Indigenous Top Ten

September 10, 2014

SFU opens new Indigenous Student Centre

Simon Fraser University is celebrating the opening of its new Indigenous Student Centre, a 1,700-square-foot space dedicated to support and cultural services for SFU’s 600 Indigenous students. The centre will serve as a home away from home for students and will provide space for smudging, connecting with Elders, studying, computer access, and a kitchen. The centre will also house the First Nations Student Association, the peer cousins' mentorship and peer education learning and writing programs, and academic tutoring services. “It helps build bridges amongst departments and creates a comfortable environment for our students to utilize services,” says the centre’s inaugural Director Marcia Guno. “It will also increase overall awareness of the student support available to them.” SFU News

Regina school staff participate in huge treaty training event

More than 1,600 faculty and staff from the Regina Public Schools (RPS) division recently took part in a full-day, technology-enabled professional development (PD) day focused on treaty education. The PD event was the “largest simultaneous treaty training event” ever held by RPS, and included every teacher, education assistant, superintendent, consultant, school administrator, and teacher librarian in the division. The PD initiative was designed to break misconceptions around the treaties and allow the exchange of ideas about incorporating treaty education and Aboriginal worldviews into the classroom. Technology allowed faculty and staff from individual schools to connect with each other; social media campaigns using the #rpstreaties hashtag were also used to foster communication between participants. Elder Noel Starblanket also participated in the event, helping to create a personal connection with the lessons learned. Organizers are pleased with the event’s outcome, as evinced by the engagement shown online, which caused the #rpstreaties hashtag to trend in the top 3 for Canada on Twitter that day. Another training day will take place later in the school year. Regina Board of Education News | Regina Leader-Post

UBC Okanagan launches residence-based Indigenous learning community

The University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus is launching a new Indigenous Integrated Learning Community (ILC), based in the Kalamalka residence, providing a place for students in residence with common interests to live and learn together. The Indigenous ILC at UBCO is open to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students, and provides an enhanced university and residence experience through a focus on practical connections with the local Aboriginal community and regular events both on and off campus. Jeannine Kuemmerle, Acting Manager of Aboriginal Programs and Services, noted, “the ILC allows for students to actively learn about and contribute to intercultural understanding outside of the classroom, extending it to the daily living and relationships that are part of their residence life experience.” The new Indigenous ILC will be the fifth ILC at UBCO; the others are the Performing Arts Community, International Community, Healthy Living Community, and the Leadership and Civic Engagement Community. UBCO News Release

Attawapiskat opens long-awaited Kattawapiskak elementary school

The long-awaited elementary school on the Attawapiskat First Nation has opened its doors for classes. Named Kattawapiskak Elementary School, the building replaces a series of portables that have been serving as a school for the last 14 years, after diesel contamination closed the community’s school in 2000. The lack of a proper school in Attawapiskat rose to national attention when a young girl from the community, Shannen Koostachin, challenged the federal government and sparked a grassroots youth campaign to improve access to “safe, comfy” schools for all First Nations youth. The Shannen’s Dream campaign continued after the tragic death of Koostachin at age 15, culminating in an agreement by the federal government to build the new school. Kattawapiskak will accommodate 540 children from grades K-8. Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus stated that the young people in the community are calling it Shannen’s school, but noted, "we should be focusing on the incredible impact that school's going to have on the young people of Attawapiskat and James Bay.” CBC (1) | CBC (2) | Wawatay News

New organization created with goal of improving relationships in Canada

A new organization led by a variety of Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders, including 2 ex-prime ministers and the former premier of the Northwest Territories, has been created with the goal of improving the relationship between Canada’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Canadians for a New Partnership (CFNP) is an initiative designed to improve the dialogue between all Canadians; its “overriding mission is to encourage public and political goodwill, energy and commitment to achieving this goal,” said CFNP CEO, former NWT Premier Stephen Kakfwi. The initiative is planning a speaker series and social media campaigns to reach the Canadian public, and is encouraging individuals to sign a declaration calling for improved partnerships and reconciliation. The CFNP’s mission statement explains the initiative’s goals of “better living conditions, education, and economic opportunities for First Peoples, which must be the tangible results of that new partnership.” The CFNP has been supported financially by a number of private foundations, and has received early support from McGill University. In addition, Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) has expressed its support of the new endeavour. CFNP News Release | CBC | APTN News | McGill Reporter | CICan News Release

BC school experiencing success with First Nations youth

Free the Children Co-Founders Craig and Marc Kielburger highlight in a recent Huffington Post article a high school designed for at-risk Aboriginal youth in BC that is seeing success in its students. iCount is a small high school in Moricetown, BC, that was founded for First Nations youth in the area who were struggling with their education or had already dropped out. The program combines curriculum with traditional skills and cultural activities, including drumming, hunting, and canoe-building. The students get classes in their language—Wet'suwet'en—and core subjects like math and science are individually tailored to each student’s interests. Now entering its third year, iCount is celebrating a high student retention rate and has grown steadily, requiring more staff and a larger space. Oskayak High School in Saskatoon is also mentioned as a success story, where increased emphasis on First Nations culture has resulted in higher graduation rates. Huffington Post

NorQuest to create Aboriginal mentorship program

NorQuest College has announced it will create an Aboriginal peer-to-peer mentorship program, made possible by a $250,000 donation from the RBC Foundation. $150,000 will go directly to the new RBC Aboriginal Mentorship Program and the remaining funds will enhance the existing RBC Student Ambassador Program; funds will be allocated over a 5-year time period. NorQuest will establish a liaison position for the mentorship program to recruit and train the peer mentors, and is also planning to establish an alumni chapter for Aboriginal students and graduates. “Our Aboriginal learners are an important part of NorQuest College’s student-centred and inclusive culture … We are extremely thankful for the support of community partners such as RBC as we work together to improve lives,” said Jodi L Abbott, NorQuest President. NorQuest News

Parkland College signs MOU with Treaty 4 Student Success Program

Saskatchewan’s Parkland College has signed an MOU with the Treaty 4 Student Success Program (T4SSP) that is designed to improve the pathways to PSE for students in the Treaty 4 area. The formal agreement will allow First Nation communities in the Parkland region to “build bridges of support” from T4SSP schools to the college, enhancing access to PSE for Indigenous learners. “This partnership will be a mentorship and think-tank and exploratory station,” said Lori Whiteman, Executive Director of T4SSP. “It will be a learning centre for us to grow together in support of the young people attending our schools and the Parkland College campuses.” Lydia Cyr, Chair of the Parkland College board of governors, added, “the increase in education opportunities and support for First Nations students is essential to the economic development and sustainability of our communities and the province.” Parkland News Release

uManitoba strategic enrolment plan focuses on graduate students, Indigenous students

The board of governors at the University of Manitoba has approved a new strategic enrolment strategy that focuses on increased graduate enrolment in programs such as science, engineering, agriculture, and medicine. The plan also focuses on increasing the number of self-declared Indigenous students on campus. According to the plan, uManitoba hopes to increase Indigenous enrolment from 7.8% of undergraduate students and 4.2% of graduate students in 2013–14 to 15% and 8%, respectively, by 2023. uManitoba Vice-Provost of Students Susan Gottheil said that the plan constitutes a “more intentional” approach to enrolment, and adds that “we’d like to encourage more Manitobans to stay in Manitoba.” Attracting more Indigenous students to the university may also help maintain current undergraduate numbers, despite an expected overall drop in grade 12 graduates in coming years. Winnipeg Free Press

BC commits $1 M for 10 Aboriginal training programs

The British Columbia government has committed $1 M through its Aboriginal Training for Employment Program for the delivery of 10 programs designed to increase employment opportunities for Aboriginal peoples in BC. The 10 programs, delivered by Aboriginal organizations and service providers, consist of a variety of training and learning initiatives, such as aquaculture technician, healthcare assistant, job-readiness, pre-trades, and firefighting programs. “These projects are great examples of how BC’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint is supporting Aboriginal people to take advantage of training and education that will lead to employment. Projects are tailored to meet the unique needs of each Aboriginal community, which helps make sure that the learning experience is meaningful for everyone,” said BC’s Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour Shirley Bond. The Aboriginal Training for Employment Program also supports community-based program delivery for Aboriginal youth and under-employed Aboriginal people. BC News Release | Caboodle News