Indigenous Top Ten

October 18, 2017

First Nations-run school system opens in MB

A new school system operated entirely by First Nations has officially opened in Manitoba. Last Wednesday, the Manitoba First Nations School system held its ribbon-cutting ceremony at Sgt Tommy Prince School on the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, about 65 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. The new system includes a deal for increased funding levels and gives Indigenous leaders jurisdiction over schools in 10 First Nations communities. “Our people always understood the importance of education for creating a better life for future generations. Our elders taught us to look forward to the next seven generations,” said Arlen Dumas, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. “Today represents the next round of seven generations where our own people will determine our destiny and our future.” CBC | CTV News

Toronto District School Board to remove “chief” from all job titles

Canada's largest school board is phasing out the word “chief” from senior staff job titles in an effort to show respect for Indigenous peoples. The decision has faced criticism from some who argue that the historical roots of the word “chief” are not racist. The TDSB says that to its knowledge, no Indigenous community members have asked the board to remove the phrase from its job titles. However, TDSB Spokesperson Bird says that the term has come under fire in certain contexts in recent years. “It may not have originated as an Indigenous word, but the fact is that it is used as a slur in some cases, or in a negative way to describe Indigenous people,” said Bird. “With that in mind, as it has become a slur in some cases, that's the decision the administration has made to be proactive on that.” CTV News

UBC faces human rights complaint over handling of Furlong speech

A residential school survivor has registered a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal over how the University of British Columbia handled the invitation for former Vancouver Olympics and Paralympics CEO to deliver a speech on campus. Myrtle Perry argues that UBC discriminated against her and other critics by not responding to her concerns about Furlong in the same way it responded to Furlong supporters. Perry said she and her brother, Richard Perry, are two survivors who tried to meet with UBC President Santa Ono on campus last winter after Ono reinstated Furlong’s fundraising speech, but Ono allegedly did not respond. She said that this silence led them to conclude UBC “provided non-Indigenous people with a service – that of listening, responding and apologizing, but denied the service to First Nations people.” Emails obtained through a freedom of information request have revealed that some UBC alumni threatened to withhold their donations unless Furlong was allowed to speak. APTN News

Canadian publisher recalls Grade 3 workbook after Indigenous history section criticized

The Popular Book Company Canada, a Canadian publisher based in Richmond Hill, Ontario, has been criticized for an educational workbook that ‘whitewashes’ Indigenous history. The book reportedly states that First Nations peoples agreed to make room for European settlers, while critics point out that First Nations people were forced off their land. “While we cannot undo what has already been published, we are committed to making things better for future editions,” the publisher stated. NationTalk reports that many parents and community members believe that the error should not have happened in the first place. “If it’s taught to the non-Indigenous community, then they think that we actually wanted to be on reserves – reserves which are desolate and uncared for – so it’s our fault,” said Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre Executive Director Jennifer Dockstader. Global News (CP) | NationTalk

First Feather program gives QC Indigenous community job experience, confidence

This year, the QC Naskapi community of Kawawachikamach took part in the First Feather Skills Development Program in an effort to tackle the repairs and updates that have historically required a contractor to come into the community. The First Feather program is an eight-week course that brings an instructor into the community to train local people in repairs and basic maintenance. A CBC article highlights the barriers that the community overcame in their journey to offer the program, such as ensuring that the program would fit the funding rules for training and education. “I can say the program is very successful,” said James Pien, director of public works for Kawawachikamach. “It is providing skills to several individuals and they feel confident that they can enter into the workforce in construction.” CBC

Kitikmeot School Operations calls upon community to help improve school attendance

The Executive Director of Kitikmeot School Operations appeared before the Kitikmeot region’s annual meeting of mayors this month to urge attendees to find ways of ensuring that kids in their communities attend school. “We really need to unite everyone possible,” said Catherine Keeling, who added that the District Education Authorities (DEAs) and schools are doing everything they can to improve attendance. “The DEA and principal/school team are required to create and implement a policy to promote attendance in their community,” said Keeling, noting that a community-wide effort is now needed to improve attendance, which could include consultations to identify barriers to students attending school. Nunatsiaq Online

FSIN, SaskPolytech partner to focus on Indigenous student success

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) and Saskatchewan Polytechnic have signed a five-year Memorandum of Understanding that will see the parties set a framework to promote the Inherent and Treaty Right to Education for First Nations students and implement the calls to action of the TRC. A SaskPolytech release states that the MOU is a high-level expression of shared interests and desired outcomes, including the fostering of economic, cultural, and social development. The MOU will also focus on increasing PSE accessibility for Indigenous students, highlighting strategies, programs, and activities that both FSIN and SaskPolytech undertake in support of Indigenous students. SaskPolytech

Lakehead opens new medicine wheel garden

Lakehead University has opened its new medicine wheel garden that Fort Williams Chief Peter Collins says is “a very inspiring moment for the university and also Fort William in partnership.” The garden features stone that Collins delivered from Fort William last month, and is intended to provide a welcoming place for students from all over the world. “You come from everywhere (and) you’re here on our territories and it’s an honour to have your presence,” says Tannis Kastern, a fourth-year Indigenous Learning student and Lakehead University Student Union Board of Directors member. “If you ever need to come and take a break, that is what this place is for. You don’t have to be Indigenous to come and utilize this space.” Anishinabek News

ON elementary school takes down 44-year-old totem pole after deeming it cultural appropriation

An Ontario elementary school removed a decades-old totem pole from outside its front entrance this month after discovering that it was built without input from Indigenous community members. Grade 6 students at Summitview Public School in Stouffville, located about 50 km north of Toronto, carved the totem pole in 1973. Former teacher Bernadine Mumford, who started the project, told the Stouffville Sun-Tribune it was a part of a Canadian history exercise that was meant to show the “great harm” done to Indigenous peoples. After “community-based concerns” emerged about the structure, the York Region District School Board decided that the totem pole amounted to cultural appropriation. Representatives] from the Chippewas of Georgina Island agreed that the rickety structure should come down. National Post

SFU pledges to move forward on reconciliation recommendations

Simon Fraser University says that it will spend $9M over the next four years to help implement recommendations from its Aboriginal Reconciliation Council. Council Co-Chair Chris Lewis spent months performing consultations both on and off the SFU campus to help shape the recommendations. “It was the first step in terms of  transforming SFU to make sure that it's a welcoming place for our Indigenous students and for all students that they can hear our songs, witness our ceremonies and protocols,” said Lewis. The report includes 33 calls to action that are organized into four clusters: creating safe and welcoming spaces for Aboriginal peoples; curriculum innovation and Indigenization; student pathways and support; and administration, hiring, and project implementation. The Council delivered its findings this Monday in a traditional Coast Salish witnessing ceremony. CBC