Current Indigenous Top Ten
June 15, 2016
The Canadian Association of University Teachers has released a guide to territorial acknowledgement for all Canadian universities that have a member association. The Guide to Acknowledging Traditional Territory encourages members and representatives of staff associations to acknowledge the Indigenous peoples of a given area. The guide suggests acknowledgement can be made at the commencement of courses, meetings or conferences, events, and presentations. “Acknowledging territory shows recognition of and respect for Aboriginal peoples, which is key to reconciliation,” said CAUT President James Compton. The guide is organized by province with the appropriate acknowledgement indicated for each institution in the province. CAUT also notes in the guide that acknowledgement is just one step to cultivating stronger relationships with Indigenous peoples and recommends that staff associations communicate with local communities.
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN, formerly the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations) and educators across Saskatchewan are celebrating a small but significant increase in the number of Indigenous high school graduates this year. While the provincial average overall has remained steady for the last few years, just below 75%, the graduation rate for Indigenous students has risen from 37.4% to 40.1% since 2013. “Our Grandmothers and Grandfathers had the spiritual guidance and foresight to include our Treaty right to an education when they entered into Treaty more than a century ago. We will continue to honour their vision by staying [in] school and helping our people protect, promote, and implement our inherent and Treaty rights,” said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron. The SK government recently recommitted in the 2016–17 budget to the Joint Task Force on Improving Education and Employment Outcomes for First Nations and Métis People with $5.1 M in funding. Total funding commitments in the new SK budget for Indigenous initiatives and organizations total $211.9 M.
Nunavut cannot meet the criteria for establishing a standalone university and should instead partner with a southern university, according to Nunavut Education Minister Paul Quassa. The Minister’s conclusions stem from twofeasibility studies, the first of which demonstrated that a Nunavut-based university would not be able to meet Universities Canada’s 500-student requirement until the year 2130. The study further found that such a university would have to charge $16.6 K in annual tuition to be feasible, compared to the Canadian average of $6.1K. Quassa has recommended that the territory look to partner its Arctic College with a southern university to offer joint programs, which according to consultants might include Public Administration, Justice Studies, Inuit Studies, Tourism Management, and Social Work.
To kick off National Aboriginal History Month this June, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne issued an apology for the province’s involvement in residential schools and announced several initiatives designed to promote reconciliation and awareness of Indigenous history. In order to bring awareness to the province’s Treaty relationships, the Treaties Recognition Week Act, 2016 was passed in legislature; reoccurring every November, the dedicated week is designed to be an opportunity for schools and teachers to build events and activities around Treaty history. Wynne also announced The Journey Together: Ontario's Commitment to Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, which will invest more than $250 M over three years in new initiatives. The plan and the funded initiatives are being developed in consultation with Indigenous partners. Finally, ON is renaming its Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs to better reflect the province’s commitment to reconciliation. The new Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation reflects a new emphasis on rebuilding relations, said Minister David Zimmer.
Canada has announced that it will invest $574 K to help the University College of the North establish an Industrial Skills Trades and Training Centre. The investment aims to aid Manitoba’s Indigenous population in acquiring the education and skills required to succeed in a number of “industry clusters” across western Canada. “The Government of Canada is pleased to support the creation of the Industrial Skills Trades and Training Centre and is committed to ensuring that Indigenous peoples … have the support and training they need to participate in the growing economic opportunities that exist in Western Canada,” said Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.
The Northwest Territories government has tabled its 2016–17 budget, which includes several spending increases to education in the territory. CBC reports that NT will be spending an additional $6 M on education, culture, and employment in order to increase supports for postsecondary students and children from low-income families, as well as supports for employment programs for people with disabilities. The territory has also reportedly announced $2.2 M in increased funding to Student Financial Assistance, which includes a bonus of $2 K for any students from NT or students from elsewhere in Canada who stay in NT after graduation for at least a year. The territorial government reportedly stated recently that it was working on legislation that would allow the Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning to grant degrees. Dechinta has been actively lobbying the government for recognition and stable core funding.
Since Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its final report last year, a number of PSE institutions have moved to address the report’s call to educate future journalists on Aboriginal issues. Janice Neil, Associate Chair of Journalism at Ryerson University, explains that the essential background knowledge of “the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations” outlined in the TRC appears to be lacking in most journalists responsible for covering Aboriginal-related issues. UBC Professor Duncan McCue added, “journalists just don’t understand the protocols and they don’t understand the history and that means they go into First Nation communities without a full toolbox, and that’s why we see a lack of depth in the coverage we’ve seen in the past.” CBC reports that a number of institutions have added Indigenous content to journalism programs, but others point to a lack of Indigenous reporters and journalists to teach and mentor students.
Canadore College has officially launched its new Aboriginal Women in the Trades program. According to a Canadore release, the 12-week in-person certificate program focuses on four key areas: building construction, electrical, plumbing, and carpentry. “Our First Nations people are improving the economic and social environment of their communities through education,” says Judy Manitowabi, Manager of the First Peoples’ Centre Community-Based and Contract Training at Canadore College. “Increasing the capacity for skilled labour in our communities lays a positive foundation for healthy growth and sustainable practices.” 16 women are enrolled in the program for its first year.
Mohawk College recently held a Three Sisters planting ceremony at its Fennell Campus. The Three Sisters—corn, beans, and squash—have traditionally been planted together by the Haudenosaunee people because of the plants’ abilities to work together to thrive. The planting ceremony was designed to be a hands-on way of sharing Indigenous knowledge and traditions and of celebrating Indigenous cultures. The planting took place alongside the location of Mohawk’s new Indigenous Gathering Place, the Hoop Dance, which is slated to open later this month.
Adult Indigenous students are finding education support in innovative programs that provide alternative methods of learning. In the Wet'suwet'en community of Moricetown, BC, adult Indigenous learners are accessing high school and postsecondary courses simultaneously through the University and College Education Program. Through the on-reserve program, students receive instruction and academic support as well as a living allowance. PSE courses are provided in partnership with Northwest Community College, providing students with an idea of what to expect when they move on to further education and training. In Calgary, St Mary’s University has launched a five-week program for adult Indigenous learners who have experienced barriers to education. The program, called Igniting the Fire: Storying the Urban Warrior, explores storytelling and expression through graphic novels, drama, and art. The program is designed to promote engagement in education for adult Indigenous learners not currently enrolled in an education program.