Indigenous Top Ten

February 25, 2015

Lakehead mandates Indigenous content in all faculties while uWinnipeg students propose mandatory Indigenous courses

Lakehead University will introduce Indigenous knowledge and perspectives into courses across all faculties starting in 2016, reports CBC. The Indigenous content will be tailored to the specific academic program. Yolanda Wanakamik with the Office of Aboriginal Initiatives noted that in addition to increasing understanding of Indigenous people, the intent of the initiative is to encourage open discussion about racism. Lakehead is reportedly the first Canadian university to make Indigenous content mandatory for all students; however, the University of Winnipeg Students' Association (UWSA) has paired up with uWinnipeg’s Aboriginal Students' Council on a proposal to make a class in Indigenous history or culture mandatory for all students. uWinnipeg’s AVP Indigenous Affairs Wab Kinew said it would be a win-win scenario for faculty and students: "it should be a way for us to both indigenize the academy, but also even strengthen the academic experience of students. So as long as we're open to faculty concerns and flexible in meeting them, then I think that we can realize that win-win.” The motion will be reviewed by uWinnipeg’s Senate in the next couple of months. Winnipeg Free Press | CBC (uWinnipeg) | CBC (Lakehead) | APTN News

Postscript: April 8, 2015

The senate of the University of Winnipeg has approved in principle a motion that would make it mandatory for all undergraduate students to take a course in Indigenous history or culture. "Today is a good day for the University of Winnipeg—as well as for the broader community: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada," said uWinnipeg AVP Indigenous Affairs Wab Kinew. uWinnipeg President Annette Trimbee added, "we have taken an important step on the path to a better, more understanding, and inclusive society." The requirement could be put into effect as early as September, 2016. Winnipeg Free Press

Photojournalism project gives voice to Indigenous youth

The National Post has published the results from a unique photojournalism project that explored the topic of missing and murdered Indigenous women from the perspectives of Indigenous girls in Manitoba. Journalists from the Post along with journalism students from Centennial College travelled to Winnipeg and spent a week with 12 Indigenous girls at Maples Collegiate, a high school that has a 15% Indigenous student body and is strongly supportive of Indigenous culture. The girls were given cameras and basic photojournalism training and were asked to tell their stories through words and photos. Throughout the week-long workshops, the girls opened up and reflected on the realities of being an Indigenous woman in Canada, discussing their hopes and dreams along with the fears they carry. The girls described the project as both “difficult” and “empowering.” “This project shifted the dialogue among the students. They began to see themselves as change-makers, rather than victims of a situation that is beyond their control. The girls are a diverse group with a variety of lived experiences. Yet the thing they all have in common is that they are here and they have a story. This opened all of our eyes to the power of those stories,” writes Maples Collegiate Vice-Principal Sherri Denysuik and teacher Amy Carpenter. National Post

Study shows vast majority of Indspire recipients receive PSE credential

A new report released by Indspire shows that 93% of the Indigenous recipients of Indspire's Building Better Futures (BBF) awards program graduated with a PSE credential, and 82% of those graduates are employed. The report, Creating Positive Outcomes: Graduation and Employment Rates of Indspire’s Financial Award Recipients, gathered data from 1,248 BBF recipients who received funding between 2000–01 and 2012–13. The data further shows that of those graduates who are employed, 84% reported that they now serve Indigenous people in their jobs. The highest level of education completed for 50% of respondents was an undergraduate degree, 22% completed a graduate degree, 15% graduated from a college program, 8% obtained a professional designation, and 5% obtained an institutional certificate or high school diploma. “This report reinforces the effectiveness of financial aid in closing Canada’s education gap for Aboriginal students,” said Paul Davidson, President of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC). “Along with culturally relevant curriculum, programs, and outreach, financial support is key to improving both access and success for Indigenous students in post-secondary education.” Indspire News | Full Report

Pilot project demonstrates significant improvements in literacy

A collaborative project between the Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative (MAEI), the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), Kettle and Stony Point First Nation, and Walpole Island First Nation has shown that improving the quality of teaching and focusing on student success can help improve the performance of First Nations students. The Model School Project, called Wiiji Kakendaasodaa, significantly increased literacy results for the 2 participating elementary schools. The project was modelled after a program used by the Ontario government to turn around struggling schools; higher standards for both teachers and students were emphasized throughout the 4-year program. “We focused on improving the quality of teaching because we know once children step into school, it’s the quality of teaching that makes the difference,” said OISE Dean Julia O’Sullivan, who added that the project was a "phenomenal success." The year prior to the program's launch, only 13% of students achieved the provincial standard on grade 3 reading tests, and only 33% met the standard on writing tests. By 2014, almost 70% of students met the reading standard, very close to the provincial average, and more than 90% met the writing benchmark, surpassing the Ontario average. “What this demonstrates so clearly is what Indigenous education can be,” said former Prime Minister Paul Martin. “The dropout rates you hear about on reserve, these are issues we can attack and we can win the battle.” MAEI Summary | Globe and Mail Toronto Star | BNN |

FineDay and Waubageshig call for alternative school systems

President of the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union Max FineDay writes that it is time for a school system focused on indigeneity to exist in Canada’s cities. FineDay notes the lack of Indigenous history and culture traditionally taught in Canadian schools and the need for Indigenous youth—Canada’s fastest-growing demographic—to receive a relevant education in a welcoming atmosphere. “Indigenous children need, and deserve, an education that acknowledges their peoples and their contributions to Canada. Indigenous nations have trusted Canadian schools to provide what Indigenous children need to succeed. The schools have failed,” said FineDay. Meanwhile, a group in Winnipeg is pushing for the creation of an Indigenous school division in the city, potentially consisting of 29 existing schools. Supporters say the new schools would have the same academic programming as other schools in the city, but would also incorporate Indigenous culture, knowledge, and language and would be open to all students, Indigenous or not. Along a similar vein, Indigenous educator Waubageshig recently suggested Indigenous-run boarding schools could help Indigenous students succeed regardless of social issues at home and in their communities. Waubageshig notes that education is the tool that can break the cycles of poverty and abuse in Indigenous communities, but that youth “need healthy living conditions with sound nutrition, an absence of fear, an appropriate living space, and above all, daily care and support to help them achieve.” Globe and Mail (FineDay) | CBC | Globe and Mail (Waubageshig)

GDI’s Aboriginal Apprenticeship Initiative deemed a success

Saskatoon-based Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI) has released a review of its 3-year Aboriginal Apprenticeship Initiative, finding that all original targets were met or exceeded and that the initiative as a whole was a success. The initiative, funded by the federal Skills and Partnership Fund, resulted in 223 Aboriginal learners being placed with employers—157 of whom were indentured with the Saskatchewan Apprenticeship and Trades Certification Commission (SATCC). GDI also formed partnerships with 135 employers in 17 different trades through the initiative. During the initiative, GDI recruited employers and trainees, matching them up based on experience and interest. Employers were offered wage subsidies, and GDI helped trainees develop resumes and prepare for interviews; once hired, trainees and employers were provided job coaching and other services/supports including assistance with paperwork required by SATCC. The majority of trainees entered construction trades such as carpentry or electrical, although mechanic and welding also had significant representation. The federal government this month announced a $3.1 M investment for GDI to train up to 150 new Aboriginal apprentices. GDI Summary | Full Report | Canada News Release

YorkU receives $5 M to support students, Indigenous programs

York University has received a $5 M gift from an anonymous donor to create scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students and to support Indigenous students. The gift, reportedly one of the largest ever received by YorkU for student support, will be matched by funds from government programs and the university, resulting in a $10 M impact for YorkU students. Funds will be used to develop and enhance programming and services for Indigenous students, providing support not only for tuition, but also for areas such as childcare. “This incredible gift will support the most important group of people at York—our students,” said YorkU President Mamdouh Shoukri. “The scholarships will enable us to recruit the brightest and most talented students, including many who are the first in their family to attend university." YorkU News

NBCC opens redesigned Aboriginal student centre at Woodstock campus

New Brunswick Community College recently celebrated the opening of the newly renovated Aboriginal student lounge at its Woodstock campus. The lounge is called “Kilun,” a Maliseet word meaning “us.” The event also marked the unveiling of a new mural by Maliseet artist and NBCC alumnus Roche Sappier, who created the mural in consultation with community, members, students, and NBCC staff.  “This project is just one of the many ways we are trying to meet the diverse needs of our learners and foster successful student experiences at NBCC,” said Suzanne Desrosiers, NBCC VP Employee and Student Development. “We are really proud of the mural which reflects a welcoming, supportive environment for all learners at the campus while honouring and respecting diversity.” NBCC used the renovation to encourage dialogue and teachings around local Aboriginal culture. The project was funded by the provincial ministry of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour. NBCC News Release

Aurora College highlights students, new initiatives

Northwest Territory’s Aurora College recently highlighted some existing and new initiatives in an article for Northern Journal. New video conferencing technology across the 3 main campuses will allow the business administration program to deliver instruction to students across the territory, while providing students with the opportunity to connect with instructors and students at other campuses. Also featured is Aurora’s new mobile Northern Adult Basic Education program, which brings short, targeted literacy and essential skills training to isolated communities. Several departments at Aurora are developing similar portable programs to engage learners and introduce them to PSE. Aurora is also considering a 2-year Bachelor of Education degree program for students that already have an undergraduate degree. A separate feature profiles students in Aurora’s trades and apprenticeship programs with apprentices in plumbing, electrical, and carpentry speaking of the value of their training. Northern Journal (Initiatives) | Northern Journal (Students)

Federal government funds skills and trades training in BC, MB

The federal government recently announced funding through the Western Diversification Program to support training for Aboriginal students in BC and Manitoba. The Nicola Valley Institute of Technology will receive more than $1.75 M to support and expand the Bridging to Trades program; the funding will go towards a mobile training-unit, allowing more Aboriginal learners to access training in their home communities, as well as new equipment and software for NVIT’s Merritt campus. In MB, the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development (CAHRD), located in Neeginan College of Applied Technology, will receive $935,000 to provide Computer Numerical Control (CNC) skills training to Aboriginal students. CNC operators work in the manufacturing sector; according to a federal news release, this will be the first direct, comprehensive CNC operator training program in Manitoba. Canada News Release (NVIT) | Canada News Release (CAHRD)