Indigenous Top Ten

March 8, 2017

Canada, ON, Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians sign historic education agreement

The Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians have signed a Tripartite Memorandum of Understanding on Education with the Federal Government and the Government of Ontario. This agreement will tackle three initiatives in particular: supporting the development of a community-based language strategy, building relationships between provincial educators and educators in First Nation operated schools through shared professional development and training opportunities, and supporting student transitions between First Nation schools and provincially-funded schools. “Our children are our most important resource for our future, we must give them every opportunity to learn academics as well as our languages and culture,” stated Grand Chief Gord Peters on behalf of the AIAI. “This is a good step in that direction.” The First Nations participating in the memorandum are Batchewana First Nation, Caldwell First Nation, Delaware Nation, Oneida Nation of the Thames, and Wahta Mohawks. NationTalk

NB introduces mandatory Indigenous curriculum as part of 10-year education plan

New Brunswick has begun to roll out part of its 10-year education plan, which includes mandatory Indigenous curriculum throughout the K-12 system. Beginning in September 2017, high school students with a First Nations background will be able to take advanced Mi’kmaq and Wolasoquey language courses. Indigenous content that will be mandatory for all K-12 students, including new Indigenous content modules in Grade 8 and 9 social studies and history courses, is still under development. “The goal of the department is to ensure that First Nation realities, experiences and contributions to Canadian society are embedded throughout the K-12 educational system, not just in one class,” wrote Kelly Cormier, spokesperson for the NB Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. Charlene Bearhead, education lead at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, noted that many NB teachers do not have enough experience or knowledge related to First Nations issues, and stated that teachers in NB will need to better educate themselves in order to build and improve relationships with First Nations. CBC

Trent, Katimavik partner on Indigenous youth programming

Trent University and national non-profit organization Katimavik have signed an agreement that will see the two parties collaborating on a number of initiatives in order to foster intercultural learning between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Trent has committed to supporting the relaunch of Katimavik’s Indigenous Youth in Transition program, providing Katimavik access to its educational expertise and service in order to develop better learning approaches and tools, become a formal teaching partner for IYIT programs, and collaborate with Katimavik on ways to accredit Katimavik volunteers’ development experience. In return, Katimavik will promote Trent as a preferred place of learning for Indigenous youth and aid the school in recruiting Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, as well as providing Trent’s not-for-profit organizations with Katimavik volunteers. NationTalk

Yorkton Tribal Council students learn industrial skills while building tiny home

Thirteen high school students from Yorkton Tribal Council member nations are developing trades skills while building a tiny home in a collaboration with Your Choice Homes for seven weekends. The pilot project aims to empower the students, provide them a high school industrial arts credit, and build smaller housing for reserves. “It's a little bit bigger than the typical tiny home … but they started right from scratch,” commented Isabel O'Soup, chief of the Yorkton Tribal Council. The project occurs over seven weekends, as students learn a different stage of building each weekend. O’Soup explained that the students have been learning electrical skills, carpentry, plumbing, roofing, and measuring while working on the project: “You just can't ever take that feeling of pride away from them. I think it encourages not only them, it encourages peers, and we'll have all kinds of carpenters, plumbers and electricians in our communities.” CBC | APTN News

School systems across Canada reflect on Indigenous high school graduation rates

Regina Public Schools is celebrating a rise in graduation rates for Indigenous students following the implementation of an “Aboriginal Advocacy” program at high schools across the country. CBC highlights the experiences of Dawne Cassell, Indigenous advocate at Thom Collegiate, who helps nearly 200 Indigenous students with college applications, cultural awareness, and more. In Vernon BC, a fall in the number of Indigenous graduates has School District 22 looking for ways to improve. The district plans to raise awareness of its trades program, which has helped other Indigenous students, and is considering adding Aboriginal support workers to encourage young men to complete their education. Writing from Prince George, BC, high school teacher Gerry Chidiac reflects on how initiatives such as working with Aboriginal leaders to establish innovative programming have greatly benefited local students. Chidiac notes that success can be seen in the 61% graduation rate for Aboriginal students—previously never rising above 50%—as well as an increased celebration of personal identity. CBC (Regina) | CastaNet (Vernon) | Winnipeg Free Press (Subscription Required)

“Oasis of Inuit Culture” threatened by high school’s potential closure

A classroom at Rideau High School that has been described as “an oasis of Inuit culture” is threatened by the school’s potential closure. Rideau has more Inuit students than any other Ottawa high school, reports CBC, and Inuktitut language teacher Ooloosie Taukie says that the school’s Inuit Cultural Club provides them a space to be themselves. “I like to talk to other Inuks and learn more about my culture and try to learn my language again,” explains student Emily Qitsualik. "When I was growing up, I learned it, but I lost touch of it. It's a part of our culture that we try to keep alive.” There are concerns about the future of the Inuit Culture Club and its students with Rideau due to close at the end of the 2016-2017 school year. “We fear that they will drop out,” explained Ottawa Inuit Children's Centre student support coordinator Kayla Power, who expressed hope that a similar initiative would be introduced at the students’ new school. CBC

ON school board reveals Indigenous app

At its winter powwow last Tuesday, the Kenora Catholic District School Board unveiled its new Anishinaabemowin Omiinigoziin app. The app serves as a resource in the local dialect of the Treaty 3 territory that teaches users about Anishinaabemowin language, traditions, and culture. The app was developed through a yearlong collaboration between students, St Thomas Aquinas High School teacher Sheila White, and elders and Knowledge Keepers in the Treaty 3 territory. “The students nowadays are tech-savvy,” said Sheila White, who is the Anishinaabemowin language teacher at St Thomas Aquinas. “We are in the 21st century and we need to have tools available for them that would allow them to learn our language.” The app includes information in four different categories: Self; Survival, which discusses topics such as hunting and trapping; Life Teachings about babies, youth, adults, and elders; and Gifts such as visions, dreams, ceremonies, drums, and songs. The app is publicly available on multiple platforms. CBC  | NationTalk

Canadian foundation donates $12M to support Indigenous organizations

The Slaight Family Foundation announced yesterday that it will donate more than $12M to support organizations that improve the lives of Indigenous people across Canada. The Globe and Mail reports that the money will be distributed over the next five years to 15 non-profit organizations that are engaged with the First Nations, Inuit and Métis on a wide range of initiatives, from health and education to cultural activities and preventing violence against Indigenous women. “The leadership gift that the Slaight Family Foundation is providing to Indspire is going to result in 750 new bursaries and scholarships for Indigenous students studying in arts, culture and language, and also will impact 30,000 Indigenous students through mentorships, through peer support of educators,” said Roberta Jamieson, President of Indspire, which was named one of the donation’s recipients. The Globe article provides a full listing of the 15 organizations set to benefit from the donation. Globe and Mail

National forum discusses how to improve Indigenous student education

Over 2,000 delegates recently gathered in Calgary for the First Nation Directors of Education National Forum, where they discussed how to improve education for Indigenous youth from K-PSE. “There is a lot of inequality, a lot of gaps. There’s an imbalance on reserves, not enough books, computers, even teachers,” said Perry Bellegarde, National Chief for the Assembly of First Nations. “We’re faced with a suicide epidemic because our young people are missing out on hope and inspiration. We need to find the balance, learn math, science, literacy, but also learn language and culture.” Delegates discussed the low per capita federal funding for students on reserves, as well as the need for more supports and training for teachers who may not be currently equipped with the knowledge they need to discuss Indigenous history, language, and culture. Calgary Herald

Kugaaruk school fire leaves students in Nunavut hamlet without classrooms

An overnight fire in Kugaaruk has destroyed the Kugaardjuq School in Nunavut, which serves 310 K-12 students. The school was the only school serving the remote Arctic hamlet. The fire was initially deemed suspicious by the RCMP, and since that time, a 13-year-old has been charged. CBC confirms that school will resume in temporary classrooms throughout the community over the next two weeks: Kindergarten will be held at the community daycare, grades 1 through 6 will be held at the local church, and high school classes will be split up into three separate buildings. “As far as we know, it’s probably a write-off,” said NU Education Minister Paul Quassa. “This is devastating for the community. We really feel for the students, the teachers, the community. We’ll do whatever we can to ensure that the community gets support.” Huffington Post | Nunatsiaq Online | CBC