Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study

Aboriginals are the fastest growing population in Canada.  The 2006 census revealed that there are half a million First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people living in Canadian cities and that over 50% of this population is under 25 year old.  Given the dramatic increase in urban populations, 60% of Canada’s Aboriginals now reside in urban settings, more research is sorely needed to understand how Aboriginals and Non-Aboriginals are relating in this atmosphere of rapidly changing demographics.

The Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study (UAPS) began to take shape when Michael Adams, founder and president of Environics Research Group and the non-profit Environics Institute, and Dr. David Newhouse, Chair of Indigenous Studies at Trent University, found themselves at a conference discussing social change among Canada’s Aboriginal groups.  In response to the startling information emerging from the 2006 census, Dr. Newhouse asked: “Does the average Canadian have any image of who these people are, how they relate to their cities, what they are contributing, or what their challenges are?”

The approach being suggested by Dr. Newhouse differs from earlier studies that focused research on social-services being utilized by Aboriginal populations.  That research tended to view Aboriginal communities through the lens of some problem or need— without the needed complexity to generate meaningful understandings of urban Aboriginal groups.

Hence the UAPS was born.  The Study has been funded by the government of Canada, the governments of various provinces, some private organizations, Elections Canada, and the United Way.   The goal of the UAPS was to gone beyond the numbers and capture the values, experiences and aspirations of Aboriginal peoples living in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax and Ottawa. 2,614 First Nations peoples, Métis and Inuit living in these major Canadian cities, as well as 2,501 non-Aboriginal Canadians were surveyed.

    Click here for the UAPS report summary, full report, or quick key findings from the study.  City findings are also available such as the  Vancouver City Report

      This research is useful for anyone looking for comprehensive information about the dynamic interaction between Non-Aboriginals and Aboriginals in Canada’s major cities.

      Vancouver Aboriginal-Focused School of Choice

      On June 10, 2011, the Vancouver School Board announced that it is moving forward with its plans for an Aboriginal-Focused School of Choice. This school is scheduled to open, at least partially, as early as September, 2012.  The school will focus on quality education by teaching and learning through Aboriginal world views, knowledge, culture and values.

      To avoid the mandatory stigma and legacy of residential schooling, the school will be one of choice and will be open to all students, Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal – although preference will be given to First Nations, Inuit and Métis people, including individuals with Indian status or without status.

      VSB trustees have put together a working group to develop short and longer-range implementation plans for the school.  The plan is to start small with a cohort of 30 grade 8 students, perhaps using the mini-school model that has been successfully used for other enrichment and alternative programs.  Extensive consultation and years of planning have gone into the decision to move ahead with the school.   The consultation process which began in January, 2011 was led by UBC’s Dr. Joanne Archibald and included a team of graduate students.  Student, parent, staff Forums were held at four different VSB sites between January 21 and January 27 with over 130 individuals sharing feedback, proposals, concerns, and insights.  I read the entire report and can tell you that it contains many inspirational and heart-wrenching stories of those who endured the legacy of racism, discrimination, and residential schooling that has long characterized BC’s educational system.  Interestingly, a substantial number of Indigenous persons from outside of BC attended the forums and described how they have been involved in successful Aboriginal school implementations on the prairies and the U.S.

      The consultation forums focused on the need for Wholistic education, and got into specifics such as those surrounding time-tabling, teacher recruitment, teacher retention, training, physical space, Funding! and mission.  There is still considerable work to be done on these issues, but the report on the consultation process is a great resource for anyone interested in authentic, Aboriginal-guided, wholistic approaches to education.

      To view the report, please click here: Report on Aboriginal Education Forums

      Digital Indigenous Democracy

      Digital Indigenous Democracy is an experimental project aiming at the innovative use of interactive digital media by remote indigenous communities- Baffin Island Inuit communities. Being aware of global threat to the existence of indigenous languages and to local environments, the project proposes to facilitate interactive media to make the voice of indigenous communities be heard.

      This project installs the infrastructure (high-speed internet) in remote indigenous communities. However, it does not simply accelerate the digitization of indigenous culture and are not motivated from the need of the outside, but rather it focuses on the partnership between indigenous peoples and the dominant society. That is, its process is collaborative and democratic. According to the web-site, the common costs for the projects will be generated from membership fees by communities and sponsor organizations. I hope this project succeeds in establishing a democratic model of “indigenizing” technology.

      Module 4: #5

      Meida ecology


      Media Ecology is an emerging field of study about media technology. According to Neil Postman, Media Ecology can be defined as an approach to research “media as environments”.

      The term “ecology” in Media Ecology is not identical with “ecology” often emphasized in understanding of TEK. While being aware of the difference, it is interesting to see how Western media scholars appropriated the term “ecology” and launched a new approach to the media and technology.

      Media ecology, which was established by Marshall McLuhan and Neil Postman among others, understands media technology as an environment that re-defines human behavioral patterns. From this approach, the Internet is not simply a conduit, yet it in itself involves an epistemological, phenomenological, and informational shift; the Internet would bring about a new horizon of human cognition, intelligence, and behaviors, which can be compared with the emergence and dissemination of print culture in Western modernity (Carr, 2010).

      Reference: N. Carr (2010). The Sallows: What the Internet Is Doing To Our Brains, N.N.Norton.

      Module 4: #4

      Stolen Children: Truth and Reconciliation

      In research for my final paper I came across a section of the CBC website called Stolen Children: Truth and Reconciliation.  Essentially this site is exactly what it sounds like, a site that documents basic information about Residential schools, ongoing news related to Residential schools and efforts for reconciliation between Aboriginal groups and Aboriginal peoples.  There are not a lot of external links but most of the links within the site direct the viewer to various news articles and video clips.  This site is a good but brief intro to the history of Residential schools in Canada and ongoing efforts for reconcile.

      Self-teaching (S. Mitra) and its implication for indigenous education

      Sugata Mitra’s new experiments in self-teaching
      Video 1 (2008)
      Video 2 (2010)

      Education researcher Mitra’s experiment of children’s use of ICTs suggests that children can teach themselves with ICTs. Mitra has find education and learning a sort of “self-organizing system”. His claim has been tested in several case studies he is presenting in the these Ted lectures.

      With regard to indigenous education and technology, I find Mitra’s project noteworthy and worrisome at the same time. It is noteworthy because of its claim that the provision of proper infrastructure can facilitate children’s agency in learning processes. However, it is also worrisome because, as presented in an example of Indian children quickly learning Western knowledge and British accent via ICTs, much dependence on ICTs can entail the rapid Westernization of local and indigenous children.

      Module 4: #3

      First Nations University of Canada

      The First Nations University of Canada has three campuses un central Canada. They were “established in 1976 as the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College (SIFC) through a federated partnership with the University of Regina. The University offers Post-secondary education in a culturally supportive First Nations environment”

      Link to the University’s website: http://www.firstnationsuniversity.ca/

      “Native Children in Care Surpass Residential School Era”

      This article, published yesterday on CTV.ca, titled, “Native Children in Care Surpass Residential School Era” discusses the long term effects the residential schools have had on Native communities and the Canadian Child Welfare Program. The article mentions what we have all been discussing in the online vista boards, that the residential schools have severely damaged first nations communities – not just the people who were victims of the schools.

      What’s interesting is that the article states that the residential school period was 1940 -50. Which is not entirely true – the last residential school closed down in 1996 (according to wikipedia)!

      What is Canadian Culture?

      So what is Canadian Culture?

      This article/ interview from the Globe and Mail, titled, “Canadian Culture: A category?” sums it up nicely:


      “So that’s Canadian culture; it doesn’t exist, it’s regional, and it’s multicultural or any combination of the three. In many ways it’s all of those things. It is a complex culture, shaped by all the cultures that form it. Maybe it’s this complexity that causes it to defy definition. Or maybe its complexity is its definition. Canadian culture means a different thing to everyone. Maybe that’s what it truly is; it’s whatever you see it to be.”

      Aboriginal vs. Western Worldviews (Allen Module 4 #5)

      Northern Perspectives

      The Parks Canada website offers visitors information about traditional environmental knowledge (TEK) and helps explain some fundamental differences between Western and Aboriginal worldviews relating to nature and history. As an example they cite Dene oral histories that track the migration of peoples resulting from volcanic eruptions. Using “western” scientific techniques these stories have been scientifically “proven”.

      Parks Canada -Aboriginal vs. Western World Views

      The site links to a number of  a articles in Northern Perspectives ( a publication of the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee) that  further clarifies notions of traditional knowledge in contrast to western science.

      An interesting comment in Martha Johnson’s article on Dene traditional knowledge mentions that western science is rooted in quantitative  analysis while aboriginal peoples value qualitative information.