Indigenous Top Ten

January 15, 2014

Aboriginal education gets $3-million investment from SK

Saskatchewan has announced it will invest $3 million in initiatives designed to boost education outcomes for Indigenous students. The funding is part of the province's Joint Task Force on Improving Education and Employment Outcomes for First Nations and Métis People, which released a report in April 2013 with 25 recommendations for improving education and employment opportunities. Half of the funding will go to the ‘Help Me Tell My Story’ program, which focuses on literacy and school-readiness in kindergarten and pre-K children and includes the involvement of parents and elders. The other $1.5 million will go to an initiative that will provide on-reserve schools with supports and services similar to provincial schools. Bobby Cameron, Vice Chief with the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, applauded the direct impact these initiatives will have on students, stating “It's about creating opportunities and opening those doors … Making our children want to learn, to be excited to learn, to want to come to school and learn in a happy, healthy environment.” Global News | CBC

New professional social networking platform launched

The Aboriginal Policy Research Consortium (International) (APRCI) has launched a new online Indigenous knowledge sharing platform that will connect people doing research on Indigenous issues and allow for more collaboration. IndigiLINK offers several engagement tools for networking and relationship-building, including group chats, individual profile pages, and private and public discussion forums. IndigiLINK is a multi-disciplinary, collaborative project itself, jointly created by the APRCI, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC), International Indigenous Policy Journal (IIPJ) and the Indigenous Health and Well-being Initiative (IHWI). Project lead APRCI Director Dr. Jerry White said, “IndigiLINK is an outstanding communication tool and I believe we have something that we can all be proud of. I encourage the Aboriginal professional community and Indigenous researchers alike to join IndigiLINK and share your knowledge.” APRCI News Release | IndigiLINK 

Educational resources emerge out of Canada’s North

Last week, 2 new educational resources launched, both with roots in Canada’s North. The first is an educational website that explores the Arctic from the point-of-view of researchers and students alike. ExpeditionArctic.ca is a bilingual, collaborative initiative by the Canadian Museum of Nature and Students on Ice, in partnership with the Virtual Museum of Canada. The website offers documentary videos, interactive maps, colourful photographs and blog posts that highlight the vast array of plants, animals, fossils and people associated with the Arctic. The site also offers weekly quizzes, with teens aged 14-18 eligible to win an educational Students on Ice trip. The second resource is an app developed by Pinnguaq, out of Pangnirtung, Nunavut. The app, Singuistics, is designed to help people learn the Inuktitut language using songs; lyrics include definitions and pronunciations of words, with repetition to help the lessons stick. The app is designed for people of all ages, but is fairly popular with children. "Just the fact that they're able to sing and surround themselves with the language, I think it would have a lot of benefit for education at any level in Nunavut," said Ryan Oliver, the Director of Pinnguaq. Canadian Museum of Nature News Release | CBC

Métis Nation-SK launches new suicide prevention campaign

A new campaign has launched in Saskatchewan, aimed at preventing Métis youth suicide in the province. The Blue Ribbon Campaign: An Alliance of Hope, launched by the Métis Nation-SK is “is designed to allow Métis communities to take ownership and control over suicide prevention and intervention.” The program includes a blue ribbon to signal youth that someone is there to listen to them, as well as to promote awareness of the campaign. A training manual and tool kit is also being dispersed in order to expand the program provincially, and as a way to educate those involved in front-line positions that may come into contact with Métis youth in distress. MN-S President Robert Doucette noted that the Alliance of Hope is designed to share teachings and traditions with Métis youth so they have a stronger sense of belonging and know they are part of a larger community. MN-S News Release | APTN News

Aboriginal school welcomes children from all backgrounds for cultural teachings

Amiskwaciy Academy in Edmonton, AB, is making efforts to reach out to non-Indigenous students from schools around the city, and is finding the demand runs high. The public high school provides learning within an Aboriginal context to close to 500 students per year, with many students of all ages coming from other schools for cultural programs at Amiskwaciy, which also hopes to attract students of all ethnicities to its specialized programs, such as cosmetology, traditional art, construction, and foods. “Our hope is more students will come this year … We’re definitely open to students of other diverse backgrounds.” Amiskwaciy operates on a quarter system instead of the traditional semester system, to better align itself with a local high school that offers extra support for struggling students. As well, Amiskwaciy offers a free breakfast program to all students, and a full-time social worker is available through Métis Child and Family Services. Edmonton Journal 

TRU’s Gathering Place a supportive community for Indigenous students

Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC is highlighting Cplul’kw’ten, the Gathering Place, and the various programs and initiatives aimed at supporting Aboriginal students at TRU. The Aboriginal Services team at Cplul’kw’ten, which offers transition planning, life skills coaching, mentoring, counseling and tutoring, is focused on creating an “atmosphere where everyone tries to encourage and help each other.” Students at TRU can access elders, campus services, help with funding applications, take workshops and be part of a community. Joanne Brown, the coordinator of the Aboriginal Services team, notes that “People are realizing that Aboriginal people can make their fair share of contributions back to society in our own unique way that hasn’t been addressed before. All those things are indigenizing academia, which in turn trickles into society.” TRU News

ON school board includes Aboriginal culture and language in schools

The Rainbow District School Board (RDSB) in Sudbury, ON is actively addressing the achievement gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students with the First Nations, Métis and Inuit framework, which is aimed at “better serving Aboriginal students.” The RDSB offers Ojibwe language classes at 13 elementary schools and 7 secondary schools, with all students up to Grade 3 learning Ojibwe at these schools, and older children able to choose between French and Ojibwe. Other programs at RDSB schools incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing into the classrooms, and hallways have Ojibwe names and colourful murals depicting animal clans, all as part of a growing movement to improve learning outcomes of Aboriginal students. “When students see themselves reflected at school, they feel valued, which leads them to become more engaged in learning,” said Kathy Dokis, Principal of First Nations, Métis and Inuit education with the RDSB. The board is also in the process of training teachers to be able to include Aboriginal culture in classrooms. Northern Life

NVIT offers expanded programming

BC’s Nicola Valley Institute of Technology is expanding its course offerings to include a degree program and a trades program. Graduates of the 3-year Chemical Addictions Worker advanced diploma were given the opportunity to complete a further 30 credits through the University of the Fraser Valley to obtain a Bachelor of General Studies degree from UFV. The courses, conducted on-site at NVIT’s Vancouver campus, had UFV professors teach the students in intensive 1-week blocks, with the rest of the month for reading, preparation and assignments, and resulted in a 100% retention rate. Also, NVIT has announced that it will offer its first official trades program, with the Electrician Pre-Apprenticeship Program. The 6-month program will largely consist of hands-on practical learning and serves as the first level of electrical apprentice training. The program is being offered through a partnership with Okanagan College, and will build on the Bridging to Trades program already offered at NVIT. The new trades program is offered at NVIT’s Merritt campus. UFV News Merritt Herald

Blend of cultural programming offers support to urban Aboriginal students

An innovative high school program in Ottawa is combining culture and education in order to help struggling Aboriginal students graduate. The Odawa Native Friendship Centre has run the Urban Aboriginal Alternate High School Program for a decade in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa and the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. The program is open to Indigenous students, aged 16-19, who reside in Ontario, although they must have at least one year of high school and an adult to act as mentor. The combination of culture and curriculum allows the students to remain connected to traditional teachings, while offering the students flexibility and support. The program is run by a teacher and an education counsellor. CBC

Report highlights initiatives designed to improve Aboriginal workforce participation

A report released in December by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce highlights the many initiatives currently underway that focus on the improved participation of Aboriginal peoples in the workforce. The report presents initiatives by Canadian organizations, PSE institutions and businesses “in the hope that government and businesses will be inspired to take the steps to make these productive relationships the norm rather than the exception.” According to the report, focus on the following 4 points can contribute to the successful inclusion of Aboriginal participants in Canada’s workforce: “keeping Aboriginal children in school, ensuring a successful transition for Aboriginal students from secondary to post-secondary education and/or training, ensuring education and training programs strive for the long term, and focussing on results rather than paperwork.” The report concludes with a list of recommendations for the federal government that will support training and education. Canadian Chamber of Commerce News Release | Report