Thompson Rivers University has shared an overview of its recent work in Indigenizing Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR). TRU PLAR Director Susan Forseille discusses how the university worked with Justin Young Thunder Sky, a traditional oral storyteller and mentor, to evaluate the PLAR process and pilot a version of the process that drew on a recorded spoken portfolio and interviews with other students Thunder Sky was working with. After the pilot project was complete, the team analyzed the outcomes; developed three committees to focus on components of PLAR such as interviews, the report structure, and the student handbook; and is now planning to visit Bands and talk about PLAR with them. The university is also seeking funding to conduct pilot projects with two Bands and create a competency-based PLAR cohort.
The University of Manitoba has announced plans to implement a new Indigenous identity policy this Fall. CBC reports that the institution is considering using a tiered process of formal and alternative identity verification methods during the hiring process for Indigenous-specific opportunities. UManitoba VP (Indigenous) Catherine Cook said that the community wants the policy to be inclusive of Indigenous peoples who have been disconnected from their cultures or communities, who are non-status, or do not believe in verifying their heritage through formal documentation. UManitoba has also unveiled new convocation robes for its chancellor and president. The robes were reimagined by Jackie Traverse, an Ojibwe artist from the Lake St Martin First Nation; they feature the Prairie crocus to represent Manitoba, red and orange flower buds for missing Indigenous women and children, and the colours of the four symbolic nations of the medicine wheel. “I think that it shows the willingness to learn, make changes and to be open to dialogue and creating changes for everybody,” said Traverse.
Several postsecondary institutions across Canada have announced new Indigenous-focused learning opportunities and courses. Holland College has partnered with Abegweit First Nation to create a new micro-credential titled “Indigenous Leadership for Renewable Energy.” Mount Saint Vincent University and the University of King’s College co-developed a new Indigenous Media Literacy course that draws on a Mi’kmaw worldview to analyze representations of Indigenous people in the media. AlgomaU has launched an Indigenous-developed-and-delivered professional development program called Gabegendaadowin, which will teach front-line service staff about respect, consideration, and care for others. Assiniboine Community College and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples have partnered to offer a tuition-free Horticultural Production certificate program to Indigenous learners who live off reserve. The University of Lethbridge has launched the Indigenous Governance and Business Management diploma program, which will provide Indigenous and non-Indigenous students the skills they need to pursue a career in Indigenous business and governance.
Schools in Labrador Innu communities are celebrating the success of a new approach to education. Prior to 2009, parents encountered issues with the school system. The Innu school board took over management of education in Labrador Innu communities in 2009 and took steps to improve the experience for Innu learners. The communities received access to a two-year Nipissing University teaching program, which enabled the communities to train their own teachers. The school follows the provincial curriculum but places a large emphasis on Innu traditions, language, and learning from elders. Students learn the Innu-aimun language and traditional skills such as how to clean hides, sew Innu tea dolls, pick berries, and spend time on the land in traditional Innu tents learning how to hunt and fish. Over 150 students have graduated from Sheshatshiu and Natuashish since 2009, in contrast to the around 30 students who finished school in the four decades before the change. “We see a change since we’ve taken over; parents are trusting the system now,” said Kanani Davis, chief executive of Mamu Tshishkutamashutau Innu Education. “My vision is that these students walk away and say, ‘I’m proud to be Innu. I know my way of life. I know the history of the Innu. And I’m going to go out there and teach it.”
The Kluane First Nation is celebrating the construction of a new school after a century-long wait. Students currently must take a 15 km bus ride to the K-7 Kluane Lake School in Destruction Bay in order to participate in education, and APTN News reports that many families have left the area so that their children can attend high school in other communities. The new school, called Kêts’ádań Kų–which translates to “house of learning” in Southern Tutchone–will be part of the Yukon First Nation School Board and will offer elementary, junior, and high school classes. It will include learning spaces that are connected to the land and will have a focus on language and cultural instruction. “We need to have a school for our culture and our language in the schools today so that we can continue our way of life for our people,” said Kluane Chief Bob Dickson. “Our hope is the kids are going to learn our language, the culture, and also they’re going to help the rest of the community learn also, because I think it’s a multigenerational connection.”
Schools across Canada are recognizing the accomplishments of their Indigenous graduates with ceremonies and celebrations. McGill University hosted a virtual Scarf Ceremony in which students received red or white scarves designed by Kahnawake-based designer Tammy Beauvais from the Mohawk Nation. In Manitoba, Assiniboine Community College, Brandon University, and the Brandon School Division collaborated on an event that celebrated Indigenous graduates of all ages. The event recognized students who were graduating from preschool, grade 8, grade 12, and postsecondary education with a grand entry and Indigenous drummers and dancers. St Mary’s University in Calgary celebrated First Nations and Métis graduates with a ceremony that included smudging, prayers and a blessing, and gifts of a beaded eagle feather or sash. Osoyoos Secondary School in British Columbia celebrated Indigenous students with an event where graduates shared their future plans, received medicine pouches, and were blanketed by their families.
James Smith Cree Nation recently forged three agreements with the East Central First Nations partnership program, the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division, and the North East School Division. The agreements are intended to enhance the quality of education for students attending the Bernard Constant Community School. The school divisions will form a First Nation and Metis advisory council for students from James Smith Cree Nation. James Smith will maintain its treaty right to education while receiving the supports it needs to improve education quality while continuing to prioritize Cree culture, customs and traditions. The additional funding will be used for a new land-based learning program, where students will learn about cultural aspects such as fishing, hunting, snaring, and setting up tipis. “We need to be able to measure our success and adjust if we don’t meet our own standards,” said East Central First Nations Education Partnership director of education Randy Constant. “We will develop standards for land-based learning, cultural teachings, language acquisition, early years learning and an IT plan.”
PacifiCan has made an over $2M investment to support the Digital Horizons technology employment training program. The program will be delivered by the First Nations Technology Council and will prepare Indigenous people to work in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector. The programming will be culturally grounded, designed, and led by Indigenous people. Over 700 Indigenous people will be able to take part in the program and prepare to pursue a career or start their own business in ICT. “With the support of Digital Horizons, we will also be able to offer valuable career pathway services and ensure Indigenous program graduates can access mentors, internship opportunities, and careers in BC and beyond,” said First Nations Technology Council CEO Natiea Vinson.
Saskatchewan Provincial Auditor Tara Clemett has released a report on Indigenous students’ educational outcomes, which found that SK’s Indigenous graduation rates are becoming worse. Only 44.7% of Indigenous students complete their grade 12 education within three years of beginning Grade 10, compared with 88.7% of non-Indigenous students. Battlefords NOW reports that the situation is particularly serious in Northern SK. Clemett provided recommendations to help increase Indigenous graduation rates, including expanding measures and targets for Indigenous student academic achievement, requiring enhanced reporting, and determining action plans. “Having measurable goals helps organizations monitor progress and decide whether changes are needed,” said Clemett. “Setting additional measures and targets that focus on improving Indigenous student achievement … would allow the Ministry to analyze relevant data and identify improvements to share with school divisions.”
Schools across Canada are celebrating National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous People’s Day with a variety of events and new initiatives. The University of New Brunswick hosted a circle discussion with Indigenous community members and local health service providers to discuss accessibility, inclusion, and support for Indigenous students. The Upper Canada District School Board announced the launch of new teaching resources and a virtual celebration in order to help schools increase learning opportunities about Indigenous peoples and culture. Algoma University held a flag-raising ceremony in front of Shingwauk Hall and hosted an Anishinaabe Academic Resource Centre open house. Algonquin College Early Childhood Education students learned about Indigenous doll making and incorporating Indigenous knowledge into the classroom from dollmaker Rose Moses. Sacred Heart Elementary School in Moose Jaw invited First Nations knowledge keeper and storyteller Lyndon Linklater to a teepee raising ceremony, where Linklater taught students about the history and symbolism of the teepee, answered questions, and taught the students a song. Emily Carr University organized an Indigenous Art Market that includes art from Indigenous students, staff, faculty, and local Indigenous practitioners.