Indigenous Top Ten

June 16, 2021

Academics, institutions seek to find, support searches for those buried at former residential schools

Several Canadian postsecondary institutions have responded to the discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children at the Kamloops residential school site by supporting search efforts or embarking on their own searches for other graves. The Canadian Archaeological Association has created free online resources to answer questions and explain the process of finding unmarked graves so that communities have the information to quickly move forward. Algoma University, which is located on the site of the former Shingwauk Residential School, will be using all available technology to uncover any gravesites outside of the Shingwauk Cemetery. Researchers from Brandon University, Simon Fraser University, and the University of Windsor will be joining a collaboration led by Sioux Valley Dakota Nation (SVDN): The Brandon Residential School Cemeteries Project. The project will use a combination of forensic methods, archival research, and survivor interviews to identify children who died at the school. CAA | CBC (CAA) | AlgomaU | BrandonU (National)

McGill, W8banaki partner to welcome W8banaki nation members to Gault Nature Reserve

McGill University’s Gault Nature Reserve has partnered with the Grand Conseil de la Nation Waban-Aki (W8banaki) to welcome the members of the W8banaki nation to practice cultural activities at the nature reserve. The Gault Nature Reserve protects over 1,000 hectares of natural forest on Mont St Hilaire/wigw8madensis, which is located within the ancestral territory of the W8banaki. The partnership gives Odanak and Wôlinak community members free access to the Reserve and recognizes the location as ancestral territory with cultural value. “This is another step along the path to honouring the past and reconciling the future,” said McGill Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Christopher Manfredi. “A long road remains ahead of us, but we are committed to engaging and collaborating with Indigenous partners to identify, explore, and advance plans that benefit our whole society by embedding Indigenous traditions in the life and activities of the University.” McGill (QC)

YK, 10 First Nations agree to establish separate school board, Indigenous-led schools

The Government of Yukon and 10 of the 14 First Nations in the territory have signed the First Nation School Board Framework Agreement, which lays out the process for establishing a separate school board specifically geared toward Indigenous students in the territory. Nation Talk reports that the agreement builds on several years of historic events: 48 years ago, Chiefs from 12 Yukon First Nations presented their intent to reclaim their inherent rights, including education, as Indigenous peoples of the Yukon to then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau; in 2018, the Chiefs Committee on Education was re-established to negotiate a framework; and in 2019, Yukon and the CCOE agreed to explore the creation of a Yukon First Nation School Board. The agreement marks “a turning point in history, both at a national and territorial level,” said Vuntut Gwitchin Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm, chair of the Chiefs Committee on Education. “The only path forward is for the colonial government to recognize the strength of Yukon First Nations’ way, and to relinquish authority to enter into a true relationship and partnership.” CBC reports that the current agreement does not include a timeline. CBC | Nation Talk (YK)

New names for schools, buildings bearing names of those connected to residential schools

Over the past two weeks, numerous school boards in Canada have announced the renaming of schools whose names reflect people involved with residential schools. In Alberta, the Globe and Mail reports that the Calgary Board of Education changed the name of the Langevin school to Riverside School, its old moniker, “effective immediately.” In Manitoba, the O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation will be considering new names for Oscar Blackburn School after discovering a connection between Oscar Blackburn and the residential school system. In Ontario, The Star reports that the Toronto District School Board has launched a review of the names of all 583 schools, and several school boards have faced demands to drop the names of schools named after figures such as John A Macdonald or Egerton Ryerson. Universities have additionally announced the review of and renaming of buildings or structures on campus, such as the University of Windsor’s newly renamed Residence Hall West. “Renaming is the minimum standard of reconciliation,” said Yellowhead Institute Director Hayden King. “It’s the easy thing to do, it’s something tangible. The fact there’s so much resistance to changing the name speaks to the place Canadians are at with historical figures.” Ryerson University has faced strong and growing pressure to change its name. The Globe and Mail (AB) | CBC (MB) | The Star (ON) | CBC (ON) (National)

KidsFirst North, nisto ihtāwina Early Years Family Resource Centre establish La Ronge and Area Family Literacy Hub

KidsFirst North has partnered with the nisto ihtāwina Early Years Family Resource Centre to establish the La Ronge and Area Family Literacy Hub. The hub, which will be located in the Resource Centre, will serve families in La Ronge, Air Ronge, and Lac La Ronge Indian Band with children aged six and under by providing virtual programming, lending out laptops, and supporting parents to help their children learn at home. Children will have access to culturally relevant resources, and will be able to participate in carrying on Elders’ tradition of drumming while storytelling as they build their literacy skills. “Literacy is so important for children's learning and development, and parents really are their child’s first teacher,” said SK Education Minister Dustin Duncan. “Saskatchewan’s Family Literacy Hubs offers great supports - even during a pandemic.” SK (SK)

Indigenous children to benefit from land-based programming to promote wellness

90 Indigenous early childhood development programs serving 1,700 children will receive up to $100K each to improve wellness through land-based cultural programming. 12 Aboriginal Head Start in Urban and Northern Communities (AHSUNC) and 78 Aboriginal Head Start On-Reserve (AHSOR) sites will receive support to create safe, outdoor early learning and play spaces. “Our land is our medicine. We go there to heal,” said Liz Williams, manager, Wo'umxhl Simalgyex Daycare. “Every day, we will have this space to focus on healthy ways of being who we are. Language and culture are who we are, and this will continue to enhance the important work we do at AHSOR, and our children will benefit.” Some of the projects supported by the funding include the creation of a fenced area with a Smoke House and Clan Houses for the children at Wo’umxhl Simalgyex Daycare in the Gitwangak First Nation and updates to the outdoor play spaces at the Future 4 Nations AHSUNC site in Mission, BC. The initiative is supported by a $10M investment through the Government of British Columbia’s Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program. BC (BC)

Schools, institutions host memorials, vigils in memory of children discovered at Kamloops

K-12 schools and postsecondary institutions across Canada held memorials this month for the remains of the 215 children discovered at Kamloops. Algonquin College held a virtual gathering called “Every Child Matters,” which included music, poetry, remarks from a Cree Elder, and two minutes and 15 seconds of silence; Algoma University held a memorial in which families left shoes on the steps of what was once the Shingwauk Residential School; and Trinity Western University held a series of prayer and remembrance vigils that included songs and prayers in Halq’eméylem, the language of the Stó:lō people. In Prince George, BC, students hung a memorial banner decorated with moccasins outside of John Mcinnis Secondary School; at Garden Valley Collegiate in Winkler, MB, 215 orange flags were placed on the school’s lawn along with signs explaining the initiative to the community; and on Walpole Island, ON, several hundred people wearing orange walked from Bkejwanong Kinomaagewgamig elementary school to the residential school memorial a kilometre down the road. CTV (1) | CTV (2) | Aldergrove Star | My PG Now | Pembroke Valley Online | Chatham Daily News (National)

Sask Polytech launches Indigenous Leadership Skills Applied Certificate

Saskatchewan Polytechnic has announced the launch of an Indigenous Leadership Skills Applied Certificate that will train students in leadership and resiliency. The certificate uses a completely online and interactive format for accessibility, and includes real life case studies and course materials that align with Indigenous values. The applied certificate is designed to be used by industry to broaden their workforce’s specialized, culturally relevant leadership skills or by individuals looking to make their next career move. “At the Aboriginal Apprenticeship Board of Ontario, we see the Indigenous Leadership Skills program as a vital piece in the efforts to engage Indigenous people into careers in the skilled trades,” said Danny Deleary, community engagement coordinator at AABO. “A sense of understanding of our own Indigenous history, culture, stories and resilience is crucial to empowering the individual in their career journey.” Nation Talk (SK)

YukonU receives funds in support of institutes for permafrost, Indigenous self-determination

Yukon University has announced that it has received donations and funds in support of two new institutes at the university: a Permafrost Institute at the YukonU Research Centre and an Institute of Indigenous Self-Determination (IISD). A five-year, $400K commitment from BMO Financial Group toward the Permafrost Institute will allow the university to expand its research and help northern communities address the effects of climate change. A $100K donation from the Power Corporation of Canada will go toward the development of the IISD, which will support the design of a mentorship program for those who are engaged in Human Resources, Lands, or Finance within their First Nations government. “The Institute of Indigenous Self-Determination at YukonU will support First Nations governments in their implementation of their self-government agreements through research and capacity development and will share the important stories of the struggle for and achievement of self-determination,” said Chùsi Robin Bradasch, YukonU AVP Indigenous Engagement and Partnerships. YukonU (1) | YukonU (2) (YK)

SK launches new provincial courses in the Nakoda language developed by Cegakin Nakoda Nation

This September, school divisions in Saskatchewan will be able to offer the new provincial Nakoda language courses at the 10, 20, and 30 levels. Nakoda is the traditional language of the Nakoda people, who are represented in Saskatchewan within Treaty 2, Treaty 4, and Treaty 6. The curriculum was developed by Cegakin Nakoda Nation and was originally offered as a locally developed course. “The curriculum is literally a dream come true,” said Chad O’Watch, a high school teacher at Cegakin Nation’s Nakoda Oyade Education Centre. “The Nakoda language is in such a dangerous state. We’re on the verge of not having a Nakoda language anymore. We believe as First Nations people that the language is inside of us, that it’s sleeping. Teaching the language will help awaken that language in all of us.” The Nakoda curriculum joins other Indigenous language courses in Cree (nēhiyawēwin), Nakawe, Dene, and Michif in the province. Nation Talk | Nation Talk (SK)