It is not uncommon for high school students to be unsure about their options after graduation. For Aboriginal students, who may not have seen traditional ways of knowing or learning reflected in their school experience (As per Dr. Marker’s Four Winding Paths up the Mountain), post-secondary options can seem even more murky and the benefits and outcomes of higher education might not be immediately apparent. For students who successfully achieve their high-school education (or to inspire students who may be faltering in the later high school years) there are various opportunities to inspire and connect youth to college experiences as well as showcase Aboriginal role models in higher education settings and the workplace. In British Columbia, the provincial government connects Aboriginal youth to internship opportunities through their Aboriginal Youth Internship Program. College Horizons is an independent program in the United Stats that supports both undergraduate and graduate students to help navigate the “jungle” of admissions process and related requirements of college. Jared Whitney provides an article reflecting Indigenous perspectives on College admissions (via College Horizons). There are many other examples, many individual provinces and states have programs along with national-level opportunities.
Academica Group is a Canadian based research and marketing consultancy focused on post-secondary education. They conduct research, and highlight trends for post-secondary institutes to help them map out the changing roads ahead. They provide a free subscription service called Top Ten, a daily news brief. Many post-secondary institute leaders, managers and administrators subscribe to this service for daily updates. I have been scanning the daily updates of Top Ten for a while and have noticed since starting ETEC 521, that there is a fair amount of news related to indigenous education in Canada. Here are some recent news items that came up with the following search terms:
- National call to action on Aboriginal education, June 21, 2011
- Number of Aboriginal graduates would soar if learning gap closed, says activist, June 9, 2011
- $1-million gift supports Laurentian Indigenous Sharing and Learning Centre, June 22, 2011
- MUN med school looking to increase Aboriginal student enrolment, June 14, 2011
- Brandon U new member of University of the Arctic, June 21, 2011
- UBC, UVic develop Web portals focusing on Aboriginal community, Feb 10, 2011
- UCN president reportedly pushed out over opposition to mandatory Aboriginal course, Jan 13, 2011
- UVic professor’s lecture sparks FBI call, Jan 11, 2011
- Report sets out national goals for Inuit education, June 17, 2011
- Nunavik school board planning college-level program for Inuit youth, Nov 9, 2010
- NOSM, MNO partnership aims to increase enrolment of Métis students, May 27, 2011
- Boréal opens Centre Louis-Riel, Nov 23, 2011
My favorite part of the Academica site is the work of Ken Steele, Senior Vice-President, Education Marketing. Ken does a roadshow and if you ever have the chance to see one of his presentations on the future trends in post-secondary education, it is well worth the time spent. Ken has U-tube channel where he gathers higher education commercials and lip dubs including UBC’s LipDub. Many of these commercials are thought provoking including Ontario Colleges Obay commercial.
Many others have referenced this webpage and I debated not writing about it, but was so impressed with the concise commentary provided that I decided to draw more attention to it. The site is an introduction to media portrayals of Aboriginals in Canada and the U.S..
One of the most thought-provoking lines on the page comes from Ward Churchill: “Dehumanization, obliteration or appropriation of identity, political subordination and material colonization are all elements of a common process of imperialism,” he says. “The meaning of Hollywood’s stereotyping of [American] Indians can be truly comprehended only against this backdrop.”
The Media Awareness Network is well-regarded for its critical examination of media stereotypes. I have used their materials on Internet Privacy previously and found them suitable for school-aged teens. This page grabs student attention by noting that in the early days of film, Italian and Spanish actors often played Indian roles because they had the appropriate ‘skin tone.’ The fact that they aren’t actually Aboriginal was secondary. The page outlines in very clear language some of the misconceptions that media have either intentionally or unknowingly created:
- the Indian Princess – there is no structure of loyalty within tribes
- the Native Warrior – ‘savagery’ stereotypes drive need for colonization
- the Noble Savage – special spiritual powers not accorded to anyone else
- Dress, practices, spirituality of Aboriginal actors fuels stereotypes
Stereotyping by Omission
- for example, Chicago has a significant Aboriginal population, but not a single Aboriginal patient has ever been treated on the television show ER
- Aboriginals given few lines and are relegated to minor roles. In Dances with Wolves, the only voice of significance in the film is an US Army captain – why?
Interestingly, there is some discussion of the role that stereotypes have played in inflaming imperialism. Wendy Rose’s article from the New Yorker is referenced. She writes: “there’s a whole school of thought that believes that the stereotypes of Native people and the Wild West must still be maintained in today’s society.”
To suggest that Aboriginals are not still being subjugated by Hollywood and any number of television production studios ignores the glaring realities that this website raises. On a separate page, the authors raise some excellent questions to trigger student inquiry into relationship between Aboriginals and the media:
- Who selected or created these images and stories? Why does it matter who made these selections?
- Whose voices are being heard? And whose voices are absent? Why?
- Why are certain stories selected for the news and others not?
- Are Aboriginal people shown as real human beings in films and TV programs or do they seem wooden and two-dimensional?
- Do depictions in movies and TV shows respect tribal, cultural and regional differences?
The greater questions of authentic voice, authorship, intellectual property, decolonization are not really examined on this site. The pages are useful in getting students started on the path to understanding, but students will need to push well beyond this website if they wish to engage in critical study.
The recently-launched UBC Vancouver Aboriginal Portal is a way to connect students, scholars, and the public with issues relating to higher education, Aboriginality and inquiry at UBC. I believe the Portal is coordinated by the UBC’s First Nations House of Learning. With a heavy focus on video, the Portal respects the tradition of orality and the “Feature Stories” provide relevant information through digital storytelling. The Portal contains information for for current and prospective Aboriginal students of UBC, links to the myriad of programs at UBC relating specifically to Aboriginal issues, an overview research and initiatives across the university relating to Aboriginal issues, and an overview of the university’s First Nation’s community and youth programs.
You can also follow UBC’s First Nations Longhouse on Facebook 🙂
FNESC.ca is the website for the First Nations Educational Steering Committee. This committee is an independent society created with the goal of improving First Nations education in British Columbia (learners in the public system and in First Nation schools). This site looks to address all aspects of education relating to First Nation learners (i.e. post-secondary, Special Education, community programs, work experience, scholarships and bursaries, etc.). From this site links are provided to other Aboriginal based education sites as well as non-Aboriginal education sites. This site provides a rich resource to First Nations students and schools alike.
This document addressed education for the Aboriginal children of Western Australia. It claims that education providers have failed, for the last 30 years, to improve the educational outcomes of Aboriginal school children. The author mentions that the purpose of this document is to enable educators and leaders to work together to bring about the necessary changes to improve educational outcomes for Aboriginal students.
Zubrick SR, Silburn SR, De Maio JA, Shepherd C, Griffin JA, Dalby RB, Mitrou FG, Lawrence DM, Hayward C, Pearson G, Milroy H, Milroy J, Cox A. The Western Australian Aboriginal Child Health Survey: Improving the Educational Experiences of Aboriginal Children and Young People. Perth: Curtin University of Technology and Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, 2006.