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




Here's how one local charity is providing free, accurate curriculum on Indigenous history

A new, free curriculum available online was created with the help of Indigenous youth who are working to tell the stories of their history.
Dec 14, 2018 1:51 PM by: Erika Engel
John Rice and some of the students at the Awen Gathering Circle for Orange Shirt Day. The students spent first period at the site on Monday, Oct. 1. Elephant Thoughts has a mandate to improve the education available on Indigenous history and culture and they are doing it through The Indigenous Journey project. Erika Engel/CollingwoodToday

A local charity is one of the players behind a project aimed at getting accurate, extensive, and unique curriculum on Indigenous history and culture into the hands of educators in Ontario.

The project is called The Indigenous Journey, and it’s a series of multimedia educational modules designed to fit into a 45-minute class. Some of the modules have included camera and production work by Indigenous youth, and all include personal stories and history as told by Indigenous people.

“The idea was to tell the story of Indigenous people and youth, and to learn their stories,” said Lisa Farano of the Elephant Thoughts Educational Outreach program. “The Elephant Thoughts teachers have put the modules together with some classroom activities, but the youth are the ones that are sharing their stories and recording the modules and, in some cases, filming.”

Earlier this year, Premier Doug Ford’s provincial government announced it had cancelled a planned revision of the Ontario public school curriculum intended to provide programming on Indigenous History, which only made Farano and others more determined to get The Indigenous Journey ready for the classroom.

“This really does step in in that regard,” said Farano. “Teachers do have this learning tool where it was basically taken away.” 

A study published in the International Indigenous Policy Journal in July, 2017, indicated there’s a want and need for embedding Indigenous cultural content in public schooling, but found many teachers don’t feel confident teaching the material and are nervous about saying the wrong thing.

“This really is meant to help,” said Farano. “It’s a best foot forward. This is accurate, comprehensive information and it really will help people understand more about the big picture.”

The modules address topics such as residential schools, missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, land claims, truth and reconciliation, and more.

“It’s a new day!” said Kahontakwas Diane Longboat, education advisor to the Premier of Ontario and the Minister of Education, in a news release. “The time has come for the exploration of Indigenous contributions to the reformation of a new Canada built on equity, well-being, and acknowledgement of rights, histories, cultures, languages, and faith traditions of many Indigenous Nations. The indigenous Journey provides a marker for us along the trail to reconciliation.”

Elephant Thoughts has an office in Collingwood, but does work around the world in many Indigenous communities.

Farano hopes the program will continue to grow and receive support and funding. 

“My dream one day would be to have a module for every Indigenous community in the country,” said Farano. “There’s all kinds of other pieces that can be shared … it’s extraordinary information that needs to be shared.”

She said it’s been pilot tested in Simcoe County schools and the feedback is positive so far.

Recently, they received $74,400 in funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation for The Indigenous Journey project that will allow the program to work with more Indigenous youth to give them opportunities to learn skills such as interview techniques, storytelling, digital filmmaking, computer coding, graphic design, photography, and sound engineering.

Their work will be showcased online at The Indigenous Journey website, and will become part of the modules offered for free on the website. The programming is free for anyone, not just educators.

Glen Trivett, an Ojibway Elder, Knowledge Keeper, and Cultural Resource Coordinator, and member of the Midewin Medicine Society has been working with Elephant Thoughts on the project.

“The Indigenous Journey is a fun and interactive way to learn and explore the poignant issues of Canadian colonialism and Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island,” said Trivett in a news release. “The lessons pull no punches while, at the same time, approach sensitive issues without accusation or blame.”

You can access The Indigenous Journey online here.



Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Canada mark milestone with Education Agreement-in-Principle

Nishnawbe Aski Nation and the Government of Canada have signed an Education Agreement-in-Principle that paves the way for continued negotiations for First Nations' authority over K-12 education in their communities. The agreement marks a major milestone in the two parties' journey towards reconciliation and renewed nation-to-nation relationships. "Asserting our jurisdiction over education is necessary so we can teach our children in a way that is consistent with our cultures, while also ensuring that they are prepared academically for whatever opportunities their futures hold," stated Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler. "Our education system will be developed and implemented by our communities, and will provide our children with culturally appropriate and high quality learning opportunities that are on par with the rest of Canada." Nishnawbe Aski Nation represents 49 First Nations with a total student population of approx. 10,000 students.

VIU to help Indigenous grads build their business skills through BC-wide partnership

A new partnership between Vancouver Island University, the Government of BC, the BC Assembly of First Nations, and the Business Council of BC will match Indigenous graduates of technical, trades, diploma and degree programs with companies in BC for a two-year paid internship. VIU is providing logistical support to the partnership, but a release notes that the program is open to Indigenous graduates throughout the province. "The Indigenous Intern Leadership Program is a beautiful step in building reconciliation in BC," says VIU Chancellor Louise Mandell.

First Nations students push for new high school in Thunder Bay

A group of northern Ontario First Nations youth is pushing for a new high school and a residence to end billeting. Youth from remote First Nations in northern Ontario currently must attend high school in urban centres, and the students say that the current billeting systems create too many problems related to racism and crime. Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School, which is run by the Northern Nishnawbe Education Council, has seen declining enrolment as parents are increasingly hesitant to send their children to Thunder Bay. "I told them I was a big champion of their dreams to see that new, or improved school built as soon as possible," said Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott. "We know how important this initiative is." Philpott stated that she is waiting for the completion of a feasibility study on a new school project before determining the federal government's next steps. While the federal government has not historically funded off-reserve schools, CBC notes that Indigenous Services' recently provided a $10M to Southeast Collegiate.

 Keewatin-Patricia school board partners with Windigo First Nations Council to "improve lives of children

The Keewatin-Patricia District School Board and the Windigo First Nations Council have signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance First Nations control over First Nations education. The two parties will work together to help Indigenous students reach their personal and educational goals. The memorandum highlights key priority areas in student support services, independent education plans, curriculum, professional development, and improved communications. The agreement will see the school board offer training for teachers, resources, and technological experties. "After three years of meetings and negotiations, the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board has proudly signed the official memorandum of understanding with Windigo First Nations Council," said KPDSB Director of Education Sean Monteith. "Keewatin-Patricia will now proudly add Windigo to its successful Indigenous partnerships that will improve the lives of children."

Financial empowerment can contribute to success for Indigenous youth

For Indigenous youth embarking on higher education and careers, financial empowerment marks the road to success, writes Bettina Schneider, Associate Vice-President Academic of First Nations University. Schneider explains how many First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities have experienced persistent barriers that have contributed to gaps in financial literacy. Furthermore, many personal finance books provide excellent content, but do not include the taxation, housing, banking and other specifics that impact Indigenous people. To this end, Schneider explains how "sharing the wisdom and power of culturally relevant financial literacy education in Indigenous communities is one way to promote the success of Indigenous youth."



Indigenous Services minister backs new high school dreams for First Nations students in Thunder Bay

Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott says she supports efforts by First Nation youth to replace their current lead and asbestos tainted high school and end the billeting system that has added to the struggles of students who face a "constant fear" in Thunder Bay.

First Nations students want new school building and a residence to end billeting

Jorge Barrera · CBC News · Posted: Nov 29, 2018 4:00 AM ET | Last Updated: November 29
Alexis Angeconeb, 15, left, and Kaiden Ageconeb, 16, travelled to Ottawa this week to meet with Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott to push for a new high school in Thunder Bay. (CBC News)

Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott says she supports efforts by a group of northern Ontario First Nations youth for a new high school and an end to the billeting system that adds to the struggles of students who face "constant fear" in Thunder Bay.

Youth in remote and fly-in First Nations in northern Ontario must attend high school in urban centres and Thunder Bay is one of the cities with a destination high school.

Philpott met Monday on Parliament Hill with 10 First Nations students who are currently attending Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School.

"I told them I was a big champion of their dreams to see that new, or improved school built as soon as possible," she said.

"We know how important this initiative is."  

Between 2000 and 2011, six students who were billeted in homes around the city and attended Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School died. Their deaths were the subject of a high profile coroner's inquest which concluded in 2016.

Fear in the city

Alexis Angeconeb, 15, whose family is from Sachigo Lake First Nation, said the new school needs to come with a residence for students because the current billeting system where students stay in homes scattered around the city creates too many problems with racism and crime.

"I don't want my siblings to deal with all the bad stuff, being afraid for your life in a city that scares you," said Angeconeb, who is in Grade 10 and stays with relatives in the city.

"Every day you are looking behind your back and making sure you are OK. I don't want them to live with a constant fear."

Her brother Kaiden Angeconeb, 16 and in Grade 11, lives with a school guidance counsellor, but said it takes him an hour and a half on the city bus to get to school every day.


Indigenous Language in Education program receives $6M from AB

The Government of Alberta has announced the Indigenous Language in Education grant program. The program will see AB invest $6M to increase the number of teachers versed in First Nation languages and expand resource development for early childhood education and K-12 classes. "This new flow of money gives us a chance for us to actually do some real hard study and gather more information for pedagogy, so it's a very important flow of money we've never had before," said Bruce Starlight, the language commissioner for the Tsuut'ina Nation and one of 29 people in the world who can speak the Tsuut'ina language fluently. "There's a lot of interest from the young people, trying to find their identity. It's part self-esteem, nationhood and all of that, it's all moulded into our culture. If you don't have your language, it's pretty difficult to live your culture. In our worldview, everything is contained in language."

MB Indigenous communities receive $1.8M for language projects

The Government of Canada has announced that it is providing $1.8M over two years to preserve, promote and revitalize Indigenous languages in Manitoba. The funding is provided through the Aboriginal Languages Initiative, which supports 16 community-based projects that include language camps, classes, nests and master-apprentice programs offered to Indigenous communities. The University of Winnipeg has received a combined $138K towards the Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre and Summer Institute for Six Seasons of the Asiniskow Ithiniwak Project, while the University College of the North received $53K for Aski Achimowin.

Four schools in MB First Nations receive federal funding for construction, fifth celebrates opening

Funds from the Government of Canada will support four new schools in northern Manitoba First Nations. The funds will go towards  new schools in God's Lake Narrows, Manto Sipi, Wasagamack First Nations, and Bunibonibee Cree Nation. APTN News adds that Bunibonibee Nation's existing elementary school will also undergo renovations. God's Lake Narrows has started Cree training 50 members to work on construction of the schools, and Chief Gilbert Andrews added that the community is looking into post-secondary options to provide satellite training. MB has also celebrated the opening of the Dauphin River First Nation school, which replaces the former structure that was damaged by flooding in 2011 and the five temporary classrooms that were installed in 2012. The school was funded by Canada and MB, has a capacity for 63 students, and features facilities such as four multi-age classrooms, a lunchroom, a gym and multipurpose room and more.

SNP to revitalize Cayuga language with $732K of new funding

Six Nations Polytechnic has received $732K from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to help preserve and spread the Cayuga language. "To say we are excited is an understatment," said Rebecca Jamieson, the president of Six Nations Polytechnic. "Once launched, the project will be the most significant effort to stablize the Cayuga language that our organization has ever initiated." SNP reports that the instruction will include up to 3,600 hours of immersion programming with those who cans speak Cayuga, in addition to producing a minimum of 500 hours of audio and visual material. The program will be launched in January 2019 as part of the kickoff of the United Nations' International Year of Indigenous Languages.

Indspire, Universities Canada call on federal government for more Indigenous support

Although 70% of Canadian universities now have partnerships with Indigenous communities and organizations while Indigenous-centered academic programming has increased by 55%, several barriers to Indigenization in the postsecondary sphere persist, write Paul Davidson and Roberta Jamieson. In addition to problems of basic access to postsecondary education, many institutions are situated far away from Indigenous communities. Indigenous students also need more funding for essential supports like housing, food, and childcare, better infrastructure for on-campus Indigenous services, and mentorship. Davidson and Jamieson state that Universities Canada and Indspire are working toward filling these needs, but that the federal government must increase its investments in First Nations, Inuit and Metis learners as promised in Budget 2017.