Athabasca Delta Community School will be joining the Parkland School Division this school year after several years of work from Mikisew Cree First Nation, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, and Fort Chipewyan Métis Association. The communities told CBC that they faced an “education crisis,” with few students graduating and issues with staff retention, and that they hope to establish their own educational authority in the near future. Tammy Riel of the Fort Chipewyan Métis Nation explained that the current switch to a new division was driven by a need to find new hope in the education system. The communities reportedly intend to show PSD how they embed culture in their education system. “We are really excited,” said PSD superintendent Shauna Boyce. “[The board is] making sure that we can have an Indigenous perspective in our education and we’re really looking forward to bringing that perspective to every one of the schools we have.”
As the start of the school year approaches, Nunavut is facing a teacher shortage that is being exacerbated by a housing crisis. The Nunavut Teachers Association told CBC that it is concerned that the Government of Nunavut Education department will not be able to hire sufficient teachers in communities such as Cambridge Bay, Arctic Bay, and Igloolik. More than 100 teachers are estimated to have decided not to return to Nunavut for the school year, explained NTA President Justin Matchett. While cost of living is lower in the southern regions of Canada, Matchett stated that the housing shortage, which often requires teachers to share housing, is a far bigger issue. “You get people in isolated communities living together, working together all day, and they go home and spend the evening with each other,” explained Matchett. “You can imagine that gets stressful.” Other issues in the territory include a general lack of direction, poor leadership on curriculum issues, and violence in the classroom.
A Winnipeg high school teacher is calling on colleagues to incorporate Indigenous languages into their daily routines this school year. Michelle Arnaud, who is Métis and whose ancestry is Cree, Anishinaabe and European, has been working on decolonizing education over the summer and created a virtual agenda that will be used to welcome students to the classroom each day. The agenda includes terms in Cree, Michif, Anishinaabe, Dakota, and Oji-Cree in order to bring Indigenous languages back into the classroom. Arnaud has invited on other teachers to incorporate the daily calendar as well, and has posted the template for download so that it is accessible to non-Indigenous colleagues. Arnaud is also planning to record a pronunciation guide so that educators know how to properly pronounce each word on the template. “The late (elder) Ted Fontaine said to me: ‘You have a knowledge within you that has been suppressed for hundreds of years, that you are going to start learning yourself. Share it as far as you can, because it’s not going to help the students that you teach, but it’s going to help the colleagues who are non-Indigenous help those kids,’” said Arnaud.
Students have more opportunities to learn Indigenous languages through experiences such as puppet shows, camps, and dedicated educational funding for interpreters and translators. Language program developer Trevor Gould is teaching children the Mi’kmaw language with a fox puppet named Wowkwis. The program is hosted by Mermaid Theatre’s Animalingo and includes 10 episodes in which Gould and the puppet share Mi’kmaw culture, traditions, and language. In Esgenoôpetitj, children attended an immersive language camp where they learned to make moose skin drums while learning Mi’kmaw. “Seeing the children’s eyes when I tell them how one word can mean an entire sentence is my favourite part,” said language instructor Karen Somerville. The Government of the Northwest Territories has also recently announced new funding that will support Indigenous language interpreters and translators who are pursuing further education. Students can receive funding to cover tuition, fees, books, and materials for terminology workshops, tech training, and professional development.
Royal Roads University, the University of Victoria, Camosun College, the Justice Institute of British Columbia, and School District 62 (Sooke) will be opening a collaborative campus on Vancouver Island. The $98M project will serve the educational needs of students from the fast-growing Sooke and Westshore municipalities, including students from First Nations such as T’Sou-ke (Sooke), Pacheedaht (Port Renfrew), Scia’new (Beecher Bay), Xwsepsum (Esquimalt), Lekwungen (Songhees), and Malahat. The campus will offer a common foundations program along with various courses taught by the different institutions. It will include a five-story building that will house learning spaces and classrooms, student supports, a multi-purpose classroom known as the Innovation Studio, a space for Indigenous gatherings, and more. It is expected to open in the fall of 2024 with around 600 students. “With how quickly our Westshore communities are growing, there is no question that people will benefit from this new campus,” said Mitzi Dean, MLA for Esquimalt-Metchosin. “This will reduce barriers so more people, including youth, across our communities can pursue higher education and skills training closer to home.”
Dalhousie University’s Department of Family Medicine has announced that it will be offering comprehensive Indigenous health education through the new Wije’winen Health Centre. The centre will provide medical students and residents with a comprehensive Indigenous health education, ensuring that learners receive a baseline background of knowledge before beginning work at the clinic. “The complex and unique needs of urban Indigenous people are managed as interprofessional teams hence our learners need to learn from the allied health professionals in the centre, whether it be nurse practitioners, social workers, Elders, or community navigators,” said Dal Family Medicine department head Dr Kath Stringer. “They are all part of that education.”
Over $19M in combined funding and in-kind donations have been provided by the Government of Canada, Government of New Brunswick, and the Under One Sky Monoqonuwick-Neoteetg Mosigisig, Inc to construct a net zero carbon Indigenous longhouse and cultural Centre in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The Awitgati Longhouse and Cultural Centre will promote Indigenous culture and provide services for all members of the community. The facility will include dedicated space for education, skills, and training, as well as health and wellness, arts & culture, and community building. “To build a first of its kind net-zero longhouse is exciting,” said Under One Sky Executive Director Elder Patsy McKinney, “but the real impact will be for the members of our community, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, who will walk in our doors every single day.”
Métis Nation–Saskatchewan (MN-S) has made a $15M investment into supporting early learning and child care programming for Métis families. Programs include the Child Care Subsidy Program, which will provide funding so that parents can access culturally appropriate child care opportunities; the Early Years Accessibility Grant Program for families with children who have unique needs; the Lii Bufloo Backpack Program which will provide eligible children 13 and under with backpacks full of culturally appropriate learning resources; and the Community Enhancement Grant for enhancing or developing early learning supports and services. The funding will also support the expansion of two language programs: the Early Learning Language program and the Métis Early Learning Language programs. “The MN–S is putting words into action and fulfilling our commitment to our people, working collaboratively and ensuring that families have the support they need through programs and services that directly benefit them,” said MN–S Early Learning and Child Care Minister Tim Roussin.
Coast Mountain College instructor Dave McKeever recently incorporated a “Whole Person” Indigenous perspective into the curriculum of the Recruitment and Selection course. McKeever worked with Duane Jackson, Indigenous Relations Associate for the Prince Rupert Port Authority, to incorporate Jackson’s “Taughx Gadx” teachings into the course. Tauhx Gadx focuses on nine core virtues and promotes inclusion and connectedness. McKeever expressed hope that the addition of Tauhx Gadx would also help ensure students graduate with soft skills, which can be hard to measure. “[Tauhx Gadx] is about eliminating this traditional approach to hiring people and giving the students the tools and then knowledge to recruit and select employees using the best practice,” said McKeever.
Yukon University and Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) have announced a new program delivery model for their water and wastewater training and support programs. Delivery of the Circuit Rider Training Program (CRTP) and Yukon Water and Wastewater Operator Program (YWWOP) will be centralized within the university. The move will allow for increased research opportunities, increased First Nations participation in the programs, and improved support for First Nations leaders and managers overseeing water and wastewater systems management. “By assuming delivery of the Circuit Rider Training Program, Yukon University is supporting First Nations to build capacity and foster strong, healthy communities,” said federal Minister of Indigenous Services Patty Hajdu. “This federal investment of over $400,000 will support water and wastewater operator training that will benefit the greater Yukon region.”