The University of Toronto student newsletter The Varsity recently released its first Indigenous Issue, for which it pledged to offer honoraria to Indigenous contributors, and has committed to improving its reporting on Indigenous peoples at the university. In one article for the special issue, Alice Boyle reports on the issues of students feeling obliged to act as a “native informant” at the university for faculty and other students, as well as issues with tokenism rather than representation. Student Iehnhotonkwas Bonnie Jane Maracle, a member of the Wolf Clan of the Mohawk Nation at Tyendinaga Territory, also spoke about the stark differences between how academia and Indigenous communities evaluate credibility and knowledge, the expectations around academic work, and the issues that stem from treating Indigenous peoples as a single entity. In a letter to the editor, PhD student Stephanie Allen of Kanien’keha:ka, Six Nations of the Grand River addressed her personal experiences on several of these issues in a recent seminar. Lexey Burns reported on the state of Indigenous course requirements at U of T and called for the integration of more Indigenous-focused program requirements at the university.
Emmanuel College of Victoria University in the University of Toronto has announced that it will is planning an Indigenous Garden on campus. The garden will be created in collaboration with Indigenous communities and will be funded by The Seeds of Hope grant from The United Church of Canada Foundation. It will feature Indigenous plants, vegetables, and wildflowers; will be ecologically sustainable; and will be connected to Emmanuel’s academic curriculum. “As this garden grows, it will remind us that the work toward truth and reconciliation changes in relationship with our seasons, environment, and each other,” said Victoria University President Dr Rhonda McEwen.
In an article for The Conversation, University of Manitoba Faculty of Education Associate Dean Frank Deer discusses the importance of prioritizing language education in the Residential School settlement in order to revitalize Indigenous communities. Reflecting on the recent $2.8B class action lawsuit settlement related to the residential school system, Deer notes the need to address the damage done to Indigenous communities and their culture and identities. This particularly needs to be done through language education and opportunities to use Indigenous languages in the community. “Children and youth should be encouraged to use Indigenous languages outside of school as well [as] through community laws, commerce, and media,” Deer concludes. “Such initiatives require the commitment of community members and the support of the Day Scholars Revitalization Fund may be well suited for this purpose.”
Recent education reports from Alberta Education reportedly show that Indigenous students in Edmonton continue to have a lower high school graduation rate than their non-Indigenous peers. Recent education reports show that only 67% of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit students in Edmonton Catholic Schools and 47% of those in the Edmonton Public School Board completed high school in three years, while the school boards’ overall averages are over 80%. CBC highlights some of the initiatives that have been launched in the school division that are seeing success, such as the Braided Journeys program and the high school completion coach pilot that recently expanded to three schools. “For Indigenous students, systemic discrimination is at the root of non-completion and low academic performance,” said Concordia University of Edmonton Assistant Professor Christine Martineau, who is Cree and Métis. Martineau noted that there are no simple solutions to the problem, but encouraged the creation of more immersion and bilingual programs for Indigenous languages, hiring more Indigenous teachers and leaders to bring role models into the school, and continuing individual support programs like the Braided Journeys programs, while additionally exploring high-level opportunities for systemic change.
Stoney Nakoda First Nation has introduced new written language learning resources to preserve the Stoney language. The Stoney Education Authority has introduced an advanced textbook and a dictionary, as well as a podcast featuring stories from elders. The written texts will preserve the traditional oral language, support language revitalization, and ensure that future generations will be able to access these resources and continue speaking the language. “I’m very proud to be part of this because we’re losing our language,” said Virgle Stephens, an elder from the Stoney Nakoda First Nation who helped develop the texts. “Maybe this is a new way to bring our language back by writing it down. We are working on it, and I hope the children of the next generation would use it because it’s for them.”
Alberta lawyers have voted to reject a resolution that would eliminate a mandatory Indigenous cultural competency course. Over 2,500 members of the Law Society of Alberta voted against the motion during a meeting early this week. The vote was held in response to a petition from 51 lawyers who were opposed to a mandatory five-part course called The Path, which teaches Indigenous culture and history in the context of the justice system. Lawyers who do not complete the course are suspended from practicing law in the province. “Sometimes when we learn about things that are foreign to us, it makes us feel uncomfortable,” said University of Alberta Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge Legal Director Koren Lightning-Earle. “I think people really need to take some time and explore why they feel that way. And really get to the deep root about why are they putting their names to the petition?”
The Tahltan Nation Development Corporation, the Tahltan Central Government, the Government of British Columbia, Coast Mountain College, and other industry partners have collaborated to create a pilot Tahltan Nation Heavy Equipment Operator Training Program. The program is intended to address the need for experienced heavy equipment operators with TNDC and in the Tahltan Territory in northwest British Columbia. Learners will take part in a mixture of workplace safety training, underground miner fundamentals, on-the-job practical operating work experience, camp life exposure, and more. “I am thrilled at the opportunity this course will create for Tahltans wishing to pursue a career that allows them to be trained in Tahltan Territory and encourages them to use their skills in our communities after completion,” said Chad Norman Day, President of the Tahltan Central Government. “World-class mining cannot exist in Tahltan Territory without Tahltans being included in the workforce. We support breaking down any barriers that have traditionally prevented our members from accessing employment opportunities.”
The University of the Fraser Valley, Stó:lō Nation, the Stó:lō Tribal Council, the Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre, and the Stó:lō Grand Chief’s Council have collaborated to launch an allyship and reconciliation program. Xwelítem Siyáya: Allyship and Reconciliation Building is a part-time, non-credit program that educates non-Indigenous Canadians about allyship and building reconciliation. Participants will learn about topics such as lands and resources, settler colonialism, and governance, and will participate in workshops on drum making, cedar bark weaving, and more. “It is important for us to learn to live together in our territory so that we may learn together to protect the land water and resources for our future generations,” said Grand Chief Clarence (Kit) Pennier. UFV’s Peace and Reconciliation Centre Director Dr Keith Carlson added that, through the program, UFV is trying to foster genuine reconciliation while lifting some of the burdens of educating settlers about Indigenous rights, culture, and the impacts of colonialism.
Lakehead University has unveiled the new Anishnaabemowin name of the Indigenous Law and Justice Institute as well as the institute’s new logo. The new name—Mino-waabandan Inaakonigewinan—was bestowed by Elder Ron Linklater during a naming ceremony. The Thunderbird logo was designed by Anishinaabe artist Ryan Pooman. “‘Mino-waabandan Inaakonigewinan,’ or ‘seeing the law in a good way,’ is something we strive for daily through our law program and the Institute’s activities,” said Robin Sutherland, Director of Indigenous Relations at Lakehead’s Bora Laskin Faculty of Law. “The Thunderbird image also relates to seeing law in a good way and reflects our location in Thunder Bay, especially with Fort William First Nation being our closest neighbour and home to Anemki Wajiw, or Thunder Mountain.” The university’s Indigenous Student Services Centre also recently hosted a winter feast where Fort William Elder Sheila Decorte shared teachings, stories, and songs. Indigenous Student Services Centre coordinator Yolanda Twance told Anishinaabek News that the centre hosts seasonal feasts throughout the academic year to acknowledge the change of seasons.
The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) recently voted to replace the compulsory Grade 11 English course with a course titled Contemporary First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Voices. The course is designed to focus on the literary, oral, media, and cultural texts of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples while also preparing students for the Grade 12 English course. “This fulfills the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s calls to action 63.1: make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, treaties, and Aboriginal people’s historic and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for kindergarten to grade 12 students,” said student trustee Isaiah Shafqat, who is Two-Spirit Mi’kmaq and Loon clan. TDSB staff are currently preparing a report on the gradual implementation of the course that is expected to be shared in June.