Indigenous Top Ten

February 6, 2019

Fontaine, Sniderman: Canada must end education inequality for First Nations

“The prime minister says that lower funding for Indigenous students is ‘simply not right.’ It is also, crucially, illegal,” write Lorena Sekwan Fontaine of the University of Manitoba and Andrew Stobo Sniderman of McGill University. The authors note that over the past 16 months, they have pored over papers in government archives in hopes of answering the question of why reserve schools are separate and unequal in terms of the support they receive. They chart the course of Indigenous education in Canada from the era of Residential Schools through the “Integration” era, in which Indigenous students were sent to provincial public schools. After bands and reserves gained control over their own education systems, the federal government imposed a 2% cap on all new spending increases for reserves, and ever since, the funding gap between on-reserve education and provincially funded public education has been widening. The authors note that this gap has also made it very difficult to attract and retain top teachers on reserves.  Vancouver Province (National)

Land acknowledgments cause deep ambivalence among some advocates

“Canada’s growing embrace of Indigenous land acknowledgments appears to have left some First Nations advocates ambivalent about whether they are a form of reconciliation—or institutional hypocrisy,” reports the Canadian Press. This ambivalence is captured well by the comments of Lynn Gehl, an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe from the Ottawa River Valley who notes that for her, the acknowledgements are “meaningless and patronizing.” However, Gehl notes that the gesture might still be meaningful to other Indigenous community members. Naiomi Metallic, a Dalhousie University law professor and Chancellor’s Chair in Aboriginal Law and Policy, notes that the acknowledgements are “simply a recognition of facts,” especially in areas without land cessation treaties. In these cases, however, other critics note that the acknowledgement of unceded lands creates expectations regarding land ownership that the courts will never enforce, contributing to a disconnect will lead to mounting frustration and eventually a reckoning as more Indigenous Peoples realize the extent to which “they’ve been lied to.” Vancouver Sun (National)

UVic, SFU, Heiltsuk Nation launch website displaying thousands of years of Heiltsuk Nation voices

The Heiltsuk people, Simon Fraser University, the University of Victoria, the Hakai institute, and Greencoast Media have celebrated the launch of “Húy̓at: Our Voices our Land,” a website that illuminates thousands of years of Heiltsuk Nation voices and history. The website is the result of over eight years of collaboration between the partners and grew from the community’s desire to present their connection to their lands and seas for their own communities and others. SFU and UVic students collected much of the knowledge during archeological digs and surveys. “With this publicly accessible website, we’re sharing our inseparable connection with our homelands as it holds true for all First Nations up and down the coast,” said Heiltsuk Chief Marilyn Slett. “We believe the Húy̓at website will become a great resource for schools and for people who are interested in better understanding First Peoples’ culture.” SFU (BC)

St Paul's to launch Indigenous entrepreneurship program

St Paul’s University College at the University of Waterloo plans to introduce a Bachelor of Indigenous Entrepreneurship program that the school reports is the first of its kind in Canada. Lori Campbell, Director of St Paul’s Indigenous Student Centre, told CBC that the program aims to teach Indigenous and non-Indigenous students business management skills from an Indigenous perspective. “I often hear from Indigenous folks that the [mainstream] business programs do not seem like something for them,” said Campbell. “They don't see that there is a place for them in business.” It will also focus on breaking down the misconception that Indigenous people have little experience in business. CBC adds that the program is being assembled by an advisory group made up of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, as well as Indigenous and non-Indigenous businesses and stakeholders from across the county. CBC (ON)

Queen’s offers pre-doctoral fellowships for Indigenous students

The Faculty of Arts and Science at Queen’s University is now offering new Pre-Doctoral Fellowships for Indigenous Students who are enrolled in a PhD program at other institutions. Fellows will relocate to Kingston, Ontario while completing their research with their home institution to teach a course in the Faculty of Arts and Science. In doing so, they will expand their professional network and advance Indigenous issues, histories and ways of knowing while contributing to intellectual life at Queen’s. “For Indigenous PhD students, this is a unique opportunity,” states a Queen’s release. “Not only will they receive financial support while they complete their degrees, the Fellows will expand their professional network and advance Indigenous issues, histories and/or ways of knowing while contributing to intellectual life at Queen’s.” Queen’s (ON)

Schools across Canada unveil wall murals, art installations, celebrating Indigenous culture 

Post-secondary schools and high schools across Canada have celebrated new art installations and wall murals on their campuses this month. At New Brunswick Community College, a new wall mural with the theme Together We Rise celebrates the region’s rich Wabanaki culture. The mural was completed by St Mary’s First nation member April Marie Paul. At Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School in Thunder Bay, a new painted mural by Ira Johnson depicts the journey that many students take to pursue education. At the University of Calgary, Blackfoot artist Kalum Teke Dan has completed a mural for Indigenous nursing students in The Gathering Space, a ‘brave space’ that formerly housed Professional Services at the institution. “UCalgary’s Native Centre is so far away from our building and our students get so busy,” said Heather Bensier, co-director of Indigenous initiatives in the Faculty of Nursing, “we wanted to have a brave area closer to where our students are located so that they can find support, encouragement and connection.” At the University of Toronto, a new languages art installation produced by the Indigenous Law Students’ Association and the Indigenous Initiatives Office displays the name Indigenous Law Students Association in the Michif, Oneida, Cree, Kwak’wala, and Anishinaabemowin languages. Nation Talk(NBCC) | APTN News(DFCHS) | UCalgaryNation Talk (U of T) (National)

SK teachers: Province must show more direction in education on Indigenous languages, culture 

The union representing Saskatchewan’s teachers is calling on the province’s Ministry of Education to improve the ways it allocates people and resources for Indigenous language instruction in public schools, reports Battlefords NOW. Representatives from the union have reportedly been meeting with Indigenous leaders across the province. “I think everyone knows how important culture is in helping improve First Nations and Metis [graduation rates], and if culture is important then certainly language is a keystone to any culture,” said Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation President Patrick Maze, who added that the government has a moral imperative to preserve Indigenous languages. The SK government has stated that it provides funding to school divisions, which decide their own programming choices, although Maze said that Indigenous leaders want to see strong direction at the government level. Battlefords NOW CBC (SK)

Nation Anishnabe du Lac Simon receives funding for primary school expansion, new centre

The Nation Anishnabe du Lac Simon has received a $9.5M investment from the Government of Canada to fund the expansion of the Amikobi primary school and creation of a new centre for the Aboriginal Head Start on Reserve program. The primary school saw the addition of 16 classrooms, a cafeteria, a new gymnasium, and a reception area, changes which will allow over 300 more students to attend the school. The new centre for the Aboriginal Head Start on Reserve (AHSOR) program covers 336 square-metres and accommodates 80 children.  “Lac Simon is experiencing major demographic growth. In 2018-2019, nearly 80 new students are attending the primary school. This trend is going to continue for at least the next decade,” explained Chief Adrienne Jérôme. “Therefore, the infrastructure announced today is essential to improve the quality of life in the community. However, other projects will have to be carried out to meet the rapidly growing need.” Canada (National)

What it might look like to incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing into the academy

“Indigenous knowledge systems have endured for millennia, but they’ve yet to be fully embraced by mainstream academia,” reports TVOas part of an interview with Melanie Goodchild, an Anishinaabe PhD candidate in the University of Waterloo’s social and ecological sustainability program. Goodchild speaks specifically about Anishinaabe Gikendaasowin, an Anishinaabe concept that means “our knowledge and way of knowing.” “So within Anishinaabemowin is encoded our teachings, the way we structure language,” explains Goodchild. “I’m not a fluent speaker. I, like others, have come to really mourn the loss of speaking fluently in my life, but I understand that that’s where knowledge resides. It resides in two really key places for Anishinaabe Gikendaasowin: on the land, revealed to us through experiences on the land, and in language, which also comes from the land.”  Goodchild offers examples of how knowledge encoded directly in Anishinaabemowin does not translate easily into knowledge systems expressed in English, but notes that she will continue to incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing into her academic discipline while encouraging others to do the same. TVO (ON)

Squamish Nation, North Vancouver School District sign Indigenous education protocol 

The North Vancouver School District and the Squamish Nation have signed a formal agreement to collaborate to improve education for Indigenous students in North Vancouver. reports North Shore News. Brad Baker, district principal of Indigenous education, noted that the new agreement “raises the bar” for both the school district and the Squamish Nation in supporting both the academic success and sense of belonging of local First Nations students. A key component of the agreement is a commitment to collaborate on how the school district will spend the approximately $1.3M in annual funding earmarked for Indigenous education. Among the terms of the agreement are an emphasis on the continued inclusion of Squamish Nation language, culture, and history in courses offered in the school district, meetings between the two governments to discuss how to ease transitions like the start of elementary and high school, and students’ ability to include a First Nations advocate in discussions with school administrators. North Shore News (BC)