Indigenous Top Ten

January 15, 2020

Alberni School District No 70 wins Supreme Court case on smudging ceremony

The Supreme Court of British Columbia has ruled in favor of the Alberni School District No 70, supported by the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council who served as intervenors, on the recent Servatius v. Alberni School District No. 70 court case. Parent Candace Servatius argued that the religious freedoms of her children were infringed up on when they participated in smudging and hoop dance ceremonies, adding that the school district should be prohibited from holding similar events in the future. However, the Court concluded that Servatius could not establish that the demonstrations of Nuu-chah-nulth culture and spirituality at a school constituted an infringement of religious freedoms. “UBCIC celebrates the victory of the School District and the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council who were defending the advancement of knowledge and awareness of Nuu-chah-nulth culture, history, and language,” stated Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “As approximately one-third of the students in the Alberni School District are Indigenous, it is imperative that these students receive culturally relevant teaching that enriches and enhances their sense of belonging.” NationTalk | Vancouver Sun (BC)

ULethbridge receives $15M to address educational barriers for Blackfoot youth

Lethbridge University has received an investment of $15M from the Mastercard Foundation to support new pathways to education and employment for Indigenous youth. Beginning in Fall 2020, the initiative will deliver programs in Blackfoot communities that work to make postsecondary education a possibility for Indigenous youth, as well as create opportunities for students to participate in activities at the university. In addition, the Indigenous Student Success Program will receive part of these funds to enable an additional 30 Blackfoot and Indigenous students to attend ULethbridge. “This partnership will empower Indigenous youth by removing these kinds of barriers, creating new educational pathways and growing the supports needed by Indigenous students to be successful in their post-secondary studies,” says Leroy Little Bear, Niitsitapi Scholar and advisor to the President at ULethbridge. ULethbridge | Lethbridge Herald (AB)

CBU, Dal researchers receive grant to investigate traditional Mi’kmaw skin therapies

Cape Breton University and Dalhousie University researchers have received funding to develop a traditional Mi'kmaw medicine for potential future commercial production as a skin ointment. The medicine being investigated, Maskwiomin, is made from the oil of birch bark and is used to treat skin conditions such as rashes, eczema, and psoriasis. Tuma Young, an assistant professor of Mi'kmaw studies, said the five-year, $850K grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research is "huge step in recognizing Indigenous knowledge and supporting the research on it [Mi’kmaw]." Young also stated that the traditional medicine was almost lost throughout the years, but he found out about it by asking Mi'kmaw elders about how effective it was. "We have great anecdotal evidence now," said CBU project researcher Matthias Bierenstiel. "People [are] coming back to us and saying, 'I used it. My skin hasn't been better. My outbreak on the skin has been cleared up within a few days, almost miraculously'." CBC (Atlantic)

Sheshegwaning embarks on plan for new school building

The community of Sheshegwaning First Nation has outgrown its existing school and taken on a new school initiative as part of its long-term community plan. Sheshegwaning First Nation Project Manager Peter Rankis stated that the objectives for the new school are threefold: to cultivate a culture of learning that will benefit the community more broadly; affirm incentives for younger members to recognize the first nation as a lifelong home; and to strengthen the social connection between members of the community. The school, as part of the Anishinabek education system, would be overseen by the Kinoomaadziwin Education Body. The new proposed school will have five full-sized classrooms; a resource lab that will be available for community use; a small-scale gymnasium; a lunch room and cafeteria; a designated space for teachers to work and meet; and a central gathering space to conduct traditional community teachings and ceremonies. Manitoulin Expositor (ON)

NRC, Indigenous experts celebrate language revitalization deliverables

The National Research Council of Canada and various Indigenous language experts have announced key milestones of the National Indigenous Languages Technology Project, an initiative that aims to assist in the stabilization, revitalization, and reclamation of Indigenous languages. In 2019, the project saw the release of WordWeaver, an open source code and graphical user interface to create online verb conjugation tools for Iroquoian languages. The team also delivered a predictive text software for SENĆOŦEN, released as part of Keyman 12, software that develops predictive texts for cellphones in a variety of languages. “As the chair of the advisory committee to the Indigenous Languages Technology Project I have witnessed the relationships and trust built between our committee and the National Research Council of Canada team," said Heather Souter, "This willingness to really listen and respond in a thoughtful manner to the expressed needs and desires of Indigenous communities bodes well for future collaborations on language technology and the continued building of capacity in Indigenous communities.” NationTalk (National)

Laurentian, Naandwechige-Gamig Wikwemikong Health Centre receive $1.5M for Indigenous health

Laurentian University's ECHO Research Centre in partnership with Naandwechige-Gamig Wikwemikong Health Centre have received a $1.5M grant to improve Indigenous mental wellness. Funded over five years, I aM Well will employ a tablet-based survey to help Indigenous children talk about their health. The data collected from the survey is then shared with service and healthcare providers who coordinate and improve health outcomes for Indigenous peoples. “I aM Well is an exciting program that respects our commitment to the health and well-being of our children as envisioned through the Wiikwemkoong Unceded Children’s Bill of Rights," Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory Ogimaa (Chief) Duke Peltier. "Our number one priority is our children and this program will give us the opportunity to identify their health strengths and opportunities." Laurentian (ON)

AB school with 99% Indigenous population to close due to funding cuts

Exshaw School, a K-8 school with a 99% Indigenous student population, may be forced to close after budget cuts. Indigenous Services Canada has cut the school district's future per-student funding from $19,286 per student to approximately $11,500, a $1.68M shortfall that may force the district to close the school. The school is well-known for its strong cultural programs, relevant curriculum, and exceptional volunteers. Canadian Rockies Public Schools Superintendent Christopher MacPhee told CBC that the government has been given permission to keep the scholol open for an extra year, but describes the offer as insufficient. "For me, it's disappointing that the [government], which made Truth and Reconciliation a mandate … that their actions are not matching their words, especially when it comes to a situation like this," said Canadian Rockies Public Schools Superintendent Christopher MacPhee. CBC | CTV (AB)

Controversy over cancelled URegina lecture raises questions about Indigenization, academic freedom

The manager of the Indigenous students' centre at the University of Regina says Indigenization measures should have taken precedence over academic freedom in last week’s controversy regarding a poet’s connection to a murderer of an Indigenous woman. Misty Longman told CBC that the decisions and discussions surrounding the controversial event have demonstrated that the university “has work to do as an institution to achieve its Indigenization goals.” In a response to the event, URegina President Vianne Timmons wrote an article discussing how principles, such as academic freedom, intersect with principles of Indigenization and truth and reconciliation. “As institutions of higher learning, we’re on a journey,” Timmons said. “And we’re on a journey with our Indigenous colleagues, and we’re going to stumble, and hopefully together we will figure that path out.” CBC (SK) | NationTalk (SK)

Qalipu First Nation, NL partner to increase Indigenous content taught in schools

The Qalipu First Nation in partnership with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has launched a project to increase Indigenous content taught in the province's schools. "This is important to Indigenous students and non-Indigenous students alike because really, we want our students of the province to be culturally aware and enter the workforce with knowledge of different cultures," said Qalipu First Nation education and training department team lead Kristen Pittman. The project will begin by investigating what changes can be made to the curriculum based on common themes and struggles that come up during community engagement sessions. The Qalipu First Nation is proposing that students learn about Indigenous cultures from kindergarten all the way through high school. "We definitely have not come far enough," said Pittman. "The amount of content and the quality of content, there really is need for improvement." CBC (NL)

UBC announces new First Nations Health Authority Chair in Cancer and Wellness

The University of British Columbia has announced the establishment of the First Nations Health Authority Chair in Cancer and Wellness. The position, which will be held by UBC Centre for Excellence in Indigenous Health co-director Nadine Caron, will aim to address the disparity in cancer health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in BC. “It will take time to have the impact that our partnership aims to achieve along the entire cancer prevention and care spectrum — to better understand where we are and change these outcomes,” says Caron. “Now we can say our responsibility starts here; the impact starts now.” The position is supported by a $1.5M contribution from the First Nations Health Authority, with matching funds from UBC. UBC | Vancouver Sun (BC)