Over the past year, nursing students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University had the unique chance to learn first-hand from the the Kwantlen First Nation (KFN) community. KPU’s Faculty of Health collaborated with Indigenous communities so students could come into the community and learn about Indigenous experiences. Students were asked to explore their preexisting values and biases toward Indigenous people before listening to elders and community members share their experiences through drumming, songs, and storytelling; learning a traditional game called Slahal; and sharing a meal with KFN community members. “In my future nursing career, I am going to hold this experience with me so that I can continue to learn, to listen, to respect, and to be open-minded to all walks of life,” said KPU student Amanda Willis. Students also learned alongside children at the KFN Aboriginal Head Start program, where they learned more about the relationship between Indigenous people, the land, and the environment.
The University of Manitoba’s Asper School of Business has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Norway House Cree Nation and Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc (MKO). The MOU focuses on reconciliation through business education and outlines a variety of joint programs and initiatives that will create employment opportunities, support Northern First Nations learners in economic development and entrepreneurship, foster connections, and integrate more First Nations-specific training and topics into the Asper curriculum. “This MOU will lay the groundwork for a better path forward for the future of our youth and will provide opportunities that will ensure their personal and personal success for them and their families,” said Chief Larson Anderson of Norway House.
A charity called Teach For Canada — Gakinaamaage is hoping to temporarily bring teachers from Winnipeg to work in First Nations schools. The group is working with several school boards–including Seven Oaks School Division and Winnipeg School Division–to establish frameworks that would allow teachers to keep their jobs, seniority, and/or benefits with the school division while they temporarily relocate to band council-run schools in northern communities. The First Nation would reimburse the school board for borrowing the teacher, who would stay in the community for at least two years. Gakinaamaage Executive Director Ken Sanderson said that he would like to see the partnerships include callouts to teachers who may be interested in working in Northern schools, cultural and preparatory training, and status-quo payments. “We’re happy to work with them and see if we can work out ways for our teachers to gain some real experience in First Nations,” said Seven Oaks Superintendent Brian O’Leary. “We are flexible and so are they.”
In a recent article for CBC, Tehosterihens Deer discusses how Mi’kmaw students often face culture shock when moving off reserve for their postsecondary studies. For example, Saint Mary’s University student Sósep Hatfield shared his experiences travelling from the Pictou Landing First Nation to Halifax, where he struggled with isolation and stress from living and studying in a new location. Hatfield noted that what he was learning in his classes did not examine modern Indigenous businesses, which fueled feelings of isolation and neglect. The bachelor of commerce program is currently undergoing a revamp, according to SMU Spokesperson Margaret Murphy, which will bring new perspectives into the curriculum and engage more diverse groups. SMU professor and former Indigenous advisor Raymond Sewell said that he reminds students “that their traditional knowledge is just as valuable as any other knowledge,” and noted that more work needs to be done to help students experiencing culture shock.
An Orilla educator is keeping the Ojibwe language alive and advocating for the Simcoe County District School Board to standardize its commitment to Indigenous languages. Beausoleil First Nation member Jake King said that there are not enough Indigenous language teachers to meet the current demand. There has been no Ojibwe instruction at the secondary schools that students from Beausoleil First Nation and Rama First Nation attend until recently. King himself did not have an opportunity to take Ojibwe in high school, but was able to learn his language and culture and finish high school as an adult. Since graduating from Georgian College’s Anishnaabemowin and Program Development diploma, King said that it has been his mission in life to keep the Ojibwe language alive. “It is a top priority for myself to advocate for Indigenous languages and culture for the students that are attending schools,” said King. “It gives them a very real sense of identity and pride. It’s beneficial for their lives to know who they are.”
The Mushuau Innu Natuashish School is welcoming students back this week, as well as a nearly full staff of teachers from as far away as India and Vietnam. The school has been operated by The Innu Nation and Mamu Tshishkutamashutau Innu Education (MTIE) since 2009, and it recently celebrated a record-breaking 34 graduating students. “This year we are going in with pretty much a full slate,” said MTIE Human Resources Director Rena Penashue. “We’re still looking for some specialty positions, like phys ed. […But] We’ve got a very diverse school staff. I’m thinking we’re going to have another rewarding school year.” Penashue also offered advice to those considering working at an Innu school, such as considering the location of the community and how isolated it is, being open to new experiences and cultures, and preparing for difficult travel experiences.
The Teslin Tlingit Council and the Government of Yukon have signed a heat purchase agreement to supply more sustainable heat to the Khàtìnas.àxh Community School in Teslin. This agreement will see Teslin Tlingit Council’s biomass facility–a 1.5 megawatt waste-wood fueled heating system–provide up to 90% of the heat needed for the Khàtìnas.àxh Community School starting this school year. The agreement will lower the school’s greenhouse gas emissions. The system currently providing over 10 local buildings with renewable heat while also reducing wildfire risk by creating firebreaks around the community.
The University of Lethbridge and Algoma University have each taken steps to improve the transition into postsecondary education for Indigenous Students. The Lethbridge Herald reports that ULethbridge has renamed its longstanding alternative Indigenous student success program and introduced a certificate to recognize the achievement of those who complete it. The Indigenous Student Success Certificate program helps Indigenous students further their education through foundational university courses that are framed by Indigenous ways of knowing and learning. Students are placed in a cohort so that they can build community with others. They also have access to writing and cultural supports, counselling, and elders. AlgomaU’s Brampton campus has launched the Learners Early Access Program, which will enable Grade 11 and 12 students from the Peel District School Board to take university-level courses. The program prioritizes Indigenous, Black, and equity-deserving groups from high schools in Mississauga with the aim of helping students become comfortable with a postsecondary environment.
The Government of Canada recently announced a $960M investment into research projects across Canada and several of these projects will focus on Indigenous knowledge, skills, and culture. The Balance Co-Lab: Collaboration for Sustainable Communities—housed at the University of Victoria and involving Indigenous governments—will use a $2.5M grant to design and advance a sustainability-focused decision-making framework that Indigenous communities can use to assess development proposals on their lands. Several multi-institutional teams received Partnership Development Grants to study topics such as anti-Indigenous racism in health care, culturally safe services for Indigenous peoples in forensic mental health, and Indigenous pathways to postsecondary education. Concordia University received $180K to support the work of its Indigenous Futures Research Centre.
McMaster University’s Indigenous Studies Department will now allow students to take the 10-day Two Row Paddle paddling course for credit. In the Two Row Paddle course, students learn about Indigenous histories and communities through literature, guest speakers, and paddling skill lessons before embarking on their trip. On the trip, students apply their classroom learnings to real community experiences and learn about Haudenosaunee teachings, river ecology, and history. McMaster Associate Professor Bonnie Freeman said the students will complete a variety of academic assignments but will learn “[m]ost importantly, how they can take what they’ve learned from the Two Row Paddle and this course in working with both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, as well as what it takes to move forward in supporting Indigenous truth and cultural resurgence.”