Indigenous Top Ten

April 8, 2015

SFU partners on research chair for Aboriginal health

Simon Fraser University has partnered with the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) and St Paul’s Hospital Foundation to establish the First Nations Health Authority Chair in Heart Health. The $1.9 M Chair, to be co-located at FNHA and St Paul’s, will conduct research and provide leadership to guide policies aimed at improving cardiovascular health and limiting chronic diseases among First Nations people. The use of plants and traditional healing methods will be considered, as well as Aboriginal cultural or spiritual practices that may have a positive effect on health. The Chair will work to develop preventative disease databases and increase research infrastructure and capacity in First Nations communities. SFU and St Paul’s will also provide mentoring programs that will help promote respectful and culturally competent research and knowledge translation. A search is currently underway for the inaugural chairholder. SFU News Release | Vancouver Sun

Students in Iqaluit combine tradition with technology

At Iqaluit’s Nakasuk School, a throat-singing club is giving Inuit youth a way to combine traditional practices with new technologies. The club was started by teacher Elizabeth Ryan in order to give the children a place to learn and practice throat-singing. A program called Codemakers, run by Ottawa-based charity Actua, allowed the students to use a simple computer program to record songs, chop them up, and re-mix them using pieces from other students’ recordings. “The throat-singing activity is a perfect example of what we're trying to do with Codemakers more broadly, which is getting kids engaged in computer science in a way that's relevant to them and in a way that's culture and community based,” said Actua’s Jennifer Flanagan. Organizers also hope the program will further engage the children in school and encourage good attendance. “Anything we can do to promote students' attachment to school is a good thing,” said Nakasuk Principal Tracey MacMillan. Cape Breton Post

Wikwemikong organization launches Anishinaabe language app

The Wikwemikong Heritage Organization has launched a new app on the Google Play store that teaches users the Anishinaabe language. The app teaches the basics of the language, providing examples of pronunciation and correct usage. Creator Shane Cooper consulted with fluent speakers about dialect and pronunciation during the app’s development; Cooper hopes the app will enable youth to connect with the language. One Wikwemikong resident stated, "I have noticed that some of my friends from Wikwemikong and elsewhere have been downloading the app and talking about it, so it certainly has created a buzz among people of my age range." CBC

New book offers insight into including Indigenous culture in the classroom

2 professors at the Prince Albert campus of First Nations University of Canada have published a book to help educators engage more deeply with Indigenous culture in the classroom. Keith and Linda Goulet’s Teaching Each Other: Nehinuw Concepts and Indigenous Pedagogies explores Cree concepts such as kiskinaumatowin, which translates to ‘teaching each other,’ alongside case studies of Saskatchewan classrooms. “When I’ve talked to teachers about the ideas that are in the book, they’ve said that it really validates some of the things they’re doing, because some of the things they’re doing kind of go against the grain of Western education ideas,” said Linda. The book’s goal is to help teachers strengthen Indigenous culture in the classroom. PA Herald

Cayuga language celebrated on Six Nations

Six Nations of the Grand River recently celebrated Indigenous Languages Day with the publication of a new English-Cayuga children’s book titled Carrying it Forward: Traditional Knowledge through the Eyes of Young Hodinohso:ni Artists. Children aged 7–12 contributed illustrations and interpretations of 4 traditional stories for the book. Rick Hill, Co-ordinator of the Indigenous Knowledge Centre at Six Nations Polytechnic, said Indigenous Languages Day celebrates the “value of Indigenous languages across Canada, bolsters excitement, and inspires people to keep learning them.” Taylor Leeal Gibson, an assistant researcher at the centre, added that his native language is "the key to understanding [his] culture. It's important to carry on because that's how we understand our world." Hamilton Spectator

Data show changing schools has negative effect on education outcomes

Statistics Canada has released a new study using data from the 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Survey that explores the educational outcomes and school mobility of off-reserve First Nations students. The data show that higher school mobility, or changing schools due to residential moves or academic performance/social interaction problems, has a negative effect on educational outcomes for First Nations students. Students who had changed schools more than once were more likely to repeat a grade, were less likely to report being happy at school, and were more likely to need or receive help because of a behavioural/emotional problem than those who hadn’t moved. The study also found that 65% of students in grades 1–6 and 37% of students in grades 7–12 who had changed schools reported that they had done so for reasons other than a regular progression (i.e.: elementary to high school). StatsCan News Release | Full Study

Squamish Nation, KPU partner on dual-credit trades program

The Squamish Nation is working with Kwantlen Polytechnic University, the Industry Training Authority (ITA), North Vancouver School District 44, and private sector partners to provide hands-on trades training to high school students at the Squamish Nation Trade Centre. The 23-week Accelerated Credit Enrolment in Industry Training program (ACE IT) initiative, through BC’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint, is a dual-credit program that lets high school students gain credits towards Level 1 certification for a trade while earning high school credits. “It’s a game changer … In this program, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students will develop the skills and the knowledge for the pipe trades. And this is a win-win for the Squamish Nation, because the program itself is being taught at the Squamish Nation Trade Centre in North Vancouver. At the Centre, we play proud host to Aboriginal students arriving from every corner of the province,” said Chief Ian Campbell of the Squamish First Nation. BC News Release

FNMI funding not consistent in new AB budget

Critics are questioning Alberta Premier Jim Prentice’s commitment to improving Aboriginal education in the province after the province's new budget revealed cuts to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit (FNMI) programming. The province has reportedly cut 3.1%, or $1.4 M, from non-teacher compensation grants for FNMI students. “When they say it’s a priority yet it’s one of the areas they cut, your words and actions don’t align,” said Mark Ramsankar, President of the Alberta Teachers’ Association. The budget does provide increased funding for Aboriginal students accessing PSE and apprenticeship training; AB is repurposing $35 M from the Completion Incentive Grant towards initiatives such as the Alberta Low-Income Grant and the Northern Alberta Development Council. Student loan and semester limits and monthly living allowances will also be increased. “Student aid plays an important role in helping students access postsecondary education … Alberta is facing a challenging fiscal situation and it is crucial that we refocus these funds to have a bigger impact on the accessibility of education for Albertans,” said Don Scott, Minister of Innovation and Advanced Education. AB News Release | Calgary Herald (1) | Calgary Herald (2)

Schools in Nunavut are bracing for cuts to teacher allocations

Educators in Nunavut are bracing for cuts to the number of teaching positions allocated to each school division after the territorial government announced last month they would face cuts tied to low enrolment. The affected communities fear that the cuts will further impact attendance rates, as the programs that draw students into school are likely to be cut first. “We’re taking a huge hit here,” said May Baker, a member of Arviat’s District Education Authority. “We have to have teaching positions for all the academic [subjects], so this means we’re looking at getting rid of all the [additional] programming posts, like music, shop, and drama.” Educators warn that the criteria used to determine teacher allocations do not accurately reflect actual attendance, as the software used to track attendance is new. The Arviat DEA is asking the government to measure attendance again in September before making any cuts, and plans to launch a community awareness campaign encouraging school attendance. Nunatsiaq Online | CBC 

RRC, Ryerson among PSE institutions recognized by diversity award

Several Canadian PSE institutions have been awarded Canada’s Best Diversity Employers Award, including Red River College, Ryerson University, the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), UBC, the University of Toronto, and the University of Victoria. Employers are judged on a number of criteria, including diversity initiatives for employees from 5 areas: women, members of visible minorities, persons with disabilities, Aboriginal peoples, and LGBT peoples. “Red River College has always been proactive in their efforts to support its employees and today’s award is ongoing recognition of the work we are doing,” said Lori Grandmont, Acting VP Human Resources and Sustainability. “I want to congratulate our staff for their work on these initiatives, and for their input into continually finding new and innovative ways to strengthen our workplace.” Award News Release | RRC News | Ryerson News