A new report by the federal Task Force on Northern Post-Secondary Education has issued 37 calls to action for improving postsecondary opportunities for Northerners. The task force held engagement sessions and surveys with over 800 Northerners and found that many are wary of the education system due to colonial legacies. They recommended that leadership of education be returned to Northerners, Indigenous culture and education be better incorporated in the postsecondary system, and Inuit organizations be included in the postsecondary education policy development process. “The key thing here is Inuit self-determination when it comes to education,” said task force member Erika Marteleira. “What the task force is really calling for [is] collaboration to start getting things done.”
Two institutions in Saskatchewan have announced partnerships with local organizations to offer dedicated training and learning opportunities. The Gabriel Dumont Institute’s Dumont Technical Institute (DTI) partnered with two community partners to provide skills training. DTI and the New Southern Plains Métis Local #160 collaborated to offer members a multisector ticket training course in which students learned how to safely operate powered mobile equipment and received training in standard first aid, CPR, WHMIS, and more. The institute also finalized a partnership with Saskatchewan Rivers School Division to provide additional supports for students seeking Adult Basic Education. Meanwhile, Saskatchewan Polytechnic and Wanuskewin Heritage Park formalized and expanded their longstanding relationship with a four-year MOU, which will see them collaborating on the development and sharing of Indigenous content, learning opportunities, and experiences. Sask Polytech researcher Abdul Raouf is also currently working with Cowessess First Nation to create an online, searchable interactive map of a cemetery at the site of the Marieval Indian Residential School. The work will help to provide closure to members of the community.
As provincial COVID-19 mandates and measures are lifted, several Indigenous committees and communities have announced their plans and shared new resources. The First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) and First Nations Schools Association (FNSA) shared new public health guidance for K-12 schools and advised that schools should make their decisions based on the best interests of their students. In Manitoba, Frontier School Division is the only school of its kind to continue with a mask mandate for students in K-12. The Chief Superintendent Reg Klassen explained that many northern communities are not ready for such a shift yet, and pointed to serious COVID-19 outbreaks in First Nations served by schools in the division. The Record reports that the mask mandate, physical distancing, and cohorting will be in place until at least April 21st. In Nova Scotia, the Eskasoni School Board has temporarily suspended classes as a circuit-breaker effort due to high COVID-19 rates in the First Nation’s community and dropping student attendance. Indigenous education authority Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey stated that Eskasoni is the only First Nation to cancel classes.
After Tyburious Saddleback, a Grade 2 student at Ponoka Elementary School, was bullied for having his long hair in braids and expressed his desire to cut his hair, staff took action by having Montana First Nation elder Sheila Potts speak to his class. Potts spoke to the class about the significance that long hair and braids has in their culture. “In my teaching it’s because it’s family unity and you’re intertwining your family together,” said Potts. “I told them that our ancestors had long, beautiful hair. … But the meaning of the braid is what is the important thing.” Saddleback now proudly wears his braids. “To me, it’s about having First Nations students have a voice, take up space in the classroom and be very proud of who they are and where they come from,” said Assistant principal Shelagh Hagemann. “Our job is to teach. And we’re very thrilled to have the elders come in and provide those opportunities and work alongside us.”
Indigenous and newcomer advocates are calling for the electoral maps of Winnipeg school boards to be changed so that each ward is represented by one trustee. In the 2021 State of Equity in Education reports, individuals from the Winnipeg Indigenous Executive Circle (WIEC), Newcomer Education Coalition, and Community Education Development Association (CEDA) argued that this change would boost representation within trustees. “Structurally, governance is an issue, said CEDA co-director Tom Simms. “White people run the school system.” The advocates argue that it is easier for trustees to get to know a smaller number of schools and say that this system would be more accessible to people who may not have thought they could run for public office. “It’s just really important that we’re reflecting the diversity, socioeconomic experiences, cultural experiences (that students have),” said co-author of WIEC’s State of Equity in Education report Heather McCormick.
Dalhousie University’s Medical School has launched a new Indigenous Admissions Pathway to increase the number of Indigenous students entering its undergraduate medical education program. The pathway will holistically assess applications from Indigenous individuals in order to minimize barriers to entry. The model will allow Indigenous applicants who may not have met the MCAT or GPA requirements to demonstrate their suitability for the program through interviews, personal statements, and supplemental information. “[Altruism, leadership, and communication] are the qualifications and attributes our communities are concerned about when they see their physician, not necessarily what their exact score was on an entrance exam,” said Dal Academic Director for Indigenous Health Dr Brent Young. The pathway has been approved for the 2022/2023 application cycle.
The University of Victoria has gifted a Talking Stick to Vancouver Island University Chancellor Dr Judith Sayers, Cloy-e-iss, to solidify the institutions’ longstanding relationship and reaffirm their commitments to reconciliation. The Talking Stick was carved by William Good who is a Hereditary Chief and Master Carver from Snuneymuxw First Nation. It was commissioned by UVic President Dr Kevin Hall and UVic AVP Indigenous Qwul’sih’yah’maht, Dr Robina Thomas, and gifted to Sayers at a ceremony at VIU that honoured Coast Salish traditions. The carvings include a thunderbird with lightning to honour Sayers’ Nuu-Chah-Nulth heritage, a killer whale to represent Sayers’ journey as chancellor, and a halibut and salmon to represent the richness she brings to VIU.
Three new childcare centres have recently opened in British Columbia. Métis Nation British Columbia announced the opening of the Island Métis Child Care Centre, which will deliver culturally safe childcare to Métis and urban Indigenous peoples in the Greater Victoria area. Meanwhile, in Langley, a new Aboriginal Head Start centre run by the Lower Fraser Valley Aboriginal Society (LFVAS) has opened at Parkside Centennial Elementary. The program will have elders on site and will ensure that children with higher levels of need are supported by part-time Aboriginal infant development workers. Kwseltkten Services Society’s Eagles Nest program has also shared that it has become an Aboriginal Head Start program. The program offers childcare to children up to five years old at no charge to parents, and teaches the traditional language, the medicine wheel, and seven teachings.
A recent piece published by Saint Mary’s University reflects on the significance of naming and how it can contribute to a sense of belonging and community. SMU’s Ta’n Weji-sqalia’tiek Mi’kmaw Place Names Digital Atlas and Website Projectbrought to life the relationship the Mi’kmaq have with the Mi’kma’ki ancient landscape. “The naming of places in Mi’kma’ki was always very logical and descriptive, so our people would know where they were at all times,” said the late Elder Gregory Johnson. The project’s evolution has been driven by the Mi’kmaw community’s vision, and included information from community-based focus groups, interviews, surveys, and discussions which addresses institutions’ need for a scholarly resource. As the Ta’n Weji-sqalia’tie project continues to develop, the website recently had a logo design and colour scheme update which reflect history and the land.
Several schools across Canada have announced names and name changes that will honour Indigenous peoples. In Brampton, Peel District School board announced that it will be holding a renaming ceremony for the newly renamed Nibi Emosaawdang Public School. In Alberta, Cochrane’s Holy Spirit Catholic School has redesigned its logo and included the Stoney Nakoda words for Holy Spirit: Warhî-îchine Nâri. A new school in Leduc has chosen a Cree name for a new school that will open in 2024: Ohpaho Secondary School. The name means “taking flight,” which symbolizes both Leduc’s physical proximity to the airport and how students will take flight after graduation. The University of the Fraser Valley announced that it renamed its student residence Lá:lem te Baker, which adds the Halq’emeylem language word for house to the Baker name.