Update on things happening in Rotary and indigenous communities, including current events – Rotary luncheons with guest speakers, open community and cultural gatherings, etc.



Thunder Bay

Walk with Us project helps First Nation students 'tell stories of where they live'

A former northern Ontario teacher is hoping to help students in remote First Nation communities showcase their hometown and tell their childhood stories through the use of Google Maps Street View, with a project called Walk with Us.

Walk with Us project started in September 2016

CBC News · Posted: May 04, 2019 7:00 AM ET | Last Updated: May 4
Melissa Lavoie said she started the Walk with Us project after a student in Moosonee "didn't understand" why his remote First Nation community is not featured on Google Maps street view. (Melissa Lavoie / Submitted)

A former northern Ontario teacher is hoping to help students in remote First Nation communities showcase their hometown and tell their childhood stories through the use of Google Maps Street View, with a project called Walk with Us.

"During the 2015/2016 school year ... I was at Bishop Belleau school in Moosonee and I was teaching about the uses of Google Maps and street view," she said. "There was a student there who tried to show me where his aunt lived and where he liked to play on the street," said Melissa Lavoie, the founder of Walk with Us.

"But, he couldn't because there wasn't any street view in Moosonee at that time."

She said that "got her wheels turning" as she realized students wanted to tell the stories of their communities and what affects them most.

"From there and with the help of a grant from the Ontario Teachers Federation, Walk with Us started," she said.

"It stemmed from that one student," she said, "he didn't understand why not my community. And that's the whole point of Walk with Us. Why not rural Ontario, why not north, northeastern Ontario, why not northwestern Ontario?"

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First Nations education centre in Thunder Bay to get major overhaul

Matawa Education and Centre has received an investment of over $16M from Indigenous Services Canada for renovations, including new classrooms, a gymnasium, and a student residence. An investigation into the deaths of seven First Nations students who were attending school in Thunder Bay recommended that the students needed a residence or living facility when moving to the city. The City of Thunder Bay gifted the building of a former retirement lodge to the Matawa First Nations in 2017, and it has since been developed into an education and care centre for up to 200 students. "This will go a long way in bridging those cultural divides in the city of Thunder Bay," said Liberal MP for Thunder Bay-Rainy River Don Rusnak. "It's completely different, you get to socialize more with students and teachers and they have cultural activities here as well as after-school programs," said Grade 12 student Andy Beaver. "It's a really good experience." The centre is expected to be completedin Fall 2020.

SK announces new language courses for high school students

The Government of Saskatchewan has announced new language courses in Dene, Nakawe and Michif at the 10, 20 and 30 levels. A provincial release notes that the initiative aligns with the TRC calls to action and the Joint Task Force recommendations, which are focused on the importance of Indigenous languages and their role in preserving cultural traditions. "It is encouraging to see a Metis language included in these efforts being made within our provincial education system," Metis Nation Saskatchewan Education Minister Earl Cook said. "This will assist in the retention of Michif, our official language. Providing Indigenous students with meaningful opportunities to learn about and connect with their cultural heritage is key to their success." School divisions across Saskatchewan will be able to offer these provincial language courses beginning in the 2019-20 school year.

Funding shortfall places Indigenous education program in jeopardy

The Indigenous Education Program, which was started by the Ottawa Community Foundation two years ago, is in danger of being discontinued due to a lack of funds. The program was funded by an anonymous donation and a community grant, which are projected to run out during the 2019/2020 school year. "This is reconciliation in action," said teacher Valerie Van Sickle of the IEP's Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health. "This is reconciliation where the kids are learning culture. They're deepening their understanding, and that is an important part of the calls to action." Since the program began, over 800 Ottawa high school and elementary students have visited the Wabano Centre and partipated in tours, workshops, and information sessions about Indigenous culture and residential schools. CBC reports that most of the funding goes to transportation for students traveling to the Centre. Staff at the Wabano Centre and the Ottawa Community Foundation hope that the program becomes a mandated part of the curriculum by school boards, an action that would require funding for the programs.





McGill to change Redmen team name

McGill University has announced it will change the name of its men's varsity sports teams, the Redmen, due to widespread acknowledgement of the term's offensiveness toward Indigenous peoples. McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier announced the decision by email to students last Friday morning, saying it was based on new principles of commemoration and renaming that the university established in December 2018. In the email, Fortier also cited major English dictionaries as sources confirming the term's offensive connotations. "We cannot ignore this contemporary understanding. Intention, however benign, does not negate prejudicial effect," said Fortier. "Inclusion and respect are at the core of our university's principles and values; pejoratives run contrary to who we are as a community."

New Richmond principal, teachers bring Indigenous knowledge and history to classroom

At the New Richmond High School in Quebec, Principal Michael Isaac has brought Indigenous history and culture into the classroom after finding that "Quebec's Education Ministry's high school curriculum simply wasn't up to the task." CBC reports that approximately 60% of the school's population is of Mi'kmaw heritage, as is Isaac himself, who argued that ignoring an entire segment of the population is both damaging for those of Indigenous heritage and a disservice to Quebec. "Physics, chemistry, biology - you name a subject being taught in school, we have evidence that shows that our ancestors were well-versed in those subject areas," said Isaac. The school has held a ceremony to mark the arrival of spring, participated in Turtle Island Reads, held a Sisters in Spirit vigil to honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and several other initiatives. Student Jacob Lagouffe explained that the school's approach to Indigenous knowledge has allowed him to learn new things about his heritage, and that he hopes there will be more opportunities in school to discuss important issues. "It's really good to bring it up because we need to spread awareness about this subject," said Lagouffe, "and have  more people know about it, to (bring) change in our society."

For-credit InSTEM program that blends land-based learning, traditional knowledge expands north

Actua's InSTEM program will be expanded to include communities in the Yukon Northwest Territories, and northern Alberta. The InSTEM program is a high school for-credit program that blends land-based learning, traditional knowledge, science and technology. Doug Dokis, director of Actua's InSTEM program and Anishinaabe from Dokis First Nation near North Bay, explained that the program has a greater impact on the student's educational outcomes because of its for-credit nature. "It's letting these youth in these regions know the local knowledge they inherently have is equally as valuable as a STEM knowledge that they're receiving within the school systems," said Dokis. The program was piloted in 2017 in Ottawa, and expanded to Six Nations, Dokis First Nation, and Akwesasne last summer. The program includes an Indigenous science course that students take part in during the academic year and a land-based program in the summer that takes place in students' communities. The program received $2.3M from the Government of Canada to support the expansion.



Budget 2019 features funds for Indspire, a national centre at UVic, work placements

The federal government's 2019 budget includes a collective $4.5B in new spending for Indigenous peoples, according to APTN. $9M has been pledged to Indspire over three years in order to help close the gap in post-secondary attainment for Indigenous students. "I am very pleased that this additional investment...will enable Indspire to support many more Indigenous students to achieve their potential through education," said Indspire President Roberta Jamieson. "Their sucess will be enriched by First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities and Canada." The budget also includes $333.7M for Indigenous language revitalization, $327.5M for First Nations students over 5 years, $12.5M for Inuit students, and $362M for Metis programming. $9.1M was also allotted to the University of Victoria to create a national centre for Indigenous law and reconciliation. UVic adds that the design of the new centre will reflect modern and traditional values of the Coast Salish peoples, welcoming students, academics, and community members from all nations for engagement, debate and public education

Confederation opens smudging room on Thunder Bay campus

Confederation College recently celebrated the opening of a Smudging Room on its Thunder Bay campus. The room will be used for traditional ceremonies and will provide a quiet place for students and Elders to meet. "Our students come from all over the Northwest," said Confederation President Kathleen Lynch. "We want to make sure that we acknowledge the history of what's happened with Indigenous people, and also, though, offer support and acknowledgement that we want to be partners with them on the journey forward." Brenda Small, Vice-President of the Centre for Policy and Research in Indigenous Learning at the college, explained that the space "is a promise from Confederation College to recognize and respect Indigenous students, employees, elders, and partners in practicing this custom."

Yukon University to "excite the young people in the North" with new $26M science building

A new $26M science building will draw together Western science and Indigenous traditional knowledge and be a "cornerstone" of the soon-to-be Yukon University, says Yukon College President Karen Barnes. Barnes adds that the primary goal for the institution and new facility will be to "excite the young people in the North, to think about science and really look at the problems that exist in the North and study how to solve them." YK Premier Sandy Silver congratulated the college and stated that the transition to Yukon University "further advances opportunities available in Yukon and the North."

MB cuts ACCESS funding for postsecondary institutions by $1M slashes bursary program

The Government of Manitoba has cut ACCESS funding for post-secondary institutions by $1M for the 2018-2019 fiscal year and cut $1.6M that was earmarked for bursaries. A spokesperson for the provincial government stated that cutting the bursaries was part of an effort to streamline the student financial aid system, adding that the bursary program was previously under-subscribed and unavailable to students at Assiniboine Community College, Brandon University, and Universitie de Saint-Boniface. "A lot of the mission was to encourage Indigenous students and, in particular, students who have faced barriers to be able to get into a post-secondary program where they've been under-represented in the past," said NDP Leader Wab Kinew. "Without resources to pay for tuition and other supports like tutoring, it's going to mean more barriers."

KI receives over $42M in funding to build new school

Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation, also known as Big Trout Lake, has received a pledge of funding from Indigenous Services Canada of over $42M to build a new school that will support students up to Grade 12. The current school only goes up to Grade 10, and is reportedly in need of extensive repairs. "To us, this is good news because it gives the opportunity for our kids to stay here and finish Grade 12 and then either move on to college or university," said KI First Nation Chief Donny Morris. Morris stated that a location for the school has been decided on, and that once the new faculty has been built, the old one will be demolished.

Free online e-platform brings together Indigenous digital producers and youth

A new online platform called the Coders North Initiative is bringing together Indigenous digital producers and providing a platform to highlight educational opportunities for Indigenous youth. "This platform is a place where Indigenous people can do anything with technology as it relates to their culture," said Lisa Farano of Elephant Thoughts. "If kids can learn to code, those are skills they can use anywhere. " The platform features artists, web designers, coders, app designers, and gamers as featured experts, and includes learning modules where students from Grade 8 to 12 can learn about computational thinking, coding, and Indigenous entrepreneurship. Students can track their progress by earning beads each time they complete a codint activity. Access to the portal and resources is free, according to Timmins Today.

Teacher brings Ojibwe into the kindergarten classroom

Kindergarten students at Antler River Elementary School on Chippewas of the Thames First Nation are learning to speak Ojibwe through a new language immersion program at the school. The program is based partially on the Anishinaabemowin Revival Program at Lakeview School on M'Chigeeng First Nation, and teacher Betsy Kechego hopes to be able to expand the program to first-graders next year, adding additional immersion grades every year. "I see it as something big, and it's going to thrive because we have so many people that believe in the language piece as a main core of our identity," said education director Crystal Kechego.

Matawa students try cross-country skiing thanks to Spirit North partnership

Students at the Matawa Education and Care Cnetre in Thunder Bay were recently able to try cross-country skiing at the Kamview Nordic Centre, thanks to a new partnership. Spirit North, the partner organization, is a charitable group that helps First Nations start cross-country ski programs for youth. The organization provided 30 full sets of ski gear to the centre and arranged for the students to be joined by experienced instructors. "It's really neat because we have students from the nine Matawa different communities at our school" explained Outdoor Education Teacher Joey Miller, "and the hope is that some of them will be able to bring skiing back to their communities in the future." Student Mya Dixon of the Eabametoong First Nation added that she appreciates getting the opportunity to get out of the classroom and experience something different.