FP Walshe School in Fort Macleod, Alberta has incorporated Blackfoot culture into its school meal planning. The school, which has a large First Nations, Metis, and Inuit population, offers a breakfast program where students can access foods such as fruit, cheese, and yoghurt while also connecting the school community with elders. These “grandmas” and “grandpas” come into the school and rotate between classrooms. Blackfoot Elder Joe Eagle Tail Feathers recently visited the classrooms to tell stories and give a brief Blackfoot language lesson. “What’s really special about now is I’m able to share the little bit that I do know with all the students,” said Eagle Tail Feathers, who pushes for a better understanding of the Blackfoot culture and history. Students such as Anjiloh Crop Eared Wolf told Global News that they are excited to connect with the elders during breakfast. “I have never really grown up with any grandparents at all because all of them passed away before I was born, so it’s nice to have an elder talk to me,” said Crop Eared Wolf.
A Calgary art festival recently featured 29 animated cartoons that teach Blackfoot words and phrases. The exhibit was created after Celestine Twigg, a teacher in Fort Macleod, was inspired to create a Blackfoot version of “Sesame Street” to support Blackfoot language learning. Twigg recruited a group of grade nine students from FP Walshe High School to help her on the project. The students took part in a Calgary Animated Objects Society animation residency and collaborated with Blackfoot language learners to record the pronunciation of Blackfoot words. The students then spent time storyboarding ideas in small groups. After the pandemic hit and students were no longer able to collaborate in person, they were joined by animators from around the world who brought humour and a new context to the language. “Any language you learn, there is so much about the culture you learn from the language,” said Festival of Animated Objects Co-artistic Director Xstine Cook. “Art has a magical way of translating things to all people.”
Several schools’ names have come under discussion and, in some instances, changed to better reflect local Indigenous cultures. After consulting with the Cowichan Tribes Vision Committee, the Cowichan Valley School Board has announced that the Cowichan Secondary School will have a name with a traditional First Nations spelling: Quw’utsun Secondary. The Greater Victoria School District is currently working with the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations to create a Lekwungen name for George Jay Elementary. The new name is expected to be unveiled in the 2023/2024 school year. In North Bay, Bay Today reports that the Near North School Board’s decision to rename Chippewa Secondary School has been met with resistance and a petition. Indigenous leader George Couchie responded to the school board’s request for input by arguing that the name is not a negative: “Let’s recycle whatever they saw as negative and make a positive out of it. Keep the school’s name Chippewa.” In Calgary, a protest took place to pressure public school officials to rename Sir John A Macdonald School. Student Makena Halvorsen told the Calgary Sun that students have been campaigning for a name change for almost two years.
Several schools, colleges, and universities held in-person powwows this month after a long hiatus. Conestoga College, Georgian College, and the University of Winnipeg each celebrated the return of drums, dancers, and vendors to their respective campuses after multi-year pauses. At Canadore College, an estimated 400 people filled the college’s gymnasium for the event as dancers, singers, and drummers travelled from as far away as Ottawa and Wikwemikoong for the day. “People were happy to get together again for this Pow Wow after the pandemic prevented in-person gatherings,” said First Peoples’ Centre Cultural Advisor Gerard McComb. “To be able to come back was a joyful moment for many.” The University of Toronto Mississauga will be co-hosting its first All-Nations Powwow with the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation this upcoming weekend, while Earl Marriott Secondary in Surrey is preparing for the Earl Marriott Semiahmoo First Nation Pow Wow after a three-year hiatus.
Underrepresented groups will continue to have access to marine training opportunities thanks to a nearly $30M investment from the Government of Canada’s Ocean Protection Plan. The funds will extend the Marine Training Program–which provides marine training opportunities to Indigenous Peoples, Northerners, and women–for an additional four years. It will support the delivery of marine training courses, a safe learning environment, and increased diversity and recruitment. The investment renews partnerships between the federal government and the British Columbia Institute of Technology, in collaboration with Camosun College; Nova Scotia Community College; and the Nunavut Fisheries and Marine Training Consortium. Funds will also be provided to the Western Arctic Marine Training Consortium to support marine training opportunities in the Northwest Territories.
Two recent events in Saskatoon celebrated Indigenous experiences and provided students with opportunities to test their skills. The University of Saskatchewan hosted the Your Voice Is Power Hackathon for students from St Joseph High School and Bethlehem Catholic High School. Students used coding applications to remix songs from Indigenous artists and discussed Indigenous experiences. Meanwhlie, ED Feehan High School hosted the First Nations Regional Spelling Bee, which allowed 180 Indigenous children between ages six and 14 to compete for a spot at the national competition. “It gives them a chance to get up on a big stage in front of family, friends, teachers, and strangers,” said Lori McAuley, one of the spelling bee organizers. “Just having the guts to get up there is a huge step for a child. It builds their confidence and their leadership capabilities.”
Cowessess First Nation and Nanan STEM Academy have partnered on a program that will provide Cowessess First Nation students with an opportunity to learn about computer programming and robotics. Shaun Nanan, founder of Nanan STEM Academy program head of Sask Polytech’s Computer Engineering Technology department, said that the program will enable students to use unique perspectives and the Cree language in the projects, and will empower them as they teach their non-Indigenous instructors Cree. Parents, guardians, and elders will actively participate and support students throughout the program in what Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme calls a “vertical lineage education system.” “We have been delighted with the enthusiasm of the students who have taken part in the program so far,” said Delorme. “This is just the beginning, and we are confident that many of these students will help and inspire generations of Indigenous students reach their fullest potential in education and life.”
The University of Lethbridge has signed on to the Buffalo Treaty of Cooperation Revival and Restoration as a supporter and is reportedly the first postsecondary institution to do so. The Buffalo Treaty preserves culture and ecosystems by allowing bison to move freely across the Canada-US border and restoring the cultural connections between Indigenous peoples and bison. As a supporter of the treaty, ULethbridge will perpetuate all buffalo-related aspects of Indigenous culture, including customs, practices, beliefs, and ceremonies. “The University of Lethbridge signing on as a supporter shows they agree to work towards the ends that the Buffalo Treaty speaks to through education, research and cooperation,” said ULethbridge Vice-Provost for Indigenous Relations Leroy Little Bear. “It is a momentous day and very fitting that the University of Lethbridge is the first university to sign on because the very beginnings of the Buffalo Treaty happened right here, on Blackfoot territory.”
Members of the Nipissing University Indigenous Council on Education (NUICE) will support Nipissing University’s development of a treaty based on mutual obligations and promises called Waawiindamaagewin. Nipissing President Dr Kevin Wamsley recently met with NUICE representatives as part of the university’s ongoing strategic planning process, and both parties indicated the need for more work in diversity, equity, and inclusion and Indigenization at the university. “Even now at this point, there is a lot more going on at the elementary and secondary level around inclusion of Indigenous perspective in a curriculum,” said NUICE Member Fran Couchie. “That’s really good but there’s definitely a lag at the post-secondary level.” NUICE Chair Maurice Switzer emphasized the importance of providing a welcoming, comfortable environment for Indigenous students to support learning and critical thinking, as well as providing cultural training to all Nipissing community members.
Memorial University President Vianne Timmons has reportedly taken a voluntary temporary leave of absence after a CBC investigation scrutinized her statements regarding Mi’kmaw heritage. CBC drew attention to a previous iteration of Timmons’ resumé, which reportedly indicated that she was a member of the Bras d’Or Mi’kmaq First Nation, an unrecognized band in Nova Scotia; her previous statements about a Mi’kmaw ancestor; and her receipt of an Indspire award. Timmons released a statement through Memorial apologizing for any hurt or confusion that may have stemmed from her sharing her family background and explicitly stating that she is not Mi’kmaq and does not claim Indigenous identity. Indigenous professor Daniel Bennett said that he had previously expressed concerns about the university’s identity verification and the claims made by some individuals. Memorial’s Board of Regents will be engaging with the issue and seeking guidance through an Indigenous-led Roundtable while Timmons steps back temporarily.