Lennox Island First Nation is experiencing a cultural revival as students reclaim their education through practicing Mi’kmaw culture, reports CBC. Students at John J Sark Memorial School, which is a former day school, have been practicing Mi’kmaw culture by drumming and speaking the language. Students take pride in their heritage through activities such as drumming at lunch and announcing the weather to their school and community in Mi’kmaw and English. “I feel it’s super cool because my ancestors, it was illegal for them to do it, a long time ago … It feels like you’re healing yourself, and it’ll heal … a bunch of other people,” said student Xavier Bernard. Educators also shared the work they do to meet both the educational and emotional needs of students. “[W]e work to help promote inclusivity, kindness, using all of the teachings that they learn with their Mi’kmaw culture teacher,” said Lennox Island education director Kim Colwell. Mi’kmaq teacher Nancy Peters-Doyle added that this cultural learning is meant to strengthen students’ ability to cope with racism after leaving the school. “Hopefully they’ll recall that strength from when they were a kid and be like, oh, well, I’m proud to be Mi’kmaq,” said Peters-Doyle.
Aurora College has announced that it has signed the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Canada (Dimensions) Charter. By signing the charter, Aurora has committed to embedding EDI principles in its policies, practices, and action plans, and will continue to use these principles to guide its transition into a polytechnic. “This tool allows different voices to be heard, acknowledged and valued,” said Aurora President Dr Glenda Vardy Dell. “Adopting this approach across the college reminds all of us that the expression of our honest impressions, thoughts and attitudes are acceptable without the fear of ridicule.” Aurora says that it is the first Northern postsecondary institution to sign the charter.
A Wolastoqey language immersion school is set to open in Fredericton, New Brunswick this fall. The Kehkimin Wolastoqey language immersion school was granted a one-year lease earlier this week at Killarney Lodge, where it will rent the ground floor for $1. After this, the school will relocate to a nearby house for a four-year term, which will also cost $1. “We are committed to seeking out and acting upon opportunities that support truth and reconciliation actions with the Wolastoqey Nation and to helping with the preservation of their language,” said Fredericton Mayor Kate Rogers. Since the house is currently in need of serious repairs, the school is running a fundraising campaign to pay for renovations. At its launch, the school will offer kindergarten to grade 4 students from Frederiction, St Mary’s, Oromocto, and Kingsclear an education in Wolastoqey. “The only way you can preserve the language is if the whole family can learn it together,” said Wolastoq Grand Council Chief Ron Tremblay, who helped develop the curriculum.
School boards must actively take steps to dismantle systemic barriers and address racial injustice by including communities that have historically been excluded, including Indigenous students and families, write Vidya Shah (York University Assistant Professor), Gisele Cuglievan Mindreau (University of Toronto PhD Candidate), Nada Aoudeh (YorkU PhD Candidate). Shah, Mindreau, and Aoudeh provide five recommendations that school boards can use to meaningfully address systemic racism, including developing an understanding that no aspects of schooling are neutral, implementing and ensuring funding for structures that will dismantle structures of racism, and inviting parents to share their experiences and input. The authors also recommend ensuring that leadership models are inclusive and do not replicate oppressive structures, and that school boards recognize that marginalized communities need real change rather than symbolic acts.
The Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia has received a $4M investment from the federal government to support its plans to build a new home, as well as $910K in support of programming. The center offers 55 different programs to the urban Indigenous population, including early childhood education services, supports for culture and language, and harm reduction initiatives. The centre has moved three times since it opened its doors in 1972, and triage manager Charlotte Bernard told CBC that she is excited for the day the centre has a permanent home. “I can’t wait for the day that we open the doors of our new friendship centre because I’m going to be standing there all proud,” said Bernard. The friendship centre is focused on securing land for its new home, said executive director Pamela Glode-Desrochers, and reportedly needs at least an additional $35M for the new space. The Government of Nova Scotia also announced a $1.2M investment in the centre’s Every One Every Day Kjipuktuk/Halifax initiative, which brings people together through public events and activities.
First Nations Technical Institute students are back in the air after Seneca College leased two of its Cessna 172s to the institution. FNTI recently experienced a fire that destroyed its hangar, all of its planes, and its operations office and service equipment. While students who were close to graduating were moved to Kingston or Cornwall to complete their training, FNTI needed to lease planes for its remaining students. These students are now able to continue their flight training thanks to the planes leased from Seneca. “Finding leased planes going into the busy flight season was challenging,” said FNTI Dean of Aviation and Chief Flight Instructor Jo-Anne Tabobandung. “Seneca really came through with the lease and offering to provide maintenance for the aircraft. … They are really going out of their way to support us.”
The First Nations University of Canada has partnered with Procept Associates Ltd to launch a Project Management Certificate Program. The program, which is offered through FNU’s Indigenous Continuing Education Centre, will teach students about project management and planning risk management. It will also cover topics of interest to Indigenous communities, including the establishment of sound project governance structures and policies, and project procurement best practices. “For Indigenous communities, change can be realized through meaningful and relevant projects,” said FNU President Dr Jacqueline Ottmann. “Most First Nations need greater internal capacity to govern and implement projects with people from the community. This approach keeps revenue within the community and empowers First Nations to make project planning and delivery decisions that are aligned with community priorities and goals.” FNU noted that the ICEC has expanded since its launch in January 2022 from providing Indigenous awareness and reconciliation training to Corporate Canada to working directly with Indigenous community members to build capacity.
The Durham Catholic District School Board (DCDSB) has announced that all of its high schools will be offering a Grade 12 Indigenous Studies course in the 2022-23 school year. The course, titled “Contemporary Indigenous Issues and Perspectives in a Global Context,” will teach students about a variety of Indigenous issues that include environmental racism, political injustice, intergenerational trauma, and reconciliation. The course is being offered in response to student feedback, which indicated that over 60% of students were interested in a Grade 12 Indigenous Studies course option. Teachers will receive support from the DCDSB’s Indigenous Education department as well as the Indigenous Education Circle as they implement the course. “This course is part of the DCDSB’s ongoing commitment to reconciliation, supporting Indigenous students and families, and walking the path together with Indigenous partners,” said DCDSB superintendent Mariah O’Reilly.
Lakehead University launched the Anishinaabe Kendaasiwin Institute (AKI) on Monday. The AKI seeks to support mino-bimaadiziwin among Anishinaabe peoples, nations, and territories through research that is situated in Anishinaabe Kendaasiwin and good relationships. “Historically, research has been extractive in nature – to the detriment of Indigenous peoples and lands,” said AKI Director Dr Lana Ray. “AKI was founded on the premise that if research is done right it can play an important role in advancing the visions and needs of Indigenous peoples and lands.”
Three communities have recently embarked on the planning and construction of their new schools. In Ontario, the Sheshegwaning First Nation is preparing to begin construction on the new Samson Edowishkosh Elementary School in May 2023. The number of children in the First Nation has outgrown the existing school, so the new school will have expanded space and include a kindergarten room, four full-size classrooms for Grades 1-8, a small-scale gymnasium, and a lunchroom and cafeteria. In Alberta, the Kainai Board of Education stated that it will be replacing the Aahsaopi Elementary School with a more modern facility. While the school currently has around 200 students enrolled from K-5, the new facility will enable the school to accommodate more than twice the number of students. “We’re building it for longevity and really taking into account the population explosion we’re going to see here,” explained superintendent Cam Shade. The new project is being funded by the Blood Tribe Chief and Council and Indigenous Services Canada. In British Columbia, the Kitsumkalum First Nation has broken ground on their new school. The single-storey ‘Na Aksa Gyilak’yoo School building will accommodate 80 students across five classrooms, and will replace the aging school facilities. “It is extremely important for Kitsumkalum youth to be educated in their own language and culture,” said Kitsumkalum Chief Councillor Don Roberts.