An Indigenous-led affordable housing project in London, Ontario will include space for mothers enrolled in postsecondary school through the Homeward Bound Program offered by N’Amerind Friendship Centre. The four-storey complex is being constructed on the site of the former Holy Cross Elementary School with the intent of addressing the pressing need for housing among Indigenous people in the city. It will include a daycare and other services that are crucial for tenants. “There’s a need for safe, affordable spaces,” said Cathy Connor, director of development for Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services “[Currently,] the moms are scattered throughout the city, instead of being together where they can help to support each other.”
Six Nations Polytechnic, Niagara College, Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre, and the Region of Niagara Children’s Services Division have partnered to deliver a new Indigenous-led Early Childhood Education (ECE) Pilot Program. The program aims to increase the number of Registered Early Childhood Educators and support Indigenous-led licensed childcare service providers. Students can take the program at no cost. A SNP instructor will deliver lessons remotely and in-person through the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre, while Niagara will act as the registrar for the program. “SNP’s culturally supporting approach to teaching and learning will strengthen the graduates’ cultural knowledge which in turn will support wholistic wellness among our children,” said SNP President Rebecca Jamieson. “Together we can make a positive difference for our collective generations.”
The Seven Oaks School Division has come up with new solutions to boost its bilingual Ojibwa program at Riverbend Community School. Teachers in Winnipeg recognized the need for an introductory dictionary in 2021 and developed a 118-page online dictionary called Giga-Ganoonidimin Miinawaa (which translates to “we will talk together again”) as well as a free app called They are Talking. The resources are designed for young learners and feature over 500 words and phrases, including animal names, emotions, grocery items, and questions. The dictionary includes explanations about the writing system and vowel sounds, and the app includes audio clips. “This is the way that we’re rewriting our own future… I just love hearing (kids speak Anishinaabemowin). It’s like self actualization – being able to be in a place where you can hear your whole language,” said Riverbend Anishinaabe teacher Pamela Morrison.
The University College of the North has launched a Department of Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation. The department will focus on reconciliation, sharing truth, and increasing access to Indigenous-focused education and programming. It will guide UCN as it introduces more Indigenous content to its curriculum. “When fully implemented, the department will lead UCN’s efforts in reconciliation, creating opportunities to increase access to Indigenous language training and revitalization, pursuing research in Indigenous languages and culture, and helping to ensure that UCN continues to be a leader in reconciliation in post-secondary education,” said UCN VP Academic and Research Dr Dan Smith. Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation member and UCN Assistant Professor Dr Ramona Neckoway will lead the new department.
Balfour Collegiate recently hosted Chief Cadmus Delorme of Cowessess First Nation to offer life and leadership advice to elementary and high school students. Delorme gave two presentations, used humour and storytelling to discuss how they can help further reconciliation, and encouraged students to educate adults around them on topics such as residential schools and the Sixties Scoop. “There’s no mandatory Indigenous studies class coming to the older generations, so our youth are our teachers now,” said Delorme. “As adults, we must turn on our student minds to relearn.” Regina Public Schools Elder in Residence Sharon Agecoutay was pleased with the way that students – including many non-Indigenous students – learned from Delorme. “I think it’s so important for young people to want to learn about other cultures because we find that when we do that, we’re more similar than we are different,” said Agecoutay. “That’s what brings people together, and that’s what reconciliation is: two parties working collaboratively together to make the world a better place.”
The British Columbia Court of Appeal has upheld a lower court ruling that a school in School District No 70 did not infringe on the religious freedoms of Candice Servatius and her two children when students were shown a demonstration of Indigenous ceremonies. Servatius took the school district to court after a series of events at the school, including a demonstration of smudging by an elder from the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation and a hoop dancer performance which included a prayer, saying that the events were religious ceremonies. The court of appeal rejected Servatius’ claim, saying that the school had not shown “favouritism” towards Indigenous spirituality, and ordered her to pay the school district’s legal costs. The First Nations Leadership Council celebrated the decision in a public statement, where it asserted that any other result “would have been a blow to reconciliation.” “As the Nuu-chah-nulth have said, First Nations are not a religion,” said Cheryl Casimer of the First Nations Summit Political Executive.
Stz’uminus First Nation and Take a Hike Foundation have partnered to offer youth in Ladysmith, British Columbia a new land-based learning and mental health program. Through the program, youth in Grades 10-12 at the Stz’uminus Community School will take part in a culturally appropriate and community-driven program. “[Students] become far more resilient, especially given the times of going through a global pandemic … this program is very good at helping them effectively deal with it with different strategies and through time in nature,” said Naniamo Ladysmith Public Schools Learning Alternatives President Brett Hancock. “Our graduates, I’m confident, are able to navigate tasks of young adulthood and for furthering their education.” Stz’uminus Education Society Education Administrator Justin Magnuson said that the school has completed a new classroom for Take a Hike that is a “perfect fit” for the program. “The classroom took its inspiration from the colours, shape and textures of the traditional territory of the Coast Salish peoples,” said Magnuson.
First Nations University has developed a new science teaching resource called the National Science Laboratory Video Lessons for Indigenous Youth. The resource includes a variety of materials that bring together Indigenous knowledge and modern science, such as interviews with elders and knowledge keepers, laboratory manuals, and videos of lab experiments completed by students at Carlton Comprehensive High School in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. FNU professor and project lead Arzu Sardarli explained that Indigenous knowledge on topics such as heat retention in teepees can be explained using the laws of physics and applied toward house construction today. “It’s important not only for Indigenous students, it’s very helpful for any student and I hope what we created within this project will be used by mainstream schools, too,” said Sardarli.
In an article for Regina Leader-Post, Jeremy Simes discusses the way that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted reading levels for children in Saskatchewan, with a particularly noticeable impact on Indigenous students. Simes writes that the Grade 3 reading level dropped in almost all divisions after the pandemic hit, and only saw a slight recovery in 2021-22. While overall, 69% of children in Grade 3 were reading at a grade 3 level or higher in 2021-22, only 52-55% of Indigenous and Métis students were reading at that level during that time frame. Regina Public Schools has noted that it is particularly concerned with Grade 3 reading results for its Indigenous and Métis students, and the Prairie Valley School Division also reported a large drop in reading levels among Indigenous students. “Hopefully, with this data, that shows the government that they will make it (more funding) important to them,” said Prairie Valley board chair Janet Kotylak. “The ministry has the evidence to see the levels aren’t what they need to be.”
The first National Ribbon Skirt Day was held on January 4th, and several schools marked the day in-person and online to recognize Indigenous traditions and celebrate those wearing ribbon skirts. The day responds to an incident in 2020 in which 10-year-old Isabella Kulak was shamed at her school for wearing a ribbon skirt. Divisions such as Good Spirit School Division, the Sun West School Division, and Regina Public Schools recognized the day and showed their support. Kulak’s community held a gathering of around 300 staff, students, and dignitaries which included a round dance. “It makes me really happy because lots of people can now wear their ribbon skirts [proudly],” said Kulak. “I hope they are now proud of who they are.” At the event, Good Spirit School Division Superintendent Quintin Robertson noted that the school is starting a new program that will let students directly discuss issues they are facing with the division.