Indigenous Top Ten

January 13, 2021

Hundreds don ribbon skirts, call for national day after SK student criticized

The Good Spirit School Division has apologized and promised to do better after Kamsack Comprehensive Institute student Isabella Kulak was shamed for wearing a traditional ribbon skirt to Formal Day at the school. Kulak, a member of Cote First Nation in eastern Saskatchewan, was scolded by a teaching assistant for wearing the ribbon skirt and was told that it was not considered formal attire. In response, hundreds of people donned ribbon skirts to show support for Kulak, and called for a national ribbon skirt day. GSSD Director and CEO Quinton Robertson expressed “great regret” that the student “felt [anything] but pride and excitement with wearing this traditional garment.” In response to the ribbon skirt day, Robertson added: “We will honour whatever the family, the First Nation wants to put forward. As I said, regardless of what happens nationally, that will be an event in the Good Spirit School Division.” CBC | APTN News (SK)

LBE, RCCDSB announce new names for schools

The Langley Board of Education has announced the new name of its school, Donna Gabriel Robins Elementary. The school is named for retired educator Donna Gabriel Robins, who originally nominated her father, Chief Joe Gabriel of the Kwantlen First Nation, and said she was humbled and honoured by the naming. “I’m an Indigenous person from Kwantlen First Nation, along the bloodline of a chieftainship, my sister right now is a chief,” said Gabriel Robins. “I just think it’s really important to have an Indigenous female and a strong family represented.” The Renfrew County Catholic District School Board has also announced the official name of its virtual school: St. Kateri Tekakwitha Virtual Catholic School. The school is named in honour of the venerated St Kateri Tekakwitha, who the Gananoque Reporter explains is the first North American Indigenous saint. The name was finalized after the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation gave its blessing to the choice. “[St Kateri Tekakwitha] is the patron saint for the environment, aboriginals, and sickness,” said Grade 7 student Alexandra, “and right now the world is dealing with sickness and environmental problems so she is the saint we need at these times.” City News 1130 | Gananoque Reporter (ON | BC)

YTC, UAlberta partner to offer Indigenous-industry relations program

Yellowhead Tribal College and the University of Alberta have partnered to offer an Indigenous community-industry relations certificate and an Indigenous community-engagement citation. The two institutions will share instruction for the two programs: YTC will teach courses that use land-based teaching and that are informed by ancestral knowledge, while UAlberta will teach courses focused on industry and business. The article says that this collaboration recognizes the significance of Indigenous knowledge systems and is a step toward reconciliation. “Indigenous knowledge holders and Indigenous elders: they have PhDs as well,” said Florence Glanfield, vice-provost of Indigenous programming and research at UAlberta. “They have PhDs in the knowledge-systems, and they understand language, and they have so much to offer … institutions such as the University of Alberta.” Edmonton Journal (AB)

Tla’amin Nation parents receive support for 151 new child care spaces

Families in the Tla’amin Nation will have access to 151 new licensed child care spaces, thanks to support from the Childcare BC New Spaces Fund. The Tla’amin Nation will be able to create two new child care centres for children up to the age of 12: the Tla’amin Child Development Resource Centre, which will offer 75 spaces, and a fieldhouse that will offer 76 spaces. Both are expected to open in December 2021. “The expanded Child Development Resource Centre will add much-needed child care spaces, outdoor nature-based play areas and a family drop-in centre,” said Losa Luaifoa, executive councillor for the Community Services House Post Leader of Tla’amin Nation. “The new youth-focused project will be part of an integrated cultural facility where young people can harvest, cook and enjoy traditional foods; practice music and dance; learn language; and engage in sports, workouts and other outdoor activities.” Nation Talk (BC)

UWinnipeg launching new educational Ojibwe radio drama

The University of Winnipeg is launching a new Ojibwe radio drama called Aakoziiwigamig: An Ojibwe Radio Drama. The drama was developed after community classes at UWinnipeg’s Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre and Indigenous Languages of Manitoba were cancelled in light of COVID-19. “I was concerned that students who were taking Indigenous language classes at the university now had nowhere to go and practise in the community speaking the language,” said UWinnipeg Indigenous Academic Lead Lorena Fontaine. “We thought about using radio as a means of speakers speaking the language and sharing it with the community.” The new, biweekly series will premier today on NCI radio, and the episodes will be available on the university’s Indigenous engagement website. “We need more places to hear and practice the language,” added Fontaine. “I can see this being an important component to our language program and we could get students in the production in the future.” CBC | UWinnipeg (MB)

Indigenization through the collective bargaining process: OCUFA

The University of Winnipeg is launching a new Ojibwe radio drama called Aakoziiwigamig: An Ojibwe Radio Drama. The drama was developed after community classes at UWinnipeg’s Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre and Indigenous Languages of Manitoba were cancelled in light of COVID-19. “I was concerned that students who were taking Indigenous language classes at the university now had nowhere to go and practise in the community speaking the language,” said UWinnipeg Indigenous Academic Lead Lorena Fontaine. “We thought about using radio as a means of speakers speaking the language and sharing it with the community.” The new, biweekly series will premier today on NCI radio, and the episodes will be available on the university’s Indigenous engagement website. “We need more places to hear and practice the language,” added Fontaine. “I can see this being an important component to our language program and we could get students in the production in the future.” CBC | UWinnipeg (MB)

USask pilots Indigenous Storyteller-in-Residence program

The University of Saskatchewan is piloting a new Indigenous Storyteller-in-Residence program in 2021. The storyteller will be involved in initiatives that “promote intercultural understanding and story sharing between and among Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.” Additionally, the storyteller will present a project during Indigenous Achievement Week. “The University Library firmly supports USask’s Indigenization efforts,” said Charlene Sorensen, USask’s acting dean, University Library. “The Indigenous Storyteller-in-Residence pilot program is an important program that will help uplift Indigenous voices and perspectives and facilitate deeper cultural understanding at our university.” USask (SK)

COU releases findings from Indigenous faculty survey

The Council of Ontario Universities has released a new report, Lighting the Fire: Experiences of Indigenous Faculty in Ontario Universities. The report is based on a survey of full-time self-identified Indigenous faculty and demonstrates further need to support the inclusion of Indigenous voices and peoples on campuses across the province. It also includes Calls to Action based on the findings. “We must continue efforts to fully integrate Indigenous histories, culture, traditions and knowledge within our institutions – in our academic programs and research, our cultures, our spaces and structures,” said Caroline Langill, Vice-President, Academic and Provost at OCAD University. “The Lighting the Fire report provides valuable data to assist Ontario universities in this important work and to advancing meaningful changes to support our Indigenous faculty.” COU | COU (Report) (ON)

Project to use virtual reality technology to teach Nisga’a culture and language

A new project called Raising Nisga’a Language, Sovereignty, and Land-based Education Through Traditional Carving Knowledge is using virtual reality technology to teach Nisga’a culture and language. The multi-year, three-part project involves the development of language learning through virtual reality, the carving of new house totem poles, and repatriation of a house totem pole from a museum in Edinburgh, Scotland. “I think the language revitalization component is really important for us to continue trying to spark the interest and the commitment of our future generations of youth to learn our language and to engage in that,” said University of British Columbia Assistant Professor and Nisga’a researcher Dr Amy Parent. “I see VR as one tool that can hopefully spark their imagination and their drive to either continue their language or begin learning.” Collaborator Nisga’a Elder Jerry Adams told CBC that the virtual reality component will be particularly important for urban youth, who will not have to leave where they live to participate. “It makes my heart just feel really good that [the language] is coming back and we’re not losing who we are as Nisga’a,” said Adams. CBC (BC)

Arctic Insititute releases report to guide policy development, maintenance

Yukon University and the Jane Glassco Northern Fellowship Group of the Arctic Institute have released a policy recommendation paper that describes how the themes of “Language, Community and Legends” can be used as a basis for including Indigenous people in policy development and maintenance. The report was originally developed for YukonU in order to help the institution respectfully include Indigenous worldviews and ways of knowing in the postsecondary education policy landscape, but includes lessons that can be applied to institutions more broadly. “Language, community and legends are commonalities within Indigenous cultures,” write the authors, “not only in the Yukon but, one could argue, worldwide.” Arctic Institute (YK)