Indigenous Top Ten

May 31, 2017

Parents “outraged and upset” after elimination of Aboriginal retention worker program

Parents say that they are “outraged and upset” about the Saskatoon Catholic school division’s decision to end its Aboriginal student-retention worker program. CBC reports that on Tuesday, May 23, the program’s 12 employees received layoff notices. “Knowing that they had a place to go to and a person to speak to, to make decisions for their future, there was a personal relationship bonded there,” said parent Rachelle Tanton, who added that her four children have benefited greatly from the program. The low graduation rate for Indigenous students has reportedly been a topic of concern for years at the school division. The current on-time provincial graduation rate for Indigenous students sits at 41.8%, which is roughly half the rate for non-Indigenous students. The school board says that it made the decision in an effort to deal with a $9.7M budget shortfall generated by the most recent provincial budget. CBC | NationTalk

Inuit students visit Finland’s Sami people to exchange stories, knowledge

A transatlantic trip to meet and learn from Finland’s Indigenous Sami people has led to valuable lessons and memories for 14 students from Nunavut Sivuniksavut, an Ottawa-based college for Inuit studies. Students flew to Helsinki to visit Finnish parliament and the University of Helsinki, where they met with professors of Indigenous studies and languages. Later, they travelled to Inari Village, a small community that is home to many Sami, the Indigenous people who live throughout Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Russia. “[It's] kinda like a once in a lifetime,” said student Emmeline Ipeelie of the experience. “We got to meet a lot of people and perform and share our stories.” Students learned about Sami governance, broadcasting, and language revitalization efforts. “Sometimes Inuit are made out to be that we're the only ones that are struggling,” added Ipeelie. “We still have our culture going, and Inuit and Sami are working to strengthen [it]. It's still alive.” CBC

TRU, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc sign MOU promoting partnerships

Thompson Rivers University and Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc (TteS) have signed an MOU aimed at promoting partnerships and cooperation between the school and band. The partnership outlines how TRU will work with TteS to address education programs and services, implement the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, and ensure that all education practices will be respectful to the traditional territory of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc. The agreement will see TRU and TteS fly each other's flags at all important events and to have representation at mutually agreed-upon Indigenous events. “We are proud to walk alongside the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc as we deepen our mutual relationship by undertaking together the important work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in education,” said TRU President Alan Shaver. “Indigenous people have the right as affirmed in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to quality education that honors and reflects our world view,” added TteS Councillor Viola Thomas. TRU

Connected North partnership sees students connect with elders, Indigenous artists

Students at the First Nations School of Toronto will be able to directly connect in real time with elders, Indigenous artists, and other First Nations schools across Canada, thanks to a new program. Connected North—the result of a partnership between the Toronto District School Board, TakingITGlobal, and Cisco Canada—allows for real-time online connection between the school and remote First Nations communities. “They can interact with other students in different parts of the country and visually see the other class and share the lessons,” said First Nations School of Toronto Principal Jonathan Kakegamic. “TakingITGlobal is setting up the connections with the other communities, and our students will really benefit.” Inside Toronto reports that Connected North is currently set up in 11 schools across Ontario, and in other parts of the country such as remote communities in Nunavut. Inside Toronto

First Nations teaching farm in Dawson City expands

A First Nations teaching farm operated in partnership with Yukon College says that it plans to expand its gardens and add livestock in an effort to better serve students. The new expansion to the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation's teaching farm will include the addition of berries and apple trees, as well as pigs, rabbits, and chickens. Now in its second year, the farm program has 23 students, six of whom are high school students. "The fact that it's something that was really driven by the First Nation—that excites me," said Tosh Southwick, director of First Nation initiatives at Yukon College. "It's grounded in the desires of that community, and anytime we can support that, that's really exciting." Construction of a greenhouse will reportedly start in June, with the goal of having fresh greens available to Dawson City year-round. CBC

ON school boards add English courses with Indigenous focus

After three years of planning and development, Grade 11 students in the Lambton Kent District School Board, including schools in Chatham-Kent and Sarnia, will now take a mandatory English course that focuses on Indigenous writers and playwrights instead of North American authors and Shakespeare. “The students will still read, write, build perspective, frame arguments, do presentations, and so on,” explained Mark Sherman, Superintendent of education of the Lambton Kent District School Board. “But now, the topic has an Indigenous focus or author.” The Greater Essex County District School Board has also prepared to offer the course in September, but will offer it as an elective rather than as a mandatory course. Superintendent Clara Howitt explains that the board will be looking into making the course mandatory in the future. CBC

USask announces new ASAP STEM pathway, engineering engagement program

In celebration of the fifth anniversary of its Aboriginal Student Achievement Program (ASAP), the University of Saskatchewan has announced a new STEM Pathways Program that will provide access, entrance, and enrichment programs for Aboriginal students interested in STEM careers. USask has also announced that the university has received a $147K federal investment to create the Ancestral Engineering Design Activities program, which will teach Indigenous youth about the engineering principles behind Indigenous technologies, such as “the forces acting on an animal trap or the design principles behind choosing the materials for a canoe.” “Our ultimate goal is to inspire Indigenous youth to consider the possibilities of careers in engineering,” says USask College of Engineering Professor Sean Maw, who holds the Jerry G Huff Chair in Innovative Teaching. “The knowledge that their ancestors were excellent designers can instill pride and curiosity. It will also engender respect and appreciation from non-Indigenous people.” USask (1) | USask (2)

NU woman selected as 1st Inuk ambassador for Canada-wide science fair

A student at Nunavut Arctic College has become the first Inuk ambassador to the Canada-Wide Science Fair—the largest youth science competition in the country. CBC reports that Mary-Lou Angidlik first began studying Arctic plant medicine at the age of 13, and won a $500 agriculture award for her work. The Canada-Wide Science Fair selects only a handful of youth across Canada to help facilitate the fair. Angidlik says her love for science fairs was sparked in Grade 7, when her science teacher worked with her to submit a project for the Canada-Wide Science Fair in 2007. She participated again in 2011. She encourages other youth interested in science to apply to be an ambassador. Angidlik is currently completing a social work program at Nunavut Arctic College, and will be using her experience as an ambassador for her practicum. CBC

First Nation in community of Lax Kw’alaams celebrates first Grade 12 graduation

Nine Aboriginal students have graduated in the first-ever Grade 12 cohort in the remote BC community of Lax Kw’alaams. The Globe and Mail reports that the students now plan to celebrate their achievement with a visit to Ontario and Quebec. Language Arts teacher Cora Barak notes that while previous students from the community had to uproot their lives to complete high school, new cohorts will have the opportunity to remain at home. “The success rate for finishing Grade 12 before was not ideal, but it’s an extremely exciting time now,” Barak said in an interview from Lax Kw’alaams. “Graduating from their own certified Grade 12 in their own village is a pretty big deal. This has been a dream come true for the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation.” Globe and Mail

UVic Indigenous students with financial need set to benefit from new donation

The University of Victoria will provide more support to Indigenous students with financial need, thanks to a $500K donation from the Joyce Family Foundation. “This generous gift helps bridge the funding gap for Indigenous students who do not receive band funding, particularly for non-status and Métis students,” says Lalita Kines, acting director of UVic’s Office of Indigenous Affairs. UVic President Jamie Cassels adds that “the generosity of the Joyce Family Foundation will have a tremendous impact on our ability to enhance access and support for Indigenous students. It will advance our objective to help Indigenous students achieve their full potential and strengthen our capacity to be a partner in their academic success.” UVic reports that Indigenous student enrolment has increased by 36%over the past decade, while the number of Indigenous graduate students in particular has increased by 130% over the past decade. UVic