Indigenous Top Ten

January 28, 2015

Indigenization a priority for uRegina and uSask

The University of Regina recently announced its new 5-year strategic plan, titled peyak aski kikawinaw­—Cree for “we are one with Mother Earth.” The plan highlights Indigenization and sustainability as uRegina’s 2 areas of emphasis; student success, research impact, and commitment to communities are also identified as key priority areas. The university will examine any new programs, buildings, and services through a First Nations lens. The plan names a number of specific goals, including increased student completion rates, more Indigenous learning, courses in each program that address Indigenous concepts, integration of the liberal arts across disciplines, more tenured and tenure-track faculty, and a reduction in deferred maintenance. Indigenization is also top-of-mind for the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Engineering, which is launching several initiatives designed to attract Aboriginal students to the study of engineering. The college last year hired an Indigenous Peoples Initiatives Coordinator, and plans are underway to build an Indigenous students' centre in the College of Engineering, hire Aboriginal student ambassadors, and start an Aboriginal engineering students' association. There is also a goal to hire more Aboriginal instructors in the college. Coordinator Matthew Dunn believes that the lack of Aboriginal engineering students is partially due to a lack of role models; “if we have more Indigenous engineers out there in society, then their nieces, their nephews, their cousins can look up to them as role models and say, ‘I can be an engineer as well,’” he said. uRegina News Release | Leader-Post | StarPhoenix

Ontario invests $9 M in mental health initiatives for PSE students

Ontario has announced that it will provide $9 M of funding annually for 14 projects to improve mental health services for PSE students. As much as $6 M of that funding will go toward the Mental Health Innovation Fund. 12 of the projects will be housed at PSE institutions; these include a bridging project being implemented by the Aboriginal Resource Centre and Counselling Services at the University of Guelph, intended to engage and support Aboriginal learners experiencing mental health challenges; a Summer Aboriginal Student Transition Program, to be piloted by Trent University, Fleming College, Hiawatha First Nation, Curve Lake First Nation, and Niijkiwendidaa Anishnaabekwewag Services Circle; a project to identify and remove barriers experienced by Aboriginal students accessing mental health supports at Nipissing University; a harm-reduction strategy around drug use and abuse developed by Algonquin College in partnership with Rideauwood Addictions and Family Services, the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health, and the Tungasuvvingat Inuit Community Centre; and improvements to EGALE Canada Human Rights Trust’s Safer and Accepting Campuses Program, which provides resources and support for Two-Spirit students. Ontario News Release (1) | Ontario News Release (2) | TrentU News |

Indigenous students get opportunity to add voice to learning experiences

School programs in Manitoba and Ontario are giving Indigenous students the opportunity to learn more about their cultures while contributing their own voices to the learning process. In ON, Grand Erie District School Board's Aboriginal Student Work Study is a program focused on reading and writing exercises that brings Indigenous knowledge and teachings into the classrooms. Students participate in talking circles, which teach patience and respect while allowing them to voice their ideas. Meanwhile in MB, students at Southeast Collegiate in Winnipeg recently participated in the DAREarts First Roots program, an initiative that uses the arts to empower youth aged 9–14 to become leaders and “ignite change” in their schools and neighbourhoods. Participating students wrote lyrics for a song that explored the many challenges faced by Indigenous students that must move south to attend school. Students learned skills including song writing, instrument playing, performing, and videography. Brantford Expositor | YouTube (Work Study video) | DAREarts News Release

UBCO partners with Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society to provide learning opportunities

UBC Okanagan and the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society have partnered to create the Downtown Education Project, which will provide opportunities for Aboriginal adults to access academic and non-academic programs in order to transition to PSE. The project will first pilot UBCO’s Preparation for University Writing, an introductory writing course taught from an Aboriginal perspective. Additional courses will be added in the future if the program proves to be successful. By attending courses in the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Centre participants have access to a variety of supports, including mentors, program facilitators, and support workers. In addition, students will learn in an environment that is comfortable and familiar. “The course is designed to help students make the transition from high school-level studies to undergraduate-level studies at UBC, and to provide learners with a variety of opportunities to practice, develop, and apply in context their academic writing skills,” said Adrienne Vedan, Director of Aboriginal Programs and Services at UBCO. “The course allows learners to express their ideas and those of others through written academic discourse.” UBCO News

MK introduces Active Start program for children with intellectual disabilities

Mi'kmaw Kina'matnewey (MK) has announced it will introduce Special Olympics Nova Scotia’s Active Start program into MK schools, starting with the Pictou Landing Elementary School. The program is designed for children with intellectual disabilities, providing “social, physical and cognitive interaction while engaging students in fundamental movement skills to increase physical literacy in the early grades.” Active Start was first piloted in NS in 2011, and has successfully expanded to other schools in the province. “Healthy minds, bodies, and spirits allow all children to grow in immeasurable ways … This program is the start of exciting opportunities for all children to think beyond all the limits and labels,” said MK Student Services Consultant Janean Marshall. Tom Fahie, Youth Development Coordinator for Special Olympics Nova Scotia, added that he was pleased the program could serve the Mi’kmaq population in their own communities. “I believe this program will become a template for other First Nation communities that wish to help bring fundamental movement skills to the children most affected by intellectual disabilities,” said Fahie. MK News

BC coding boot camp reaches out to local First Nations

A computer-coding boot camp that took place in Vancouver last weekend provided the opportunity for a number of local First Nations people to advance their tech skills. The HTML500 boot camp specifically targeted local First Nations to take part in the event, and several participants attended with the goal of using the new skills for language revitalization projects. “Geography is the biggest challenge we have as Indigenous people when it comes to revitalizing languages … Technology becomes a really big way for our people to come together in ways that we couldn’t otherwise,” said participant and Squamish Nation member Khelsilem. Jobs involving coding and tech skills can provide a number of opportunities for Indigenous peoples, especially youth. “It’s more accessible than a lot of institutional-type careers or mainstream careers. It’s creative and it’s fun,” said Denise Williams, acting Executive Director for the First Nations Technology Council. “It really speaks to who we are as First Nations people in terms of creating and developing things that can support and really inspire what the future is going to look like.” Globe and Mail

Initiatives at PSE institutions draw attention to missing and murdered Indigenous women

A group of students at Niagara College is hoping a school project will help raise awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. Led by Director Nick Printup, a First Nations student in the third year of the Broadcasting-Radio, Television and Film program at the college, the students will create a documentary on the topic that explores the subject as a whole, instead of focusing on one individual case. The documentary, titled Our Sisters In Spirit, has already reached its fundraising goal on Kickstarter and will be complete by the end of April. “We want it recognized as a human rights issue, a race issue, and for people to see that it's not just an Aboriginal issue,” said Printup. In related news, Saint Mary’s University has awarded the first Loretta Saunders Memorial Scholarship. The award was created to honour SMU student Loretta Saunders, an Inuk woman murdered almost a year ago whose death brought international attention to the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women. The award is available annually to a female Indigenous student who demonstrates service to First Nations communities. Bullet News Niagara | Our Sisters In SpiritWebsite | APTN News | SMU News

Yukon College forms partnerships to benefit learners

Yukon College recently invited representatives from local First Nations to sign the Indigenous Education Protocol for Colleges and Institutes, recently developed by Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan). The Protocol consists of 7 principles that are considered key to support the learning needs of Indigenous peoples and the socio-economic development of Indigenous communities. The Protocol highlights opportunities for PSE institutions to collaborate with First Nations communities, as well as recommendations to include First Nations traditions in curriculum, increase the number of Indigenous staff, and support local self-determination through education and research. In other news at the college, a new partnership with the Supply Chain Management Association (SCMA-NWT) will allow Yukon College to deliver the Supply Management Training diploma program, consisting of courses in negotiation skills, competitive bidding, contract preparation and management, accounting and finance, marketing, business planning, and communications. CBC | Yukon College News

Indigenous social network launched with focus on economic development

A new social network dedicated to global Indigenous business and economic development has launched recently, thanks to a First Nations student at Western University and her husband. The Barberstocks created the Okwaho Network to connect Indigenous businesspeople with each other and with non-Indigenous people who want to work with Indigenous communities and businesses. Members of the site can share best practices, review businesses, and explore career opportunities while promoting their own business or community. The overall goals of the site are to generate economic opportunities and remove barriers for small businesses. “One thing that is neat to me is the original peoples of this land always had an entrepreneurial spirit, always found a way to trade and do commerce together. It’s in our blood to be able to go into business,” said Rye Barberstock. Shyra Barberstock added, “we did it because we want to see things improve for Indigenous communities and people. That’s where our heart is on this.” The site’s outreach includes Indigenous individuals and businesses not only in Canada, but across North America and globally. WesternU News | Okwaho Network

Grande Prairie Friendship Centre gets funding boost for strategic employment plan

Alberta’s Grande Prairie Friendship Centre (GPFC) has received $100,000 from the Urban Partnerships program as part of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada’s Urban Aboriginal Strategy. The funds will go towards the end stages of the development of a strategic plan to address employment barriers for local urban First Nations people. The first 2 stages of the project, which were funded by the province, identified barriers to employment and the needs of the urban Aboriginal community, including education, transportation, health, skills development, and workforce preparation. Consultations with the local Aboriginal community and industry were held in the first stages, with plans to bring the stakeholders together for further dialogue in the third stage. The resulting strategic plan will also help inform the Urban Aboriginal Strategy Regional Strategic Plan for Alberta. Kelly Benning, Executive Director of GPFC, said she hopes the development of the plan will lead to more skills development training and programs that help First Nations people return to the workforce or upgrade skills. Daily Herald Tribune