Indigenous Top Ten

June 2, 2021

Education community responds to discovery of children’s remains at former residential school

The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc recently discovered the remains of 215 children on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, and members of the education community are responding to the discovery with expressions of grief and calls for action. “We need to make sure [former school sites] are controlled and protected so full investigations can be done,” said Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, director of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at the University of British Columbia. Institutions across the country have issued statements and lowered their flags in response to the news, teachers are wearing orange and holding special ceremonies, and UBC has announced that it will be reviewing the honorary degree given to Bishop John Fergus O’Grady, former principal of the residential school, in 1986. “Days like today reveal how much there’s still to uncover in regards to the history and impact of residential schools — how many more children there are still awaiting honour and remembrance,” said Ry Moran, associate university librarian of reconciliation at the University of Victoria. “We still know there’s a big, huge piece of work to be done.” TteS | CBC (1) | CBC (2) | Global News (UBC) (BC)

Algoma to construct Mukqua Waakaa’igan cultural facility

Algoma University will be embarking on the construction of Mukqua Waakaa’igan, a world-class cross-cultural centre. The facility’s Anishinaabemowin name honours the bear as a carrier of medicine and was given to the place through ceremony, explains Algoma President Asima Vezina. Mukqua Waakaa’igan will provide access to culturally appropriate spaces for the local urban Indigenous population and surrounding rural communities. “The facility will be a welcoming place for Indigenous peoples to share truth-telling, healing, and reconciliation; a place for celebrating all cultures, traditions, and ceremonies promoting diversity and inclusion,” explained Mary Wabano-McKay, Algoma VP Nyaagaaniid, Anishinaabe Initiatives, Equity and Student Success. The $18M project received a combined $13M from the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario, with Algoma contributing over $4.7M to the project. Algoma | CTV News | Newswire (ON)

New Westminster school approves new name, leaders call for new names in Calgary and Hamilton

Several schools in Canada have considered new names over the past two weeks. In New Westminster, the now-former Richard McBride Elementary School will be known as Skwo:wech Elementary School following months of consultation. “The community in New Westminster has been willing to listen to and learn about Indigenous culture and our history,” said Qayqayt First Nation Chief Rhonda Larrabee. “I believe the name will be welcomed.” Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has also called on the Calgary Catholic School District and the Calgary Board of Education to rename Bishop Grandin High School and Langevin School in the wake of the news about the Kamloops residential school. “The time for dithering has long passed. The time for process has long passed,” Nenshi said. “Both of those boards should change the names of those schools at their next meetings.” Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board trustee Cam Galindo has filed a notice of motion ahead of the June 7th meeting calling for Ryerson Elementary School to be renamed. The motion also calls for the board staff to carry out a review of all school names to ensure they reflect the school board’s mission and values. New Westminster Record | Global News (Calgary) | CBC (Hamilton) (National)

“Bureaucratic failure” kept Inuit youth out of school in Montréal, impacted language and culture

An investigation by Quebec’s human rights and youth rights commission – the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (CDPDJ) – has found that young Inuit placed in youth centres in the south of Quebec had their cultural and schooling rights violated. Children and teenagers from Nunavik were placed in group homes in Montreal, reports CTV News, but these centres did not adequately ensure their ongoing education or the preservation of their language and culture. Due to bureaucratic “inertia,” the commission found that several cohorts of Inuit youth housed by protection services had not had access to a normal education “for a span of at least ten years.” The commission has made numerous recommendations, including improving training for staff, hiring interpreters, clarifying codes of conduct regarding language and ensuring those codes of conduct are translated into Inuktitut. A primary recommendation made is for the Nunavik Regional Board of Health, with provincial support, to create a separate youth protection system in the north. “The situation presented in this report is unacceptable,” said Education Minister Jean-François Roberge. “We will make the necessary and permanent corrective measures to prevent this deplorable situation from repeating itself.” CTV News | CBC (QC)

UAlberta, MNA, RI partner to support Métis postsecondary students

The University of Alberta, the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA), and the Rupertsland Institute (RI) have partnered to support Métis postsecondary students. The partners will work together to conduct research that addresses Métis concerns; provide support to help Métis students achieve their postsecondary education goals; and increase the number of Métis academics, fellowships, and employees at UAlberta. “For generations our ancestors ran buffalo hunts across the Métis Homeland. The buffalo was a means to security and prosperity, the key to the livelihood of the Métis,” says MNA President Audrey Poitras. “Today, education is our buffalo. Education of our Métis citizens is the key to success, the key to true reconciliation and continued education for all on our story and our history. The MNA and RLI’s partnership with the U of A has enhanced the post-secondary capacity for Métis students, academics and research so we can continue making space for Métis experiences, past and present.” UAlberta | Rupertsland Institute (AB)

Garden Hill First Nation in Manitoba decides students will repeat a grade next school year

After a difficult school year that was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Garden Hill First Nation has announced that it plans to have students repeat their grade next year. The community, which hosts two schools, tried remote learning and delivering lesson plans to students during the 2020-21 school year. However, many students did not have access to laptops, tablets, or smartphones to participate in classes, while others did not have adequate internet bandwidth to participate in classes successfully. “There was not enough curriculum content covered [this year], so we are going to have the students remain in the same grade from Grade 1 to 12. So next September, we will have eight classrooms of Grade 1, five classrooms of Grade 2 — we’re bursting at the seams,” said Catherine Monias, Garden Hill’s Education Director. “If we focus on their social and emotional needs first, and get them well and healthy and ready to learn, they are going to catch up pretty quickly.” Charles Cochrane, the executive director of the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre, said that the centre has been looking at “recovery learning” for MB students to help make up for what they may have missed out on over the course of the year. CBC | Global News (MB)

CBU establishes Mi’kmaw Chair in Healthy L’nu Communities

Cape Breton University will be creating a Mi’kmaw Chair in Healthy L’nu Communities, which will be funded by the Government of Nova Scotia through $150K annually over five years. The chair will aim to improve health outcomes of Mi’kmaw in NS through gathering and incorporating L’nu knowledge and using community-based health research and practice models. The chair also will be involved in improving long-term health outcomes of Mi’kmaw, reducing inequalities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations, and supporting Mi’kmaw leadership in the area of health and wellness. “Incorporating Mi’kmaw ways of knowing into health promotion and health-care delivery is a positive step forward as we work with partners to better meet the health needs of our community members,” said Chief Norman Bernard of Wagmatcook First Nation. “The new Chair in Healthy L’nu Communities will bring an important perspective and help us as we collaborate to improve health outcomes for the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia.” Nation Talk (NS)

UGDSB approves adoption of Indigenous Education policy

The Upper Grand District School Board in Ontario has approved the adoption of a new Board Policy, Policy 519 Indigenous Education (First Nations, Métis, Inuit). The policy states that UGDSB acknowledges that Indigenous People are distinct from other equity seeking groups in that they are self-determining nations with inherent rights, laws, and institutions. Through the policy, the school board has committed itself to supporting staff and students who identify as First Nations, Métis, and/or Inuit and to supporting the education of students and staff on Indigenous Peoples. The policy was developed in collaboration with the UGDSB’s First Nation, Métis, and Inuit Council and reflects the years of conversations around how a school board can promote and protect Indigenous education. Nation Talk (ON)

Brock, MacEwan announce new funding for scholarships, bursaries for Indigenous students

Brock University and MacEwan University have announced new funding for scholarships and bursaries supporting Indigenous students. Brock’s Faculty of Math and Science will be providing $110K to fund three new entrance scholarships for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis students. “We are seeing increasing numbers of Indigenous students entering STEM ... programs and this funding will help them achieve their dreams,” said Robyn Bourgeois, Acting Vice-Provost, Indigenous Engagement. MacEwan has also announced new financial support for Indigenous students. A “major donation” will support Indigenous students enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, and a $250K donation from the Rupertsland Institute will go towards the Métis Scholar Awards Endowment, which provides bursaries to up to 30 Métis students annually. Brock | MacEwan (ON, AB)

YFNED studies Yukon Department of Education works to improve success of Indigenous students

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate (YFNED) is studying the attendance, graduation, and success rates of Indigenous K-12 students in an effort to improve these statistics. Using data from Yukon’s Department of Education, YFNED is examining the challenges and successes that Indigenous students within the education system face. “We have a significant population of students that are missing more than 80 days in the school calendar year,” said Melanie Bennett, director of YFNED. “Why are they not showing up at school? It could be disengagement, there could be a myriad of factors from some of the policies that are in place, the school calendar crossing when we have traditional hunting times.” Bennett says that more must be done to support Indigenous students in the territory. “It’s disheartening. But I’m an optimist. We have to ask the hard questions of why, and then put the measures in place,” said Bennett. CBC (YK)