Vianne Tim­mons and Stephen King

Many in Canada’s in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties have cho­sen to boy­cott the coun­try’s 150th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions as a way of protest­ing our bi­lat­eral his­tory and re­mind­ing Cana­di­ans that our na­tional story is not free of racism, suf­fer­ing and in­jus­tice. One wa

Policy - - In This Issue - Vianne Tim­mons and Stephen King

Canada 150 and In­dige­nous Post-Sec­ondary Ed­u­ca­tion

As Canada cel­e­brates 150 years since Con­fed­er­a­tion, a con­sid­er­able amount of pub­lic dis­cus­sion is tak­ing place about the role and treat­ment of in­dige­nous peo­ples in our coun­try. Many peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ties iden­tify the past 150 years as ones of col­o­niza­tion and sup­pres­sion of Canada’s in­dige­nous peo­ples, and they are re­sist­ing the Canada 150 cel­e­bra­tions. A no­table ex­am­ple of this is the #Re­sis­tance150 project, which a Fe­bru­ary 2017 CBC ar­ti­cle de­scribed as a way “to high­light the many ways in­dige­nous peo­ples have his­tor­i­cally

re­sisted, and con­tinue to re­sist, what many see as dis­crim­i­na­tory and as­sim­i­la­tion­ist poli­cies of the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment.”

For any­one who has read Jim Daschuk’s Clear­ing the Plains: Dis­ease, Pol­i­tics of Star­va­tion, and the Loss of Abo­rig­i­nal Life or Char­lie An­gus’ Chil­dren of the Bro­ken Treaty: Canada’s Lost Prom­ise and One Girl’s Dream, it is dif­fi­cult to ar­gue with those who take a dim view of the sesqui­cen­ten­nial cel­e­bra­tions. This is the Canada in which we live, in Daschuk’s view:

If Canada’s uni­ver­si­ties have been lead­ers in help­ing forge a new path to­ward rec­on­cil­i­a­tion be­tween in­dige­nous and non-in­dige­nous Cana­di­ans, few have done more over the past few decades than the Uni­ver­sity of Regina. Indi­g­e­niza­tion has been a guid­ing prin­ci­ple al­most since the mo­ment the in­sti­tu­tion be­came an au­tonomous uni­ver­sity in 1974.

While Cana­di­ans see them­selves as world lead­ers in so­cial wel­fare, health care, and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, most re­serves in Canada are eco­nomic back­wa­ters with lit­tle prospect of ma­te­rial ad­vance­ment and more in com­mon with the third world than the rest of Canada.

Daschuk does see a ray of hope, how­ever: “Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of the forces that have held in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties back might pro­vide in­sights into what is re­quired to bridge the gap be­tween First Na­tions com­mu­ni­ties and the rest of Canada to­day.”

A com­pre­hen­sive iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of those his­tor­i­cal and con­tem­po­rary forces—as well as in­sight into how to over­come them—was pro­vided by the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion of Canada’s (TRC) 94 Calls to Ac­tion, re­leased in June 2015 by Jus­tice Mur­ray Sin­clair, now a mem­ber of the Se­nate. A num­ber of these calls to ac­tion are re­lated to post-sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion, and later that month Uni­ver­si­ties Canada de­vel­oped a set of New Prin­ci­ples on In­dige­nous Ed­u­ca­tion sup­ported by all of its nearly 100 mem­ber in­sti­tu­tions. To their credit, many of those in­sti­tu­tions had al­ready been work­ing to in­di­g­e­nize their cam­puses for many years, and that has left a pos­i­tive legacy upon which to build. To­day, indi­g­e­niza­tion is in­fus­ing uni­ver­sity strate­gic plans, cul­tur­ally ap­pro­pri­ate stu­dent spa­ces are be­ing built, and cur­ric­ula are be­ing re-en­vi­sioned to in­cor­po­rate in­dige­nous ways of know­ing, for ex­am­ple. If Canada’s uni­ver­si­ties have been lead­ers in help­ing forge a new path to­ward rec­on­cil­i­a­tion be­tween in­dige­nous and non-in­dige­nous Cana­di­ans, few have done more over the past few decades than the Uni­ver­sity of Regina. Indi­g­e­niza­tion has been a guid­ing prin­ci­ple al­most since the mo­ment the in­sti­tu­tion be­came an au­tonomous uni­ver­sity in 1974.

By 1976, Lloyd Barber, at that time both the Uni­ver­sity of Regina’s sec­ond pres­i­dent and the In­dian Claims Com­mis­sioner for Canada, helped re­al­ize a vi­sion for in­dige­nous post-sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion in Saskatchewan. As his­to­rian James Pit­sula notes in Hon­our­ing Our Past, Em­brac­ing Our Fu­ture: Cel­e­brat­ing a Cen­tury of Ex­cel­lence in Ed­u­ca­tion at the Uni­ver­sity of Regina Cam­pus, Pres­i­dent Barber “reached out to the Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­nity and was able to forge an agree­ment to cre­ate the Saskatchewan In­dian Fed­er­ated Col­lege, which pro­vided the first op­por­tu­nity for Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ples in the prov­ince to take own­er­ship of their higher ed­u­ca­tion.” The Saskatchewan In­dian Fed­er­ated Col­lege (now known as First Na­tions Uni­ver­sity of Canada, or FNUniv) was a part­ner­ship be­tween the Fed­er­a­tion of Saskatchewan In­dian Na­tions (FSIN) and the Uni­ver­sity of Regina, and came into be­ing as a Fed­er­ated Col­lege of the uni­ver­sity—aca­dem­i­cally in­te­grated with the uni­ver­sity but ad­min­is­tra­tively in­de­pen­dent.

Since be­gin­ning op­er­a­tions in 1976 with only nine stu­dents, FNUniv has been a re­mark­able suc­cess story. In 2016, the year it cel­e­brated its 40th an­niver­sary, more than 900 stu­dents were reg­is­tered through FNUniv, and hun­dreds more in­dige­nous and non-in­dige­nous stu­dents were tak­ing FNUniv classes as part of their pro­grams at other in­sti­tu­tions. More than 3,000 alumni have grad­u­ated from FNUniv with Uni­ver­sity of Regina de­grees, and many have built suc­cess­ful ca­reers in a va­ri­ety of fields and be­come lead­ers in their com­mu­ni­ties. Cad­mus Delorme, re­cently elected Chief of the Cowessess First Na­tion, is a shin­ing ex­am­ple.

Since be­gin­ning op­er­a­tions in 1976 with only nine stu­dents, FNUniv has been a re­mark­able suc­cess story. In 2016, the year it cel­e­brated its 40th an­niver­sary, more than 900 stu­dents were reg­is­tered through FNUniv, and hun­dreds more in­dige­nous and nonindige­nous stu­dents were tak­ing FNUniv classes as part of their pro­grams at other in­sti­tu­tions.

The vi­sion that Barber and the FSIN lead­er­ship had four decades ago to in­di­g­e­nize post-sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion at the Uni­ver­sity of Regina has not gone un­chal­lenged, how­ever. There is no post-sec­ondary in­sti­tu­tion in Canada that has a greater num­ber of in­ter­ested stake­hold­ers, and it

re­mains com­pli­cated for FNUniv to bal­ance the in­ter­ests and needs of such di­verse groups as FSIN, the Uni­ver­sity of Regina, First Na­tions com­mu­ni­ties, and the fed­eral and provin­cial gov­ern­ments.

The very ex­is­tence of FNUniv has been in jeop­ardy sev­eral times, in­clud­ing dur­ing a gov­er­nance cri­sis in 2010 when the provin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ments with­drew their fund­ing. That fund­ing was re­stored only when FNUniv agreed to tem­po­rar­ily re­lin­quish its ad­min­is­tra­tive au­ton­omy. Still, FNUniv re­mains and is thriv­ing as what for­mer aca­demic dean Ge­orges Sioui de­scribed in a 2013 Uni­ver­sity

Af­fairs ar­ti­cle as “a very beau­ti­ful, great ex­per­i­ment.” The re­silience of the in­sti­tu­tion and those who sup­port its vi­sion is in­cred­i­ble.

Decades of indi­g­e­niza­tion have had a pos­i­tive im­pact at the Uni­ver­sity of Regina, but a great deal of work re­mains to be done in­sti­tu­tion­ally, provin­cially and na­tion­ally. A pos­i­tive statis­tic is that num­ber of stu­dents at the Uni­ver­sity of Regina and its Fed­er­ated Col­leges who self-iden­tify as in­dige­nous has grown by 84 per cent since 2009 alone, bring­ing the to­tal to ap­prox­i­mately 13 per cent of the Uni­ver­sity of Regina’s nearly 15,000 stu­dents. Given that in­dige­nous peo­ple rep­re­sented 15.6 per cent of Saskatchewan’s pop­u­la­tion in 2011 ac­cord­ing to Sta­tis­tics Canada’s Na­tional House­hold Sur­vey, how­ever, their provin­cial post-sec­ondary par­tic­i­pa­tion is not ad­e­quately rep­re­sen­ta­tive. Saskatchewan’s Provin­cial Au­di­tor re­cently pro­vided an alarm­ing in­sight into why this is the case: only 42 per cent of in­dige­nous stu­dents grad­u­ate from the prov­ince’s high schools within three years of turn­ing 18, which is less than half of the nonindige­nous grad­u­a­tion rate.

FNUniv and its four-decade af­fil­i­a­tion with the Uni­ver­sity of Regina may not be the per­fect model for the indi­g­e­niza­tion of post-sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion in Canada, but it is one from which all of us have a great deal to learn. FNUniv’s long­stand­ing aca­demic mis­sion—“to en­hance the qual­ity of life, and to pre­serve, pro­tect and in­ter­pret the his­tory, lan­guage, cul­ture and artis­tic her­itage of First Na­tions”—should be an in­spi­ra­tion to other in­sti­tu­tions as they con­tinue their work to in­di­g­e­nize their cur­ric­ula, pol­icy and op­er­a­tions in sup­port of the TRC rec­om­men­da­tions.

One hun­dred fifty years af­ter con­fed­er­a­tion, that work to fur­ther in­di­g­e­nize our uni­ver­si­ties is clearly nec­es­sary. As of Sta­tis­tics Canada’s 2011 Na­tional House­hold Sur­vey, only 9.8 per cent of in­dige­nous peo­ple in Canada aged 25-64 had a uni­ver­sity de­gree com­pared to 26.5 per cent of non-in­dige­nous peo­ple. This is an in­di­ca­tor of a deep-rooted and sys­temic prob­lem that re­quires a mul­ti­pronged ap­proach.

Marie Smith, one of the com­mis­sion­ers of the TRC, has said that we can

prop­erly in­di­g­e­nize our uni­ver­si­ties only if we re-imag­ine the en­tire academy. Such a re-imag­in­ing is a com­plex en­deav­our in which in­dige­nous per­spec­tives—par­tic­u­larly those of fac­ulty, staff and stu­dents—must be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion in all pol­icy and de­ci­sion mak­ing, in­clud­ing hir­ing, stu­dent ser­vices and fi­nan­cial sup­port, fa­cil­ity con­struc­tion and ren­o­va­tion, and cur­ricu­lum de­sign. As is al­ways the case, this is eas­ier said—or man­dated—than done.

Ear­lier this year, for ex­am­ple, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment ex­pressed con­cern over the lack of di­ver­sity—in­clud­ing in­dige­nous schol­ars—among those who make up the coun­try’s com­ple­ment of Canada Re­search Chairs. Uni­ver­si­ties now have un­til De­cem­ber 15 to de­velop ac­tion plans that will en­able them to put for­ward more di­verse groups of can­di­dates for CRC ap­point­ments in the fu­ture. This will not be a “quick fix,” as presently in Canada there are not enough in­dige­nous PhD-trained aca­demics to fill this grow­ing need, and ex­ist­ing in­dige­nous fac­ulty are feel­ing sig­nif­i­cant de­mands on their time to help with their uni­ver­si­ties’ indi­g­e­niza­tion ef­forts. So, in the com­ing years, there needs to be an in­creased fo­cus on ed­u­cat­ing and hir­ing qual­i­fied in­dige­nous fac­ulty and staff who can bring the cul­tural, ped­a­gog­i­cal and re­search ex­per­tise needed on cam­puses.

But hir­ing in­dige­nous fac­ulty and staff is only a small part of the pic­ture. A uni­ver­sity is noth­ing with­out its stu­dents, so work­ing closely with First Na­tions com­mu­ni­ties to iden­tify, en­cour­age, and men­tor prospec­tive in­dige­nous uni­ver­sity stu­dents as early as pos­si­ble is im­per­a­tive. Help­ing these stu­dents fund their ed­u­ca­tion is also cru­cial. Since an­nual fund­ing in­creases were capped at two per cent in 1996, the num­ber of stu­dents re­quest­ing sup­port through In­dige­nous and North­ern Af­fairs’ Post-Sec­ondary Stu­dent Sup­port Pro­gram (PSSSP) has out­grown the amount of fund­ing avail­able. As a re­sult, there is a grow­ing in­dige­nous pop­u­la­tion, more el­i­gi­ble stu­dents than ever be­fore, and fewer stu­dents re­ceiv­ing PSSSP sup­port. Uni­ver­si­ties are cre­at­ing more and more schol­ar­ships and bur­saries des­ig­nated for in­dige­nous stu­dents, but this can­not fully fill the gap cre­ated by a short­age of fed­eral gov­ern­ment fund­ing.

Other sup­ports be­yond the fi­nan­cial are also nec­es­sary for in­dige­nous stu­dents. Spe­cial­ized coun­selling ser­vices and ac­cess to el­ders are im­por­tant sup­ports, as are men­tor­ing pro­grams for stu­dents who in many cases are the first gen­er­a­tion of their fam­i­lies to at­tend uni­ver­sity. Build­ing and nam­ing cul­tur­ally ap­pro­pri­ate new fa­cil­i­ties, and ren­o­vat­ing and re­nam­ing ex­ist­ing ones with in­dige­nous cul­ture and his­tory in mind, are other mea­sures to be taken. Cre­at­ing ded­i­cated spa­ces for in­dige­nous stu­dents to gather, learn and feel a sense of their iden­tity is also cru­cial. The Douglas Car­di­nal-de­signed First Na­tions Uni­ver­sity of Canada build­ing and the First Peo­ples House at the Uni­ver­sity of Vic­to­ria are two ex­am­ples of such cul­tur­ally ap­pro­pri­ate spa­ces.

Uni­ver­si­ties have made tremen­dous strides in indi­g­e­niz­ing their cur­ricu­lum de­sign, and that must con­tinue. At an in­sti­tu­tional level but led by stu­dents, the Uni­ver­sity of Win­nipeg has been a leader in im­ple­ment­ing a manda­tory in­dige­nous course re­quire­ment for all stu­dents. And across the coun­try, in­spired in­di­vid­ual fac­ulty mem­bers have had the fore­sight to in­cor­po­rate in­dige­nous ways of know­ing into sub­ject ar­eas such as sci­ence.

Uni­ver­si­ties must also con­tin­u­ally seek the ad­vice of stu­dents, fac­ulty and staff re­gard­ing the re­vi­sion or re­tir­ing of poli­cies that are out­dated, ob­struc­tion­ist, and even dis­crim­i­na­tory. The In­dige­nous Ad­vi­sory Cir­cle at the Uni­ver­sity of Regina, for ex­am­ple, has iden­ti­fied the need for and helped craft poli­cies and pro­ce­dures re­gard­ing prac­tices such as smudg­ing and en­gag­ing the ser­vices of el­ders—poli­cies whose ne­ces­sity might not have been rec­og­nized only a few short years go.

Whether or not we choose to ac­tively cel­e­brate 150 years of Canada, it is im­por­tant at the very least that we all rec­og­nize this mile­stone. We can­not change the past, but we can be­gin to rec­on­cile our­selves with it by view­ing Canada’s of­ten­ab­hor­rent treat­ment of in­dige­nous peo­ples over the past 150 years as a dif­fi­cult but nec­es­sary learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. In­spired by vi­sion­ar­ies like Dr. Barber and the lead­ers of FSIN, Canada’s uni­ver­si­ties have played an im­por­tant role in this rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in re­cent decades, and through its calls to ac­tion the TRC has helped bring at­ten­tion to and ac­cel­er­ate the process. It is now all of our re­spon­si­bil­ity to build upon their work, leave be­hind the de­struc­tive path we have fol­lowed for the past 150 years, and build a far bet­ter shared fu­ture for all Cana­di­ans.

Pho­tog­ra­phy Depart­ment Uni­ver­sity of Regina

Thir­teen per cent of stu­dents at the Uni­ver­sity of Regina and its Fed­er­ated Col­leges self-iden­tify as in­dige­nous.

Uni­ver­sity of Regina Pho­tog­ra­phy Depart­ment

Each fall, the Glen Anaquod Memo­rial Tipi Rais­ing brings to­gether in­dige­nous and non-in­dige­nous stu­dents, fac­ulty and staff at the Uni­ver­sity of Regina.

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