The Government of British Columbia has proposed changes to the School Act that would ensure Indigenous peoples have more input into the education of Indigenous children and youth and improve outcomes of Indigenous students in K-12. The proposed amendments would fulfil the province’s commitments in the Declaration Act Action Plan and the BC Tripartite Education Agreement. First Nations and Treaty First Nations would have the option of requesting to apply a model local education agreement with boards of education. Additionally, the changes would require all boards to establish an Indigenous education council in their school district in order to ensure that Indigenous people have input on decisions that affect Indigenous students. The School Act’s school-of-choice provision would give First Nations the authority to determine which school their students – whether they are living on reserve, self-governing, or Treaty lands – would attend.
Atahkakoop Cree Nation has purchased an old high school in Shell Lake and transformed it into an education and training centre. The goal of the centre is to provide accessible and culturally sensitive adult education to students who are interested in upgrading or completing their Grade 12 education. The centre is planning to offer training and education in a variety of areas, including IT, cooking, and mechanical classes, and both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people are welcome to access education at the centre. It will also offer students access to free lunch and transportation. “Demographics suggest that there’s a lot of unemployment on First Nations, and this is due to a number of circumstances, but the most recent being COVID,” said project manager Joseph Burton Smokyday. “This is post-COVID, so we’re trying to find ways to deal with getting our people educated and caught up again.”
The Cree School Board has responded to the “worrisome” results of an ongoing evaluation of Cree language skills in northern Québec by implementing the Cree Language Mentorship Initiative. Through the language initiative, the board has hired 20 Cree language experts to work with Cree language teachers to create lessons, plans, resources, and strategies to help students learn the Cree language. The school board’s goal is to expand the program in the future so that teachers of all levels can work with a mentor. Cree School Board chairperson Sarah Pash noted other ongoing efforts to address language loss, including the creation of a bank of Cree language resources, elders’ circles that schools can draw upon, and hiring culture and language animators for each school. “I know we have teachers that teach it, but they need our support,” said language expert Mary Bear. “We have to pass that knowledge down that was passed to us from our parents to our children and grandchildren.”
The First Nations Technical Institute recently issued a statement expressing concern regarding the lack of resources and facilities available for Indigenous postsecondary students. FNTI highlighted that many Indigenous-led institutions do not have adequate resources, which perpetuates the existing cycles of inequity among Indigenous students and their communities. FNTI President Suzanne Brant stated that while the institution had 862 applications this year, the lack of appropriate resources meant that it was only able to seat 299 students. The release contended that a similar situation is occurring at many of Canada’s Indigenous-led institutions and called on the federal and provincial government to provide additional resources to Indigenous students and institutions.
In a recent interview with The Coast, Jacqueline Prosper, treaty education lead at the Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey (MK), discusses the importance of treaty education within Nova Scotia. Prosper says that she has focused on bringing Mi’kmaw history and culture to schools throughout the year and ensuring that students can see themselves within the curriculum. Prosper discusses how teachers want to teach treaty education, but are afraid of getting it wrong because some of the available information is inaccurate. For these teachers, Prosper outlines four treaty questions that they can answer in the classroom: “Who are the Mi’kmaq historically and today? What are treaties? Why are they important? What happened to the treaty relationship? And what are we doing to reconcile that relationship?” Prosper also discusses the resources that MK has made available, the gaps in education between students in MK schools and public schools, and the importance of representation.
Dawson College students had the opportunity to participate in butchering three moose after Cree student Angela Ottereyes organized a traditional event to bring her culture to the campus. While autumn is moose hunting season in Northern Québec, it is difficult for those who are pursuing postsecondary education and studying for midterms to return to their home territory to hunt moose. “I needed my moose break,” said Ottereyes. “I thought since I can’t go to the bush, I can’t go get the moose, so I had a moose brought in at the college.” Cree students and non-Indigenous students worked together to butcher the moose and learned how to process different parts of the animal, including skinning the moose and scorching the moose’s nose. “You don’t usually see three moose heads, especially on campus,” said Tristan Beauregard, a Cree student who helped clean the moose. “[…] It brought me a little bit back home.” The First Peoples’ Centre will use half of the meat for traditional cooking activities and the skulls will be donated to Dawson’s biology department.
Naicatchewenin First Nation will construct a cultural and learning centre, thanks to a $2M grant from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation. The centre’s focus will be on education and training, cultural and traditional teachings, and child and family learning. It will provide on-site daycare and after-school programming and will have classrooms and learning rooms, an elders traditional gathering room, and outdoor areas for children’s play and community gatherings. Community members will be able to take part in training at the centre in order to improve their job readiness and employment skills while staying closer to home. “This building will bring many new opportunities for growth, family wellness and access to cultural spaces, which are key aspects of a prosperous community,” said Naicatchewenin Chief Wayne Smith.
The Gabriel Dumont Institute and Employment and Social Development Canada have signed a five-year agreement that will increase Métis representation in the health sector. The partners agreed to create demand-driven skills development training programs that will address the shortage of skilled healthcare workers; these programs are estimated to reach 600 Métis clients over the next five years. ESDC will contribute a total of $14.6M to the project and the Saskatchewan Health Authority will recruit and support the program’s graduates. “[The project] will improve employment outcomes for Métis citizens, specifically increasing the number of Métis professionals working in the healthcare sector by providing equitable access to jobs, training and education opportunities,” said Executive Director of SHA First Nations and Métis Health Thona Longneck.
The Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin First Nation and the City of Dawson have partnered to expand a nutrition program that brings daily hot breakfasts and lunches to students. The program makes about 1,500 meals per week and has been running out of the Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin Community Hall’s kitchen, which has limited space. Through this new partnership, the program will now be run out of Dawson’s recreation centre until August 2024. “We really want to emphasize the importance of every kid in our school having breakfast, and lunch — everyday,” said Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin Director of Education Jody Beaumont. “And what that is bringing to the community, it’s an equalizer in education. It’s foundational. Every kid should go to school and have that right to do so with proper nutrition.”
The University of Saskatchewan recently inaugurated its kihci-okâwîmâw askiy (Great Mother Earth in Plains Cree) Knowledge Centre, which will serve as a resource for Indigenous communities seeking information pertaining to land, resource management, training, and research partnerships. The centre will provide professional development opportunities, will develop an Askiy Research Lecture Series, and will establish an Askiy Mentorship Team to foster relationships between faculty, students, and Indigenous communities. “In our languages are the teachings, stories, and ceremonies that describe our moral obligations to the land,” said kihci-okâwîmâw askiy Knowledge Centre Director Candice Pete-Cardoso. “Land management requires interdisciplinary problem solving, collaborative knowledge, and teamwork across disciplines. It requires braiding both Indigenous knowledge of the askiy (land) and Western knowledge.” The centre comes from the revitalization of the former Indigenous Land Management Institute, and its steering committee is comprised of members of 13 First Nations and six different Indigenous language groups. USask also recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations to advance legal reform in child welfare systems for First Nations communities.