Indigenous Top Ten

February 8, 2017

UBC Indigenous community planning program secures funding for five years

The Indigenous Community Planning program at UBC will continue for another five years thanks to a $500K grant from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, reports the Vancouver Sun. The grant will allow the program to hire an Indigenous instructor and increase the program’s student intake from six to 10 students per year. The article explains that ICP is offered as a masters concentration in which students attend core courses, followed by an eight-month practicum where students are sent out in pairs to spend 400 hours living in and working with an Indigenous community. “I think it’s a breakthrough way of doing planning with indigenous communities,” said program Chairwoman Leonie Sandercock. “I think we’re the first planning program in North America to recognize the need to think deeply about how to work in a good way with indigenous communities, given the range of issues affecting indigenous communities and their relationships with the Government of Canada.” Vancouver Sun

YK schools to introduce new curriculum that emphasizes First Nations culture and heritage

The Yukon Department of Education is rolling out a new curriculum that will put a stronger emphasis on YK First Nations culture and heritage while requiring fewer exams. Nicole Morgan, the assistant deputy minister for curriculum, explains that the curriculum will see a greater emphasis on experiential learning. “[T]hey can gather different samples from their environment where they learn about their science, they talk about Yukon First Nations' ways of knowing and doing in terms of stewardship, and the importance of traditional territory and the place they're at, and go back to the classroom and write about it,” explained Morgan. While the territory will still largely follow British Columbia’s curriculum, deputy minister Judy Arnold explained that the material will be tailored to reflect local culture, and will see fewer exams for secondary students. Yukon News explains that the new curriculum for Kindergarten to Grade 9 will be rolled out this fall, while the curriculum for Grade 10 to 12 will see an update in 2018. CBC | Yukon News

UofT, UCalgary courses teach, preserve First Nations languages

Various postsecondary education institutions across the country have announced initiatives this month dedicated to the preservation and/or teaching of Indigenous languages. At the University of Toronto, Ryan DeCaire of Wáhta, a Mohawk community north of Toronto, spent two years at an adult immersion school in a Six Nations learning Kanien’kéha, and now teaches UofT’s Introduction to the Mohawk Language course to about 20 students per class. The University of Calgary has recently added a new course teaching the language of the Stoney (Îyârhe Nakoda) people of southern Alberta. The course description states that the class will be an introduction to the language, while also covering the history, cultural and value system of the Îyârhe Nakoda. “We are doing a new approach to language learning, if they want to learn about our language, they should also learn about our people and the colonization process – they need to know our reality,” explained program co-teacher Trent Fox. Metro News (UofT) | Cochrane Eagle (UCalgary)

Quebec's only off-reserve Indigenous school set to close after only one year

After only five months of operation, the only off-reserve school in Quebec that focuses on Indigenous students’ educational needs will be closed down, reports CBC. The Tshiueten project taught 20 Innu and Atikamekw children from Kindergarten to Grade 2 their Indigenous language and culture in addition to their regular classroom education. The Rives-du-Saguenay board reportedly did not realize the impact that the students' special needs would have on the overall cost of the project, and without the renewal of a $205K provincial grant, the board is unable to fund the program. School board director general Chantale Cyr explains that the program’s costs had risen to six times the cost of educating a child in a regular classroom, as a result of “adding the speech therapists, the social workers, the support for children with disabilities.” Cyr noted that the board would continue the program if it was provided with extra funding. CBC

Much can be done to close Indigenous education gap, says Indspire president

“Financial resources are the number one barrier our students cite for their inability to achieve a postsecondary degree or any training beyond high school,” says Roberta Jamieson, president and CEO of the Indigenous education advocacy organization Indspire. In an interview with University Affairs, Jamieson describes the concrete steps that K-12 schools and PSE can take to help close the educational attainment gap that exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students in Canada. Jamieson notes that in addition to financial barriers, systemic racism remains a key factor in preventing Indigenous students from achieving better outcomes. “From a young age, students are exposed to curriculum materials that don’t reflect who they are,” Jamieson adds. “If you don’t see your culture validated, it’s very difficult to continue to embrace a system that doesn’t embrace you.” Jamieson voices her support for universities that have created Indigenous centres to make their campuses more welcoming, yet adds that much more can be done to incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing into the structure of academic knowledge. University Affairs

MRU, Sault celebrate new Indigenous structures on campus

In Alberta, Mount Royal University is celebrating a new Blackfoot-style tipi on campus, which was blessed last month in a traditional ceremony. “We’re enhancing our knowledge and other people’s knowledge about the tipi and our culture,” said John Fischer, director of the Iniskim Centre at MRU. “A tipi means many things, but to us, it teaches us about the strength of our people, about our relationship to our universe, and it’s a symbol of our home.” In Ontario, Sault College is celebrating the completion of the ‘Wiigwaasgamig’ Birch Bark House Sacred Fire Arbour, which was lit for the first time last week. The fire arbour is described as a welcoming place to be used for spiritual ceremonies, teachings, and community events throughout the year. “On behalf of Native Student Council, I would like to say a Chi-Miigwetch/Big Thank You to everyone involved in this process,” says Jonathan Boyer-Nolan, President of the Native Student Council at Sault. “I am very pleased and honoured to participate in the opening ceremony of the ‘Wiigwaasgamig’.” Metro News (MRU) | MRU | NationTalk (Sault)

UQÀM, UQAT, UMontréal offer new summer course on Atikamekw territory

Université du Québec à Montréal, Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, and Université de Montréal will jointly offer a new course on Aboriginal issues that will be taught on Atikamekw territory this summer. “We want to make students aware of the different historical, political, social and cultural realities, while developing an open mind and a critical sense,” explained UQÀM professor Laurent Jérôme, one of the instructors for the course. “Although they unilaterally declared their territorial sovereignty in 2014, talks with the federal and provincial authorities, which began about 30 years ago, continue on territorial and self-government issues. The Atikamekw have a deep and intimate relationship to the territory, which is linked to colonial history.” The universities partnered with the Manawan Atikamekw Council and Manawan Tourism to develop the week-long course. The field course will give students the opportunity to meet and talk with community members, sleep in tipis, and participate in traditional social and cultural activities. UQÀM

Council of Yukon First Nations considers 'Indigenous-led' school

The Council of Yukon First Nations is reportedly considering the creation of an Indigenous-led school, which would be a first for the Yukon. The consideration comes in response to low high school graduation rates among Indigenous students. The school would be equivalent to the territory’s French or Catholic schools in setting its own curriculum, and could include a boarding school according to CYFN Grand Chief Peter Johnston. “I think it's important that we have an identity, and especially when it comes to the education system and First Nation students, I think it's important that they have an option,” said Johnston, who later added that, “unfortunately the system's been failing the children. It's very important we build an environment for our First Nation children to find success.” 14 Yukon First Nations took part in a “visioning session” in Whitehorse last week to discuss the possibility. CBC

Carleton transforming outdoor amphitheatre into Indigenous space

Carleton University will be transforming its outdoor amphitheatre into an Indigenous learning and gathering space, which has temporarily been named Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) Park. The university will consult with Indigenous students, faculty, and staff; as well as Indigenous communities and groups on the use and design of the space. “This project is a wonderful opportunity for Carleton to engage the Indigenous students, faculty and broader community in a necessary dialogue that speaks to our efforts to implement the TRC Calls to Action in a way that tangible, timely and relevant,” said Kahente Horn-Miller, assistant professor in the School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies. The Carleton release outlines a number of other related initiatives that the university is currently pursuing. Carleton

FSIN, USask partner on support for First Nations students

The University of Saskatchewan has signed an agreement with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations that will see the two work together to improve the academic success of First Nations students. The agreement also commits the USask president and FSIN Chief to each annually present the initiatives that their organization or institution has undertaken to support and serve Indigenous students. “Our young people are seeking educational opportunities that will lead to productive careers,” said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron. “These types of improved relationships will ensure our First Nation students get their educational needs met. Many of our First Nations students have graduated from the U of S and others are currently enrolled, therefore we advocate on their behalf to ensure their success in exercising the inherent and treaty right to education.” The Star Phoenix | NationTalk