Indigenous Top Ten

February 11, 2015

uAlberta announces Cree dictionary, funding for Aboriginal students

Educators at the University of Alberta are working on a digital Plains Cree-to-English dictionary to help students studying Cree. The dictionary, being developed by linguistics professor Antti Arppe and Cree instructor Dorothy Thunder, will allow learners to access translations from mobile devices, and is designed to lead to other Cree-language resources such as spell-checkers. The developers are using software designed to translate Scandinavian Indigenous languages. The new dictionary is scheduled to be complete in the next year, with an app to follow. Furthermore, uAlberta has established a new scholarship fund for Aboriginal students in honour of former Provost and VP Carl Amrhein. The new fund will also support Aboriginal teaching and learning experiences and provide more support for the traditional and spiritual aspects of Aboriginal student life. “For me, [Aboriginal engagement] is the place where we have come very far, but it’s also the place where we have an enormous distance yet to go,” said Amrhein. “Alberta and Canada will be successful if, and only if, we can provide a safe, respectful and honourable welcoming place for Aboriginal learners.” Current uAlberta Vice-Provost and Registrar Lisa Collins recently told Metro News that the university has made it a priority to encourage and support students who self-identify as Aboriginal. “We strive to have the university’s student population attain a level that’s at least proportionate to the Aboriginal population of the province,” said Collins. Approximately 4% of the uAlberta student population has self-identified as Aboriginal. CBC | uAlberta News | Metro News

SFU publishes special Aboriginal Peoples edition of campus newspaper

Simon Fraser University has released a special Aboriginal Peoples edition of the campus newspaper, SFU News. The edition was developed in consultation with the Office for Aboriginal Peoples at SFU, and features articles about Aboriginal students, faculty, research, recent initiatives, and services. One article details SFU’s Aboriginal Steering Committee, which has been leading the Aboriginal Strategic Plan. The steering committee is comprised of SFU Indigenous services representatives, external Indigenous community members, and faculty, as well as the university president and many VPs. Initiatives featured in the special edition include the new Indigenous Student Centre that opened in September 2014, summer math camps for Indigenous youth, and the Aboriginal Pre-Health and University Prep Programs. SFU is also presenting a lecture series called the “President’s Dream Colloquium on Protecting Indigenous Cultural Heritage,” which features internationally renowned researchers speaking about challenges to Indigenous cultural heritage. SFU News

Culture and community in the classroom benefit Indigenous students

Indigenous K-12 students across Canada are benefiting from a variety of programs and resources that incorporate into their education elements of their cultures and histories. In Ontario, the Kenjgewin Teg Educational Institute recently hosted a conference that included a workshop led by Kelly Crawford on bringing Treaty education to the classroom. Crawford, a member of the M’Chigeeng First Nation and PhD student at Laurentian University, recently developed a teacher’s guide for the “We are all Treaty People” resource kit, which is designed for grades 1 through 8. The guide helps teachers incorporate Treaty education into the class, with a goal of “connect[ing students] to the content at a deeper level as they see themselves as having a responsibility in the treaty relationship.” Programs developed through United Way’s Aboriginal Youth and Education Strategy (AYES), meanwhile, support Aboriginal students in Calgary. The AYES programs, such as Aboriginal Pride and Circle of Support, are designed to be fluid and adaptive, and connect students with culture and community to support the learning process. Educators involved with the program point to improved high-school completion rates and individual success stories as proof the programs are working. Connecting to the local community is key to teaching, especially in remote and rural First Nations, says teacher and Lakehead University PhD student Melissa Oskineegish, who previously taught grades 7 and 8 in a northern First Nation community. Oskineegish found that students weren’t engaging with her lessons until she began including the students in lessons and in the community through a student-run newsletter. Anishnabek News | Alberta Sweetgrass | CBC

USSU President FineDay calls for increased access for underrepresented groups

Canadian universities must work harder to increase access for traditionally underrepresented groups such as Aboriginal peoples, refugees, youth-in-care, and those with low socioeconomic status, says Max FineDay, President of the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union, in a recent post to Academica’s Rethinking Higher Ed Forum. FineDay points out that many institutional mission statements suggest goals of enriching the public good or serving the local community; however, he argues that many universities fall short of this goal. Noting the benefits of programs such as those offering tuition credits to former youth-in-care, FineDay states, “We don’t need more reports, recommendations, investigations, or focus groups. We need action. This should be prioritized by all universities in partnership with the diverse communities affected.” He says that universities need to create and implement action plans with timelines, and that governments need to support these plans financially. “This will take time and perseverance. We may not get it right on the first try—but that shouldn’t stop us from trying. The benefits are too important,” concludes FineDay. Rethinking Higher Ed

uManitoba researcher to study resilience and obesity in First Nations youth

A new Applied Public Health Chair, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), has been awarded to a University of Manitoba researcher to study resilience and obesity in First Nations youth. Jon McGavock, associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, will receive $925,000 over 5 years to research the effectiveness of a resilience-building school-based program called Rec and Read on childhood obesity and health. “The theory behind this approach is that promoting a strong, healthy child is going to have a better effect than just focusing on diet and exercise,” said McGavock. “We need to start promoting resilience, which is thriving in the face of adversity, before we start promoting healthy eating. By studying the impact of resilience-based interventions on health outcomes like obesity and type 2 diabetes, we will provide important insight into the best approaches for preventing these conditions among First Nations children.” The Rec and Read program, currently being offered at several Manitoba schools, trains high school students to deliver after-school programs that focus on physical activity, nutrition, and education to elementary students. uManitoba News Release

KPU and Tsawwassen First Nation partner on Farm School

The Tsawwassen First Nation (TFN) has partnered with Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Institute for Sustainable Food Systems (ISFS) to develop a Farm School on a 20-acre working farm on the TFN. The 10-month program begins in the spring, and offers classes in crop production, soil and water management, animal husbandry, small farm carpentry and welding, tractor and equipment maintenance, business planning and marketing, and Indigenous food systems. Students that successfully complete the first year of the program gain access to half-acre incubator farm plots for 3 years, as well mentoring and shared resources. “The Tsawwassen First Nation Farm School fuses sustainable agriculture and traditional Indigenous food systems as vital tools to build community and create the kind of critical dialogue and action around the future of food and earth stewardship,” said Kent Mullinix, Director of ISFS. Once fully operational, the farm will include market crops, small livestock, organic practices, an orchard, and a traditional medicine garden. KPU News Release

Martin, Barnard call for Indigenous perspectives in PSE

As part of a new series for the Globe and Mail, “Rich Country, Poor Nations,” former Prime Minister Paul Martin makes the case for including Indigenous thought in the classroom. Martin cites a recommendation from the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples that “Aboriginal children are entitled to learn and achieve in an environment that supports their development as whole individuals.” Martin asserts that universities must embrace Indigenous worldviews in order to help repair past harms and to provide a welcoming environment for the growing numbers of Aboriginal youth seeking higher education. “In today’s Canada, no student who wants to succeed should have to leave their identity at the door when they walk into a classroom,” writes Martin. University of Manitoba President David Barnard, writing in response to a Maclean’s article about racism in Canada, recently made a similar argument. Barnard said, “I think it’s important for us to redress the historical wrongs and to create circumstances where Indigenous people have the same kinds of opportunities in their lives, for themselves and for their children, as other people in Canada.” Barnard also mentioned ongoing efforts at uManitoba to engage Aboriginal students; to foster a better understanding of Indigenous perspectives, cultures, and histories among students, faculty, and staff; and to build a “culturally rich and safe and supportive learning and work environment.” Globe and Mail (Martin) | Globe and Mail (Series) | uManitoba News

Successful first term at Wagmatcook Learning Centre in NS

Mi'kmaw Kina'matnewey (MK) is celebrating the early success of the new Wagmatcook Learning Centre, which provides training opportunities for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students in rural Cape Breton Island. The Centre offers programs in partnership with Nova Scotia Community College, including plumbing, Mi’kmaw health and wellness, and electrical and industrial construction; courses are based on local demand and will change according to demand. “Having programming here allows [area] students to attend training without having to make the long trip into Sydney or Port Hawkesbury. This is especially important during the winter months,” said NSCC Principal Tom Gunn. Wagmatcook First Nation Chief Norman Bernard added, “it was a dream that the students had … They went to school in our community from kindergarten through to grade 12 and they really wanted to be able to get their trades training here as well.” MK News

Task force continuing towards standardizing written Inuktut

A task force created by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) to work on standardizing written Inuktut is moving forward with regional consultations and is planning a language summit for later this year. The Autausiq Inuktut Titirausiq task force is made up of language experts from each of Canada’s Inuit regions, and has been working on the project since 2012. They have found multiple versions of syllabics and 10 variations in the way the Inuit language is written across the Inuit regions of Canada. Attendees at the regional consultations have expressed concern for the loss of regional dialects in written Inuktut, but the majority were pleased at the efforts to standardize and revitalize the language. “I commend the members of the AIT task group for their work in bringing this issue to their communities and ensuring that Inuit are informed,” said ITK President Terry Audla. Nunatsiaq Online

Survey finds Nunavut Sivuniksavut grads employed, pursuing PSE

A recent survey of graduates from Nunavut Sivuniksavut (NS), an Ottawa-based preparatory school for Inuit students, found that the majority of respondents were either employed full- or part-time or attending PSE. The survey found 59% of graduates were employed full-time, 10% part-time, and 21% were in education programs. More than 80% of graduates had returned to Nunavut to live or work, with many employed by government or Inuit organizations. NS instructor Murray Angus stated, “these are good numbers, and show how engaged alumni are, either with work or with further school.” The majority of graduates (57%) have attended PSE since completing the NS program; the 3 institutions attended by most students were Nunavut Arctic College, and Ottawa’s Carleton University and Algonquin College. Nunatsiaq Online