In the Guelph region, two school boards are working on new education initiatives to teach students about Indigenous issues. The Wellington Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) is currently developing an Indigenized social studies curriculum for Grades 1 through 3 that will be implemented in Fall 2023. The school board is already incorporating Indigenous content into Grade 1-3 classes and inviting guest speakers in to ensure students learn Indigenous perspectives on topics such as kinship, family, and relationships with nature. WCDSB has also replaced its traditional English course with a mandatory course on understanding contemporary First Nations, Métis, and Inuit voices. Students in the course will read texts and listen to podcasts created by Indigenous writers and producers. Indigenous students in the Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB) have requested a conference on allyship that they could bring their friends to. “I want my grandchildren to see themselves reflected in the curriculum,” said Colinda Clyne, UGDSB curriculum educator for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit education. Clyne also highlighted the need for teachers to meet minimum requirements so that students hear stories other than the colonial narrative.
Educational institutions across Canada spent time this month to honour missing and murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people, provide education to staff and students, raise awareness about gender-based violence, and stand in solidarity with survivors. On May 5th, several schools marked Red Dress Day: The University of Prince Edward Island collaborated with the PEI Department of Education and ArtsSmarts to educate high school students at Montague Regional High School using case files and contemporary Indigenous history; St Clair Catholic District School Board encouraged students to wear red and students participated in a paint session led by artist Moses Lunham of the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation; and the Alberta University of the Arts encouraged students to hang a red dress in their yard, wear red, or attend a vigil to honour those who are gone. On May 12th, schools and postsecondary institutions recognized Moose Hide Day, which raises awareness about gender-based violence against Indigenous women and children. Students in Indian Head, SK marked Moose Hide Campaign Day with an awareness walk and pins made out of moose hide; while in Kimberley, BC, around 100 elementary and high school students attended an event featuring speeches, readings, and a performance by the Numa Ka’kin drum group.
Educational institutions across Canada have installed new artwork by Indigenous artists on their campuses and grounds. The University of Prince Edward Island has temporarily installed a tipi on its Charlottetown campus to symbolize Indigenous cultural and spiritual presence, as well as to represent the institution’s journey towards reconciliation. The tipi and ground were blessed by Mi’kmaq Elder Thirly Levi in a ceremony. At the Centre d’Études Collégiales à Chibougamau, Stéfanie Thompson and Cree artist Jimmy Tim Whiskeychan collaborated to create a mural called Wisdom from the Land (Sagesse de la terre). The mural was unveiled at the opening of the cegep’s new Indigenous student space. Odawa Anishinaabe artist Michael “Cy” Cywink and grade 6-8 students at Waverley Drive Public School recently collaborated on the creation of a mural: Images were chosen from Cywink’s portfolio, projected onto the wall, and filled in by students using colours representing their feelings. Huron University has received a new statue from Haudenosaunee artist Leroy Henry titled Eagle Tree of Peace. The statue, which was designed by Henry’s father and had been in progress for around 38 years, is a reminder of reconciliation.
Vancouver will soon host a new Indigenous centre that will include a postsecondary campus, a skills training campus, a childcare centre, and more. The new centre will house the Urban Native Youth Association (UNYA) and the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology Vancouver campus, which are currently both at capacity. The new facility will provide UNYA with space for classrooms, media labs, and art studios; and NVIT with purpose-built classrooms, media labs, lecture areas, workshops, and the specialized learning environments and space needed to expand its programs. “NVIT is excited to be working with UNYA to address the need for Indigenous education in urban Vancouver,” said NVIT president Ken Tourand. “This project will enable Indigenous youth to receive the support they require through UNYA and then transition to post-secondary education.” The Government of British Columbia provided $2.5M to the centre to finalize the project’s scope, timelines, and funding sources.
Educational institutes across Canada hosted in-person powwows, in some cases for the first time in several years, to celebrate their Indigenous students and graduates. Lakeland College hosted an Interschool Powwow with students from schools across the region and with Lloydminster Public and Catholic school divisions. My Lloydminster Now reports that around 600 teachers and supporters attended the event, which included drumming, singing, and dancing, and conversations reflecting pride in Indigenous culture. The University of Manitoba held an in-person powwow to celebrate 415 Indigenous graduates and congratulate them on their success in the face of pandemic challenges. “The long nights in your room — classes, work, everything by yourself, and not being able to come together. This is one of the first times everybody’s been able to do that,” said Taylor Tutkaluke, who is Métis with Cree and Ojibway roots. Red River College Polytechnic also held a graduation powwow to celebrate its 170 Indigenous graduates. This year marked the largest number of Indigenous graduates in the institution’s 20-year history, and the Winnipeg Free Press says that the day was “filled with the sound of drums, sights of regalia, and the smell of Bannock.”
As Bill 96 moves forward, First Nations leaders say that the Government of Quebec has ignored their requests to exempt Indigenous communities from it, reports CBC. The leaders shared their concerns over the bill’s disproportionate impact on Indigenous students and called on QC to respect the distinctness of Indigenous communities in the province. “To put another burden, of a third language for us to have to learn and be proficient in, when we’re trying to revitalize our Indigenous language — after all these Indian Day Schools, Indian Residential Schools, and all the things that happened to our people — it’s a challenge,” said Kahnawake Grand Chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer. John Martin, chief of the Mi’kmaq council of Gesgapegiag, cautioned QC to consider how education has been used against Indigenous people in the past. “If our communities are going to be able to flourish, education is a key component, but remember also that education has been used as one of the key factors in the assimilation of our people and the destruction of our cultures and the destruction of our languages, and that is why this government needs to sit down and listen to us,” said Martin.
Students at two schools recently had the opportunity to learn about First Nations cultures as they tried their hand at canoe building or fish preparation. Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School students learned about building a birch bark canoe from Chuck Commanda, a master canoe builder and knowledge keeper from Kitigan Zibi, a First Nations reserve in Quebec. All students at the school were encouraged to be involved, and Commanda taught students how to sustainably harvest materials for the canoe, told stories, and answered questions. “I find these teachings are very important to the younger generation,” said Commanda. “We realize that maybe we are working with one of the next federal prime ministers, the next federal environmentalist, or even the next provincial minister.” Meanwhile, in the Yukon, the Yukon First Nation Education Directorate hosted a program at Jack Hulland Elementary School to teach students about fish, including their lifecycles and filleting techniques. Each class from the school had time in the camp area and participated in age-appropriate activities. Grade 8 student Anthony Johns, who learned about fish from his grandmother, shared his knowledge while demonstrating how to fillet fish.
Schools in Winnipeg and Brantford are celebrating their recently announced new names, while a school in Calgary is forming a committee to help determine the future of a school named for former prime minister Sir John A Macdonald. In Winnipeg, Cecil Rhodes School has been renamed Keewatin Prairie Community School. “Keewatin” means “the land of the northwest wind,” while the word “prairie” represents growth and connection. Grand Erie District School Board’s Ryerson Heights Elementary School will be renamed the Edith Monture Elementary School, in honour of the Ohsweken-born World War 1 veteran who became the first Indigenous woman in the country to become a registered nurse and gain the right to vote in Canada. The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) has formed a seven-person committee to review the name of the Sir John A Macdonald School after facing pressure from the community. Several students, who have been inspired by advocacy at other schools across Canada, have called for change.
The University of Ottawa’s Medical School, the Government of Nunavut, and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc (NTI) have partnered to give Inuit students the opportunity to pursue medical training. The partnership ensures that up to two seats at UOttawa will be secured for Inuit students, starting in Fall 2023. Students will be provided with targeted supports such as a training allowance, childcare allowance, and tutoring. “Over the next few years, we would like several cohorts of Nunavut Inuit to begin training towards becoming a doctor,” said NTI President Aluki Kotierk. “The training and employment of Inuit health care professionals is essential for accessible, safe, high quality Inuktut health care in Nunavut.” Nunavut Inuit applicants will also receive a variety of supports through NTI and Makigiaqta Inuit Training Corporation’s Quvvariarniq Program to help them complete their applications.
The University of Lethbridge has announced that its EleV Navigator Team has received a new name in Blackfoot: Iiksitawapa Akakatsiyiwa (Going All Out Society). The name was bestowed by Blackfoot Elder Francis First Charger at a naming ceremony to welcome and honour the team and start them forward in a good way. “When we talked with them, I could see they have a lot of enthusiasm, their hearts are in the right place, and they are a very diverse group,” said First Charger. “Now that the six of them are working together they are like a family. The name is hard to translate but when I look at this group, I see they have a lot of fire in them and I see them going all out.” The ceremony included an offer of prayers with a pipe, a praise song, and a celebratory feast. “Receiving a Blackfoot name is a great honour, and also bears a great responsibility,” said ULethbridge manager of strategic Indigenous learning initiatives Shanda Webber. “Every name has a meaning. Every name has a story. … I know the navigator team will hold our new name in high regard and honour our role in community.”