Indigenous Top Ten

July 12, 2017

Nishnawbe Aski Nation asks Thunder Bay, Fort William First Nation to declare state of emergency

Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler says that he will ask the City of Thunder Bay and Fort William First Nation to declare a state of emergency to mobilize more funds for student safety. Seven First Nations students have died in the city since 2000. “This is not the kind of conference that we want to have, but we have to,” said Fiddler. “I think the issues are too urgent.” The statement comes after two days of talks with chiefs from First Nations across Northern Ontario, who gathered to discuss the safety of Indigenous youth attending school in Thunder Bay. “What is the cost of education?” Elder Barney Batisse asked the chiefs. "When we look at the crisis within and the loss of life and dignity, then I say the price is too high.” CBC reports that some chiefs say that they will not allow students to attend school in Thunder Bay this fall, although the capacity of schools in other northern towns and cities is quite limited. CBC | APTN News 680 News (CP)

RSU demands Ryerson change its name, remove statue of namesake

The Ryerson Students’ Union has made public a list of 11 demands to Ryerson University leaders in light of the namesake’s influence on the creation of residential schools. These demands include changing the school’s name and removing a campus statue of Egerton Ryerson. “I think it is just necessary for Ryerson to acknowledge the history from within its name and the history with having a statue up like that that represents an individual who had an active role in creating residential schools,” said RSU incoming president Susanne Nyaga. Metro News reports that the RSU's board members have stated that they were not involved in or aware of the development of the list, and that the demands have drawn backlash from students online in the form of one-star reviews of RSU and the creation of a “Boycott RSU” page on Facebook. Globe and Mail Metro News

New federal Indigenous medical mentorship program “a much needed-step”

The new national Indigenous Mentorship Network Program is “a much-needed step” in supporting those interested in pursuing a health care or research career, says Jason Beardy, a first-year student at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine in Thunder Bay. The program will be characterized by a Two-Eyed Seeing approach, reports CBC, which combines Western perspectives with cultural teachings and knowledge on healing and traditional medicine. Beardy praised the opportunity for students to have access to a mentor who can answer questions and give encouragement, noting that this “will close the gap so much into our own learning process and [help] us to move forward more quickly in terms of how we can provide services to the communities.” The federal government has reportedly given $8M to the program to support and encourage First Nations, Inuit, and Metis health researchers to pursue their studies. “There will be increasingly more research done by Indigenous health care researchers on the issues that are of importance to them,” said Federal Minister of Health Jane Philpott of the program. CBC | Chronicle Journal

On-reserve, off-reserve AB students exchange ideas of reconciliation through art

Despite being located 200 kilometres apart, Tatsikiisaapo'p Middle School in Kainai, Alberta and Bob Edwards School in Calgary have come together through art in a new reconciliation initiative. The program sees students from the two schools create work and exchange them with one another in order to express feelings of reconciliation. “I truly believe in hands-on learning through arts and cultural-based programs that will enhance and nurture the knowledge, skills and goals of our students to provide a strong foundation for their future,” said Tatsikiisaapo'p art teacher Andrea Fox. “I'm so proud of the work that they've [students] created. Their confidence levels in who they are as Blackfoot people moves beyond the classroom.” Students at Bob Edwards also said that the project was “eye-opening” for the way it exposed them to new concepts and historic events. CBC

Nunavik receives accreditation for science program, moves forward on curriculum development

The Education Department of Quebec has told the Kativik School Board that its science program has been accredited as of the end of June 2017. The accreditation of Nunavik’s science and math curriculum materials will enable Nunavik high school graduates to receive actual diplomas instead of certificates of attestation. “Our programs will continue to evolve, will be revised and adjusted; this is the very nature of curriculum development work and it applies to all accredited programs. Therefore, the school board will continue to require the ministry of education to review and accredit programs,” explained KSB director of education services Etua Snowball. Snowball further noted that the appointment of Josée Arsenault, QC education department director of services to Aboriginals and Northern Development, as a key contact person has “improved the responsiveness of the ministry of education related to the specific issue of accreditation of our science program.” KSB is also reportedly working on new initiatives, such as Inuit-centred environmental sciences for secondary students and a land-based curriculum. Nunatsiaq Online

Okanagan, UOIT introduce new Indigenous gardens

Okanagan College has collaborated with Westbank First Nation and the City of Kelowna on the design and launch of a new Indigenous garden on its campus. The na’ʔk’ʷulamən garden, which roughly translates to “the things we do,” will be used as a teaching and learning site for students, campus, the Indigenous community, and the public. The green space includes nearly 50 varieties of plants of cultural and historic significance to local Indigenous peoples. The University of Ontario Institute of Technology has also established two Indigenous gardens as part of a new community involvement initiative. UOIT reports that its new garden beds feature local native flora purchased from Native Plants of Claremont, as well as the traditional Indigenous sacred medicinal plants white sage and tobacco. A future raised garden bed will see the addition of cedar and sweetgrass. Okanagan | Kelowna Now (Okanagan) | UOIT

Canadore, Kenjgewin Teg sign principles-based PSE agreement

Kenjgewin Teg Educational Institute and Canadore College have signed a memorandum of understanding that aims to strengthen Indigenous Anishinabek PSE through a student-centred approach. The agreement is reportedly the first of its kind in Ontario. “Creating meaningful and respectful relationships in Indigenous education is critical now in our history; when we reflect back on this day many years from now, it may be one of those critical moments which represented one small step but significant enough to make a tremendous difference in Indigenous education for the next generation,” said Stephanie Roy, executive director of Kenjgewin Teg. Under the agreement, both institutions will undertake efforts such as providing enhanced culturally-relevant learning for Indigenous-Anishinabek learners, supporting stakeholders in increasing cross-understanding and reciprocity among Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, and creating and implementing intellectual and cultural traditions of Indigenous-Anishinabek peoples through on-campus and community-led postsecondary learning. NationTalk

AFN launches First Nations educational toolkit for teachers

The Assembly of First Nations has launched its free digital education resource for the iPad on iTunes U to the acclaim of many school boards. Titled “It’s Our Time First Nations Education Toolkit,” the package provides teachers with culturally relevant, accessible, hands-on educational tools related to First Nations culture and history. “The It’s Our Time First Nations Education Toolkit will help increase cultural competency and understanding of First Nations’ rights, histories and cultures, developed from First Nations perspectives,” commented AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. The Canadian Education Association, Canadian School Boards Association, and Canadian Teacher’s Federation all commended AFN on the resource, calling it a “must-have reference for schools” and a “valuable comprehensive toolkit.” AFN

KPU takes part in “outside-the-box” prison exchange program

Criminology students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and some of those incarcerated at Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village in Harrison Mills are taking part in an “outside-the-box” prison exchange program. The program sees 13 KPU students enter the prison to study with 13 incarcerated students. “Giving inside students credit puts them on more equal footing with their outside counterparts and imbues the program with a particularly powerful impact,” said KPU Arts Faculty Associate Dean Wade Deisman. “Against the prison setting as the backdrop, and with prisoners as participants in the dialogue, issues of crime and social justice take on a whole new gravity and meaning.” “As we read more about it, understanding and defining trauma became more complex, and so the only way we could truly get a sense of it was to draw from our own experiences,” commented Sujata Bakshi, an “outside” student in the program. The course focus and program were developed through consultation with Elders at Kwìkwèxwelhp and the Sts’ailes First Nations. NationTalk

UAlberta, Tetlit Gwich’in team up on bush camp project

The University of Alberta has partnered with the Tetlit Gwich'in of Fort McPherson in the Northwest Territories to create a new land-based learning bush camp. Through the Kule Institute for Advanced Study, the university has granted the project $100K in funding over three years in order to bring the camp to life. “Over the course of the year, I've had many conversations with folks from the community,” said Elaine Alexie of Fort McPherson, the community liaison for the project. “And they've expressed a need for building this type of program. We didn't just come up with this idea.” The project’s curriculum is being developed by the research team and a group of elders, and aims to blend critical Indigenous scholarship and Gwich’in history and governance. CBC