginal and northern issues and perspectives. Lakehead President Brian Stevenson stated, “We value our partnerships and look forward to working with all of these groups to make the Faculty of Law the best it can be for this community and the region.” Lakehead News Release

FNUniv releases new 5-year strategic plan

The First Nations University of Canada has released its new strategic plan, “Lighting the Path: 2013-2018 Strategic Plan.” The plan describes the vision and mission of the university and outlines 4 strategic areas of focus that will guide FNUniv for the next 5 years: Indigenous languages, cultures, and traditions; innovative student learning experience; sustainable growth; and enhanced stakeholder engagement. The plan states that these 4 themes are “aligned with the University’s vision and mission, which speak to the institution’s foundational and ongoing mandate to deliver accessible, high quality education while fostering and promoting Indigenous tradition, culture and values.” Acting President Juliano Tupone told the Leader-Post that he believes the goals are attainable, based on groundwork already laid. FNUniv will establish a small, internal committee dedicated to implementing aspects of the strategic plan. Tupone also spoke to the need to increase student enrolment and retention and outreach to local communities. “The importance of close connection to Indigenous communities echoes throughout the plan as a key element of FNUniv’s distinctiveness,” states the plan. FNUniv Strategic Plan | Regina Leader-Post

Series highlights innovative Indigenous-led PSE

BC newspaper The Tyee recently ran a series of stories exploring “unconventional institutions or programs which have set out to deliver postsecondary-level instruction, with a clearly Indigenous voice.” The series, titled “Call of the Spirit: Stories of Success in Indigenous-Led Post-Secondary Education” consists of 4 installments, each detailing innovative institutions and/or programs with an Indigenous perspective. The series details the many ways that Indigenous communities have participated in their own education, such as a new program called the Stewardship Technician Training Program, a partnership between Vancouver Island University (VIU) and the Coastal Stewardship Network, where students learn how to manage and protect fragile coastline environments on traditional territories, and Kwantlen University’s goals for an Indigenous Studies program that meets the needs of the First Nations on whose traditional territory Kwantlen’s campuses are built. The series also looks at First Nations University of Canada, which, according to The Tyee, is the only Canadian institution offering university degrees “that integrates First Nations culture and ways of knowing into every class, rather than cordoning it off into one or 2 departments,” and the Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning in NWT, which offers a unique, land-based education in partnership with the University of Alberta, encouraging critical thinking while learning survival skills. The Tyee (series page)

Saskatoon hosts 4th AFN National Youth Summit

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) 4th National Youth Summit was held last month in Saskatoon, and over 500 First Nations young people from across Canada took part in workshops and panel discussions on issues defined by youth. AFN National Youth Council Co-Chair Noel Joe stated, “First Nations young people are the fastest growing demographic in Canada and need to be meaningfully included in shaping the way forward on all areas that affect our lives and the futures of our nations.” Important issues such as education, economic development, health, Treaties, and supporting cultures and languages were discussed, and attendees have set a 5-year action plan for change and progress to address their priorities, which will be released in early 2014 and incorporated into AFN’s national agenda. AFN News Release 

uAlberta celebrates Indigenous education graduates

The University of Alberta’s Faculty of Education is celebrating record graduation numbers from 2 separate programs. The Aboriginal Teacher Education Program graduated a record 48 students last month, and is also celebrating its 10-year anniversary as a program this year. As well, the Master’s program in Indigenous Peoples Education, in the Department of Educational Policy Studies, saw a record 22 students graduate from the program offered in partnership with Blue Quills First Nations College. Both programs allow students to focus on Indigenous knowledge and traditions, often while remaining in or near home communities. Graduates from both programs spoke of the support systems available to the students, and one MEd graduate said, “Everybody was on the same page in the program ... We all want to ensure Indigenous knowledge is passed down to not only Aboriginal people, but all people in this beautiful province.” uAlberta News Release | BEdition Magazine

Nunavik announces initiative to keep youth in school

Nunavik is launching a new stay-in-school initiative to address the high dropout rates across the northern Quebec region. Called Esuma — roughly translated as “thinking” in Inuktitut — the project will involve partners such as the Kativik School Board, Makivik Corp, regional broadcaster Taqramiut Nipingat Inc, the Fédération des coopératives du Nouveau-Québec, and the 2 major mining companies that operate in the region, among others. The goal of Esuma is not necessarily improving graduation rates, but on creating an interest in school and education. “Whenever we talk about success rate among our students, the first thing they see is this big mountain that no one is able to climb,” said project coordinator Elias Moukannas, “We want the focus to be on working hard and achieving goals. And if we all focus on a good quality education, maybe they’ll want to stay in the region.” Esuma officially launches in January with a call for projects, which will be developed by individual communities and organizations. Nunatsiaq Online

StatsCan releases education data from Aboriginal Peoples Survey

New data from the 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Survey has been released by Statistics Canada, providing “insights into factors associated with staying in or dropping out of school, how educational background can affect work experiences, and what plans for further schooling might be among First Nations people living off-reserve, Inuit and Métis aged 18 to 44.” The survey showed that 72% of First Nations people living off-reserve, 42% of Inuit and 77% of Métis aged 18 to 44 had a high school diploma or equivalent, figures which are comparable to the 2006 data. Of these “completers,” 14% of off-reserve First Nations people, 15% of Inuit, and 9% of Métis had left schooling at least once, before returning to obtain high school credentials. The survey found certain characteristics common among those who completed high school, such as good grades, extracurricular activities (including reading), parents with high school diplomas, and friends who valued education. The survey also showed that 43% of off-reserve First Nations people, 26% of Inuit, and 47% of Métis aged 18 to 44 had postsecondary credentials, again comparable to the 2006 data. StatsCan Daily

Update on proposed First Nations Education Act

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo has issued an open letter to Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada Bernard Valcourt, stating that the “current Federal Proposal for a Bill for First Nation Education is not acceptable to First Nations.” In the letter, Atleo notes the strong resistance by Indigenous groups across the country, and calls for the establishment of a mutual plan that “fully respects and reflects partnership.” The letter lists 5 recommendations for Indigenous education: First Nation control and respect of inherent and Treaty rights; clear commitment on funding; inclusion and recognition of languages and culture; jointly determined oversight; and an ongoing process of meaningful engagement. Although Valcourt has not yet issued a formal response, he did suggest that a decision had not yet been made about whether the government would introduce the legislation in parliament without the support of First Nations. In addition to continued rejection and calls for abandonment of the proposed First Nations Education Act (FNEA), the Chiefs of Ontario have declared plans to “implement their own education vision through a direct action strategy.” As well, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke (MCK) issued a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper rejecting the proposed FNEA. AFN Open Letter | Globe and Mail | CBC(AFN) | | Chiefs of Ontario News Release | CBC (Chiefs) | MCK News Release

Improving futures of Inuit youth

Recent articles in 2 large newspapers focus on improving the education outcomes of Inuit youth and empowering them to take control of their futures. In the Financial Post, JP Gladu, President of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, highlighted a recent Executive Roundtable on Inuit Education that explored the barriers Inuit youth face regarding education opportunities. Participants agreed that efforts to increase parental support and involvement in youth education were critical, and that homegrown innovations, such as the National Strategy on Inuit Education which supports making schools into “community hubs,” can have far-reaching benefits. In the Globe and Mail, youth leaders Jaxson Khan and Maximillian Seunik describe their recent visit to Iqaluit as part of a Global Vision initiative. Inuit youth made several suggestions as to how people in the south can help improve the futures of Inuit youth, including, “facilitating greater educational exchange for Inuit youth to receive skills in the South, working to counteract brain drain, and collaborating – not dictating – on issues like youth mental health.” Financial Post | Globe and Mail