In the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation, this issue of the Future of Work and Learning Brief focuses on stories relevant to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action 10, 62, and 92. Please be aware that some of the stories included may be difficult to read or triggering and we encourage those who would like additional support to please contact https://www.hopeforwellness.ca/ or 1-855-242-3310; residential school survivors may contact the Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419. Donations to the Indigenous Residential School Survivors Society can be made here.
Reconciliation in education
The Athabascan Tribal Council, comprised of five First Nations in Northern Alberta, recently announced the Orange Path “to provide support to [ATC] Indigenous survivors and community members on their journey to heal and to help Canadians on their journey to truth, reconciliation, and allyship.” As part of the Orange Path, the Council has proposed the Athabasca Tribal Council Amendment to sections 114 and 115 of the Indian Act. The amendment would change the Act to “[provide] for First Nations’ free, prior, and informed consent to the federal government’s operation and regulation of schools for First Nations children.” Read more on the proposal here.
A recent study explores the impacts of remote learning on reconciliation education at the University of Winnipeg’s Department of Urban and Inner-city Studies operated Merchants Corner; “a safe and supportive space for Indigenous and other structurally disadvantaged learners who would otherwise not attend university.” The initial findings suggest:
remote learning […] is not an ideal space for reconciliation. It doesn’t permit North End residents to enter a physical space where they can focus on studies; it doesn’t promote the kind of relationship building that we know to be important for reconciliation; it doesn’t encourage non-Indigenous students to remove themselves from their physical comfort zones and be present in Indigenous spaces, actively listening, learning and hearing hard truths from their peers.
The University of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies (SIIT), and the Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI) have formed the O?ateki?Partnership, according to Eagle Feather News. The MasterCard Foundation has granted $23 million to the partnership to “support transitions to post-secondary education, increase positive academic outcomes and support transitions from post-secondary to careers” for 32,000 Indigenous youth.
Selkirk College in Castlegar has opened its first Indigenous classroom. Indigenous Studies Instructor Elizabeth Ferguson said of the space “This classroom is a collective vision that is meant to inspire students and faculty by sharing the knowledge of?our Indigenous Elders, artists, scientists and storytellers, acknowledging the right to practice and articulate the wisdom of our ancestors.” Meanwhile, the College of New Caledonia in Prince George, B.C., has opened its first Indigenous student housing. Lheidli T’enneh First Nation Elder Josie Paul,?named the building Nahoonai-a, which means “to find” or “to discover.”?
Indigenous knowledge and leadership in skills development
SEED, A Winnipeg-based organization, is offering a peer-led money management training program for Indigenous youth. The Money Stories program incorporates Indigenous knowledge and culture through the combination of Indigenous Elders sharing stories about their experiences and peer-led activities on money management. Co-director Louise Simbandumwe says the program builds on the existing skills of 15- to 30-year-old youth. “I think the key piece is that we are building on the strengths and capacities that are already there in the community. It’s not about just going in and helping people, it’s about empowerment and helping them to build on their skills and find their voice.” In addition to training, the program offers opportunities as program facilitators for those who complete the program.
A unique Indigenous-owned nonprofit aims to empower Indigenous adults who want to pursue a career in the film industry. Located in Alberta, Stunt Nations looks to change the politics of how Indigenous stunt people are governed and treated within the film industry. Created by accomplished stuntmen Marty Wildman ChiefCalf and Nathaniel Arcand, the stunt school offers one-week workshops that teach the skills necessary for a career in film and television stunts. In addition to physical skills such as horse and weapons training, the workshop teaches industry awareness, resume building and leadership. Arcand and Wildman Chiefcalf have a combined 55 years of experience in the industry including stunts on CBC’s Heartland and the movie The Revenant.
In Nunavut, the Canadian Coast Guard’s Inshore Rescue Boat (IRB) station has completed its fourth season. The Rankin Inlet station, in collaboration with Indigenous communities, is operated by Indigenous post-secondary students and provides maritime search and rescue services. In addition to training in medical emergency response, seafaring and towing, the crew also completed virtual Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit?(Inuit Traditional Knowledge) information sessions. The sessions include Inuktitut language training. The Inuktitut names of islands, inlets and points of land were added to vessel GPS devices and Coast Guard charts.
Lack of broadband exacerbates education gaps
While schools across the country dealt with the switch to online vs. in person learning in 2020/21, Shamattawa First Nation shut down its only school for ten months as students lacked computers or a reliable internet connection. Students are now back in school but have collectively been held back a year. If COVID-19 cases begin to escalate, the school in Northern Manitoba may be shut down again. The community has also been under a drinking water advisory since 2018. APTN reports that Chief Eric Redhead declared a state of emergency in May due to an increase in suicides; a seven year old child was admitted to hospital in critical condition after an attempt.
Tech Manitoba recently held its first digital literacy session in Lynn Lake, the most northern and remote community for the program so far. Participants included those from Marcel Colomb First Nation and lessons covered basic keyboard, Word, and Excel skills. However, in an increasingly digital world, similar programs to build online skills would be difficult to roll out as the community also lacks internet access.
Indigenous retailers find pandemic success
A business started by the Battleford Agency Tribal Council (BATC) out of necessity will open a store in Saskatoon in October. Challenged with a shortage of sanitizing solutions early in the pandemic, BATC worked with a manufacturer to develop cleaning supply kits for their seven member First Nations. This led to the creation of the Nîkihk company, which means ‘my home’ in Plains Cree. Nîkihk cleaning products have been purchased by Saskatchewan Tribal Councils to give away at vaccination sites and are retailed in stores across Saskatchewan, including Sobey’s, Safeway and Co-op.
In addition to offering authentic Plains Cree products, the storefront will also feature a workshop where Indigenous artists can create and showcase their work. Local artist Ernie Scoles underscores the benefit this will have for young Indigenous artisans “It’s a great opportunity because you get to network, you can sit down with other artists, you can learn other techniques from each other.”
Seamstress April Tawipisim’s journey to reclaim her identity as a Cree woman has led her to open a Winnipeg store, Turtle Woman Indigenous Wear. Tawipisim began to sew and bead as a way to explore her Cree culture. At home during the pandemic, Tawipisim sewed a collection of ribbon skirts and jingle dresses and in August, opened her own business. The store has sold 80 ribbon skirts as of the beginning of September and orders are backlogged.
The Future of Work & Learning Brief is compiled by Stephany Laverty, Janet Lane and Justin Rodych. If you like what you see, subscribe to our mailing list and share with a friend. If you have any interesting stories for future editions, please send them to .