Vancouver Island University has announced that it will be expanding Shq’apthut (A Gathering Place) at its Nanaimo campus. The space is used for cultural, academic, recreational, and social activities for Indigenous students, and the expansion will bring more ceremonial space and Elder-in-residence offices to the space. The space will be heated and cooled sustainably by VIU’s District Geo-Exchange Energy System, and will be surrounded by extensive landscaping that celebrates Indigenous culture. “Expanding Shq’apthut will allow us to host more cultural events because of increased capacity, and it will include dedicated office space for our Elders in residence to engage one-on-one with students in a culturally appropriate environment,” said Sylvia Scow, VIU interim director of the Office of Indigenous Education and Engagement. The expansion is supported by funds from the Government of British Columbia and VIU.
The Near North District School Board’s First Nations Advisory Committee has announced that the school board will be implementing a “multi-layered approach” in order to emphasize Indigenous student success and increase awareness about Indigenous issues in classes. The school board’s Grade 11 students will be required to take an English course on contemporary First Nations, Metis, and Inuit voices, and Parry Sound High School will launch a Specialist High Skills Major arts and culture program that includes an Indigenous studies focus. The school board will also establish an alternative secondary school program to be delivered in partnership with the North Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre. NNDSB has additionally ensured that all staff receive cultural competency training and receive support from cultural advisors who can provide an Anishinaabe perspective.
The governments of Canada and British Columbia have announced new supports for 13 Indigenous-led construction projects, including several infrastructure projects that will bring new learning and educational spaces to communities. Doig River First Nation will receive over $2M in combined funding to support the construction of the Tsaa? che ne Dane Cultural Education Centre. The new education centre will be accessible and will accommodate both in person and virtual learning. Tla’amin Nation will receive over $4M to construct the ¿¿ms ¿ay¿ (Our House) – Cultural Facility. The cultural centre will include features such as traditional cooking areas, a museum, and food and medicine gardens. First Nations such as the Kitselas First Nation, McLeod Lake Indian Band First Nation, and Xeni Gwet’in First Nation will be using the funding to update their community centres and introduce new cultural and gathering spaces. “It is incredible news and much needed,” said Xeni Gwet’in Chief Jimmy Lulua Monday. “Nemiah has not had a new building since the 1980s other than our health building.”
Mount Royal University and Old Sun Community College have announced a new Indigenous Business and Economic Development (IBED) concentration within MRU’s Bissett School of Business. The program was inspired by a vision from Dr Andrew Bear Robe, and will help to advance Indigenous business leaders and drive economic growth in Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. “The IBED program is a shared educational space rooted in mutual understanding and allyship and reflects our Indigenous worldview and community-based economic and business acumen,” says Maria Big Snake, VP of Business Affairs and Government Relations at OSCC. “This program strengthens the knowledge base of our Indigenous leaders and business administrators and provides transformative business tools to carve the path forward to community economic prosperity.”
Several schools in the Nunavik region have been forced to close following water delivery issues, reports CBC. Tarsakallak School in Aupaluk, Quebec has repeatedly run out of water, resulting in students being sent home when washrooms become unusable. When water reservoirs run low, CBC explains that Principal Elom Akpo has to search for water tankers. However, these tankers are not always available due to a shortage of qualified drivers and mechanical issues, and the schools often face issues such as inadequate or damaged pumps, filtration, or water storage tanks and climate challenges. Kativik school board executive director Harriet Keleutak estimates that students have missed a total of eight days of school since the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. “When we try to demand [an improved water and sewage system], the government doesn’t understand why schools need them,” said Kativik Ilisarniliriniq school board President Sarah Aloupa. “These seem to be little things to the government but they are very essential services in order to live normally daily.” Other schools have also been forced to close recently due to water shortages, including Nuvviti school in Ivujivik, Iguarsivik school in Puvirnituq, and Pigiurvik School in Salluit.
The First Nations Education Council of Quebec (FNEC) and members of Indigenous communities are expressing concern after learning that the recently proposed Bill 96 would force students to complete three French-language courses while in cégep. FNEC says that an estimated 200 Indigenous high school students would be negatively affected by the amendment, as for some students, French is their third language which could make it difficult for them to succeed. Kahnawake community guidance counsellor Arlene Teiohserahte Horne says that this amendment would create another barrier for youth who are pursuing higher education and make it more difficult for them to gain training and return to help their communities. “We’re trying so hard in Kahnawake to push our children to get a better education,” said Horne. “We want our own doctors; we want our own nurses; we want our own scientists. We have such creative people.”
The University of Regina has received a traditional Buffalo Winter Count Robe from knowledge keeper and creator Wayne Goodwill. Goodwill is from Standing Buffalo Dakota Nation and is one of the last known robe painters in Saskatchewan. The robe is painted with the story of the plains First Nations people in Saskatchewan over the last 200 years, and will be used in teaching and to support truth and reconciliation at the university. Goodwill began painting the robe last spring and put more than 50 hours into creating the piece, which will live in the Office of Indigenous Engagement. “The stories embedded in this robe help expose the truth of Canada’s colonial past and the impact on the original inhabitants of this land,” said URegina AVP (Indigenous Engagement) Lori Campbell. “These stories are also a celebration of the remarkable strength and perseverance of those who have gone before us, those who are walking with us, and those who will come after us.”
The Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay (CBHSSJB) has launched a Cree midwifery program in Eeyou Istchee. The program will teach Cree learners to assist women as they give birth in their own communities. The program is offered through Quebec’s Midwives Act and uses curriculum from Nunavik’s Inuulitsiviup Nutarataatitsijingita Ilisarningata Aulagusinga. Students will learn both traditional and modern techniques, and will have the opportunity to learn from Elders through interviews. The only requirements for joining the program are the ability to read and write in English and personal qualities such as patience and the ability to act quickly. Any Cree woman can apply to the program, which will be hosted in the communities of Chisasibi, Waskaganish and Mistissini. “We’re talking about starting birth assistants at level two because that brings us to our goal faster and opens up space for other people,” said the program’s planning, programming and research officer Jasmine Chatelain. “We all need to do what we can to graduate as many midwives as quickly as we can.”
A new training program is equipping Indigenous students with the skills they need to work in potash mines in Saskatchewan. The Digital Transformation in Potash Mining: Cowessess Edition was created in partnership between the Cowessess First Nation, Mosaic, Morris Interactive, and the International Minerals Innovation Institute, and is designed to meet the need for Indigenous employees in potash companies. Students in the course complete eight weeks of classroom instruction to learn basic mining, safety, and automation skills, and complete a two-week practicum. Course material was reviewed by industry partners and First Nations communities before its delivery, and students from the local area were recruited so that they could live at home while completing their studies. “Cowessess saw this as an opportunity for our generations now and our future generations to enter the potash mining industry,” said Cowessess Chief Cadmus Delorme. “Not just as shovel-holders, but as potential management and senior management, as well.”
Two mentorship programs supporting Indigenous students have recently received the spotlight in the news. The Law Makers program, which is a partnership between the University of Manitoba, Seven Oaks School Division, and the Wayfinders program, has recently been expanded thanks to $16.1M in funding from the Mastercard Foundation’s EleV program. The program gives high school students the opportunity to learn about social justice and connect with Indigenous UManitoba law students, while earning both a high school and university credit. “I hope to see the Law Makers program as the first step – and many more programs like it in many different fields – so every student feels supported to pursue whatever career they want,” said AVP Indigenous – students, community and cultural integration at UM Christine Cyr. Meanwhile, in Alberta, the University of Lethbridge has partnered with the Influence Mentoring Society to create a new mentorship program for Indigenous students. The Influence Mentoring program aims to create better opportunities for Indigenous postsecondary students and create measurable opportunities for reciprocal mentoring.