Indigenous Top Ten

January 11, 2017

Manitoba First Nations to have own school board, receive major funding boost

A new agreement signed by the federal government and Manitoba’s Indigenous leaders is set to give the province’s First Nations control over their own school board, reports the Winnipeg Free Press. The school board is slated to be operational for the 2017-2018 school year and will see a heavy investment to increase funding levels for the reserve schools to comparable levels with provincially funded schools in MB. “We are honoured to accept responsibility for education from the First Nations that are signing this historical agreement,” said Lorne Keeper, the executive director of the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre. “The future looks bright for our children and youth with the increased funding that will allow for culturally relevant and high quality academic programming.” The participating First Nations include Bloodvein, Brokenhead Ojibway, Dakota Plains Wahpeton, Fox Lake Cree, Keeseekoowenin Ojibway, Lake Manitoba, Pinaymootang, Roseau River Anishinabe and Sagkeeng. The Winnipeg Free Press has called the initiative the first of its kind in Canada. CTV News (CP) | Winnipeg Free Press | NationTalk

Some First Nations schools should receive more money than urban counterparts, says federal minister

First Nations schools should receive the same level of funding as other schools across the country, and in some cases more, said Canada’s Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett in an interview with CBC. Bennett noted that many First Nations schools require more support because of their remote location, along with their diverse educational goals, which include developing and teaching Indigenous language curricula or integrating “on-the-land” learning into the school year. CBC notes that a funding gap has been growing for decades between First Nations schools and non-First Nations schools, due in part to the 2% cap the government imposed on education increases to schools and other services on reserves. “That's music to our ears,” said Assembly of First Nations regional chief and education chair Bobby Cameron of Bennett’s statements. “It's been a long time coming where we've had a serious investment into First Nations education. I mean, we're talking about two, three, four decades here where our First Nations leadership and students and post-secondary students have been waiting patiently.” CBC

Songhees, Esquimalt express interest in RRU land following DND’s announcement of disposal

Canada’s Department of National Defence has declared that it plans to dispose of the lands on which Royal Roads University operates after determining that the land exists in surplus of the DND’s needs. The move is not expected to disrupt operations at the university, yet the Times Colonist reports that the move could result in new collaborations between RRU and the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations, both of which have expressed interest in the land and identified it as a core part of their claimed traditional territories. Songhees Chief Ron Sam said that if an agreement is reached with the federal government, it could mark the end of a 24-year modern treaty negotiation. “We’re not after Royal Roads University, we’re looking at the lands surrounding the university. My understanding is there’s about 500-plus acres of land at Royal Roads and that’s really what the Songhees Nation is looking at,” said Sam. Times Colonist | The Province | RRU

Portage College works to revive the art of hide tanning

The practice of tanning is “one of the oldest Indigenous art forms in Canada,” writes Maclean’s, “and it is also a dying one.” That is why Portage College in Lac La Biche, Alberta is working to revive the practice by incorporating it into school curriculum. Since 1978, the school has offered a three-week class in the tradition as part of the Native arts and culture program. But the class gained recent recognition after the school uploaded a video to YouTube from the 1980s featuring the original instructor, Métis elder Elsie Quintal, demonstrating the Woodland Cree tanning process. The video received 138,000 views and has become the school’s most popular video. “During the fall, the entire area comes alive with beautiful colours, sounds of lake water fowl, [and other] wonderful wildlife,” says current instructor Ruby Sweetman, who adds that the easy availability of commercial hides has made people less inclined to do the difficult work of tanning. Maclean’s

Addressing Canada’s colonial history by teaching Indigenous law

First-year students at McGill University’s Faculty of Law are participating in a new course on Indigenous legal traditions this semester, writes Law Faculty Dean Robert Leckey for the Montreal Gazette. “Our intensive course is part of a larger curricular renewal that will substantially bolster the place of Indigenous legal traditions in legal education at McGill,” adds Leckey, who says that the course is a key part of the faculty’s effort to implement the recommendations of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. “Speaking more broadly, addressing the Canadian legacy of colonialism regarding Indigenous peoples doesn’t allow anyone to stay in his or her comfort zone,” the author concludes. “Law faculties and universities have a long way to go on this issue—and it’s crucial to talk about the experiments and tentative steps forward.” Montreal Gazette

Indigenous STEM pilot program deemed successful, to be further delivered in 2017

Actua, Engineering Outreach at the University of Ottawa, and the Ottawa Carleton District School Board have celebrated the successful completion of a pilot STEM educational initiative for Indigenous students from Gloucester High School and Rideau High School. NationTalk reports that the program, part of Actua’s Indigenous Youth in STEM program (InSTEM), allowed students to get hands-on experience and engage with STEM through the lens of both Indigenous cultural knowledge and western science. “I strongly believe that this new InSTEM program will be beneficial to all participants, by connecting our student instructors from our Engineering Outreach team to Indigenous youth hopefully feeding their curiosity for STEM and inspiring them to pursue post-secondary education,” said UOttawa Instructor Justine Boudreau. “Our students will also greatly benefit from this initiative from exchanging with Indigenous youth, Elders and knowledge keepers.” The program is already moving on to develop the program for continued delivery at Gloucester High School and other schools in 2017. NationTalk

Arctic College students evicted with one-week notice after returning from break

A group of students at Nunavut Arctic College returned to Iqaluit after the holidays to learn that their program had been cancelled and that they were being evicted from their student housing, reports CBC. College Vice-President Eric Corneau has stated that the students in question had been on academic probation prior to the holiday break, but were not informed about their end-of-semester termination until after they had returned. “Unfortunately we made the decision at the end of December right before the break that a number of students were not going to be continuing in the program,” said Corneau, who added that the school is willing to be flexible about the students’ eviction timelines. Four of the six students taking Inuit Studies at the Nunatta Campus in Iqaluit were on academic probation, yet the termination of their enrolment also resulted in the cancellation of the program, says Corneau, who adds, “it is a extremely difficult and challenging decision to cancel a program and it is not taken lightly, but we cannot offer a program to just one or two students.” CBC

“I own this drum because I made it”: Fort Smith students learn to build Dene drums

Students at Paul William Kaeser High School in Fort Smith are learning to make music using Dene drums they made themselves, reports CBC. Chipewyan language instructor Paul Boucher says that he hopes 200 of his students will build their own Dene drums by the end of the year. “What I was told by elders around was it was a gift from the Creator, and for us to use it to communicate with the Creator,” says Boucher. “So that's what I do, and it's helped me in my own healing. I wanted to share that with students.” Boucher says he hopes that once students finish their drums, they use them to relieve stress or comfort themselves in difficult times. He adds that if there is enough interest among students, he would also like to start a drum group at the school. “Just to hear the heartbeat of the drum is important. Even that would help in any stressful situation for any student," he says. So far, students have reportedly completed 50 drums. CBC

Indigenous students remain underfunded while Canada celebrates its 150th: Metro contributor

“Spending millions on a party while Indigenous children, families and communities fight for equitable services is a hypocrisy,” writes Vicky Mochama for Metro, referring to the nearly half a billion dollars that the federal government is slated to spend on its Canada 150 celebration. The author notes that while some of this money will go toward promoting truth and reconciliation, it does not address the significant funding gaps that remain between on-reserve Indigenous students and their provincially funded counterparts. The author cites a recent report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimating that the educational funding gap between on-reserve students and their provincially funded counterparts would fall between $336M and $665M in 2016-2017. “The most recent federal budget provides $3.7B in funding for Indigenous students over the next five years,” Mochama concludes. “But too much of that money won’t be seen for a few years yet. Generations of Indigenous children will be lost in the meantime.” Metro