Indigenous Top Ten

May 5, 2021

MNBC invests $16.6M into early learning and childcare programs, services

Métis Nation BC (MNBC) has announced that it will be investing over $16.6M into early learning and childcare programs and services. In addition to providing $500K for the Miyoopimatishihk (Wellbeing) Program, MNBC will provide $500K each to the Métis Early Years Cultural & Language Program, Métis Family Connections, and Métis Early Years Family Gatherings and early years programing in Chartered Communities. MNBC will also invest $5.5M into land, properties, and buildings for Métis children and families; $1.5M into non-profits and service providers that will support Métis families; and $1M into the development of Métis Early Childhood Education professionals. “This budget supports improving education, health and social outcomes for young Métis children that is Métis focused and includes early learning, Métis culture, parental involvement and social support,” said Debra Fisher, Minister of Education. “We are excited to have the capacity to partner with our Métis Chartered Communities and Métis children and family non-profits to improve the lives of Métis families throughout the province.” NationTalk (BC)

BrandonU launches the Teaching House program

Brandon University has announced that it has launched the Teaching House, a program which will gather and share Indigenous knowledge. Teaching House is a gathering place that will put on events approximately once a month featuring a variety of different topics and teachings. “The Teaching House is the vision for a gathering place for the sharing of knowledge and teachings for all nations – created for connection, relationship and community,” said Cree Knowledge Keeper Susie McPherson-Derendy. “Initial events and conversations are a starting place that will help shape the Teaching House vision – inviting, including and involving many voices.” The aim is to build the Teaching House’s programs into monthly events that allow people to engage in learning, sharing, and relationship building. “Reconciliation is a process that includes everyone and it all starts with building positive relationships and trust,” said Chris Lagimodiere, Director of BrandonU’s Indigenous Peoples’ Centre. “Events like the Teaching House create positive space where Indigenous knowledge is celebrated and shared.” BrandonU (MB)

AlgomaU, UCalgary create resources on residential schools, storytelling for educators

Algoma University and the University of Calgary are creating resources that will help educators incorporate information about Residential Schools and Indigenous storytelling into their lessons. AlgomaU’s Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre will be creating five online modules designed to teach elementary and high school students about Residential Schools in Canada. The modules will include photos, documents, videos, and an interactive timeline. UCalgary’s Werklund School of Education has created an interactive website that will help K-12 educators integrate Indigenous storytelling into their classrooms. “Books to Build On: Indigenous Literatures for Learning” includes diverse Indigenous resources with lesson plans on how to use them. “Teachers are often afraid of making mistakes or appropriating cultures or knowledge,” says Werklund School professor Erin Spring. “This website will provide them with a springboard for engaging in this work in a meaningful way.” AlgomaU | UCalgary (ON | AB)

Northern BC school districts create Dakelh language curriculum

School districts in northern British Columbia have collaborated to create a Dakelh language curriculum that will be submitted to the Ministry of Education for approval. The curriculum will be taught to students in grades 5 to 12, who will be able to earn credits. The course is being drafted with the assistance of elders who are fluent in Dakelh, and includes audio files as well as resources with activities, lessons, and games. CBC says the courses are designed so that teachers who may not speak Dakelh are able to teach the courses. “It’s something that we’ve been hoping for and dreaming of for quite a few years,” said Jennifer Pighin, district vice-principal of language and culture for School District 57. “[W]e’ve had so much of that language taken over ... so bringing it back is extremely important and one way to do that is to start with our youth.” CBC (BC)

Maskwacis school uses Cree-style program to boost student literacy, attendance

Ermineskin Elementary School in Maskwacis, Alberta has used a Cree-style approach to education to improve literacy levels and attendance. Former Ermineskin Principal Debbie Michael noticed that a program adapted from Stephen R Covey book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People had distinct similarities to traditional Cree teachings and so applied the program to the school. Students were taught that they were in charge of their own education; to “seek first to understand others and then to be understood;” to take care of themselves in body, mind, and spirit; and more. Attendance rates of 90%+ rose from 28% of students in 2010-11 to 40%, while overall attendance during the same period rose from 81% to 85%. The school prioritized outdoor education and community service, which saw students singing to seniors’ groups and making food and mitts for those in need. Current Principal Doris Auger said First Nations schools have always struggled to get a “buy-in” from families, but that the community connections have helped parents to gain a more positive view of the school and encourage their children’s education. Red Deer Advocate (AB)

TRU, Skeetchestn Indian Band, TteS partner on ASUR certificate

Thompson Rivers University has partnered with the Skeetchestn Indian Band and Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc (TteS) to create the Applied Sustainable Ranching (ASUR) Certificate with $300K of funding from the BC First Nations Post-Secondary Partnership Program. The certificate will train students in regenerative agriculture and traditional and cultural land use practices, including topics such as grazing management, riparian management, invasive species, and soil management. Students will complete the program through distance learning, and will have the opportunity to complete work practicums and workshops at Secwépemc community ranches and farms. “Food sovereignty, or our ability to take control over our food, is so important to make sure our youth do not lose the traditions of the past,” said Terry Denault, Skeetchestn Elder advisor to the program. “This program will help ensure our indigenous practices are incorporated into the teachings.” TRU | Castanet (BC)

Supporting SDGs should be accompanied by ongoing, critical conversations: Opinion

Several institutions have committed to supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), writes UBC Assistant Professor Sharon Stein, but an uncritical adoption of these goals may obscure the way these goals can potentially contribute to other social issues. Stein encourages institutions to engage in ongoing, critical conversations around the pursuit of SDGs and describes the importance of hearing Indigenous voices, “centering” the rights of nature, and balancing economic growth and ecological sustainability. “Universities should commit to pluralize and democratize their approaches to sustainability and development by ensuring that critical and alternative perspectives are not only welcomed but actually inform and shape institutional policies and practices,” writes Stein. University Affairs (International)

New STEM mentorship program for First Nations students opens in ON

A new STEM mentorship program in Ontario hopes to have 30 Indigenous high school students enrol and learn more about career opportunities in the STEM fields. The program will be open to students in grades 7 through 12, and Canadian Press reports that there are no age restrictions given that many Indigenous people may work to complete their secondary school diplomas in their 20s. Melanie Debassige, executive director of the Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation and a member of the Anishinabek Nation, said that many First Nations youth are unaware of opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. “It goes hand-in-hand with our vision to create technical self-reliance in First Nations communities, but also it’s part of our mandate to create the technical leaders of tomorrow,” said Debassige. “This is going to affect the economy in First Nations, and so then you’re going to see money not going out, but money being spent within the community.” Global News (CP) (ON)

First Nation, Métis leaders advise parents to pull children out of Northland School Division

First Nation and Métis leaders are advising parents to take their children out of the Northland School Division due to the region’s rising number of COVID-19 cases. Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation released a statement encouraging parents to make the move, explaining that their children will not be penalized for being pulled out of schools in the region. “We have been assured by Northland that your children will be able to continue learning remotely,” said Adam. “This is not a measure we take lightly but it’s for the good of not just our people, but the whole region.” The statement also called on Alberta Education to switch to online learning, as the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo is leading Canada for COVID-19 cases per capita. Fort McMurray Today (AB)

New Indigenous murals, carvings in schools

The completion of a mural and a carving were announced in schools this month. At St Joseph High School in Red Deer, Alberta, a new Indigenous mural has been painted by Cree artist Delree Dumont on the school’s second floor near the career centre. The mural showcases one falcon sitting on rocks, another falcon flying, and a family of baby birds in a nest. “Our athletic mascot is the falcon which is a symbol in Indigenous spirituality,” said principal Graeme Daniel. “We are honoured to have this aspect of Indigenous beliefs and values incorporated into this mural. … The mural will remind our students and staff of this important link.” In Vancouver, British Columbia, a Thunderbird carving now hangs over the main entrance of Carisbrooke Elementary School. The relief sculpture was carved from part of a 400-year-old red cedar tree from the Squamish Valley by Latash, Maurice Nahanee, a Squamish Nation Elder with the assistance of Chris Fyfe. Students enjoyed watching Nhanee and Fyfe working on the project from an outdoor studio, and two students helped to paint the sculpture blue. “The mission statement of the school and values represented by the Ininyaxa7n - Thunderbird, are very compatible,” explained Nahanee. “Among the many attributes of the Ininyaxa7n are protection and sharing of knowledge.” Red Deer Advocate | North Shore News (AB | BC)