Author Archives: Janna

Module 4 – Post # 5 ~ Graduation Rates Increasing; Still a Long Way to Go

High School Aboriginal Student Graduation rates are on the rise throughout western Canada British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan all report higher graduation rates. However, the graduation rates are still significantly lower (18% in BC) for Indigenous students when compared to non-indigenous peers, and the graduation rate of on-reserve schools is still lower.

Mainstream schools that have seen and increase in Aboriginal student graduation have worked to cultivated school climates that are culturally-responsive, that recognize the richness of Indigenous culture, offer specific courses with Aboriginal content and encourage teachers to use diverse teaching methods that Indigenous students are found to be more successful with.

Indeed, Tyron McNeil, President of the First Nations Education Steer Committee acknowledges that Indigenous students respond to more inclusive learning environments; and students like high school graduate Cauy Kealy note that affirmation of his cultural roots, and his teachers’ belief in him motivated him to graduate. Schools like Dryden High School in Ontario and Chetwynd Secondary School in BC have found the importance of not only reinforcing positive self-and-cultural-image, but also having an academic and life “coach” working with each individual student and their teachers had increase success rates.

Unfortunately, on reserve schools have even less graduates due to poor funding, teacher retention and teacher training, and many reserves do not have secondary schools at all. Students choose to remain home with family instead of moving away for high school.

Module 4: Post # 4 ~ Clothing and Cultural Pride

Traditional Indigenous Clothing was one of the first things early European explorers adopted as they surveyed the New World in search of the Northwest Passage. It was recognized for its durability, quality and ability keep the wearer warm in harsh climates. European clothing, however was cheaper and at the time more fashionable. Indigenous inspired clothing is now hitting the mainstream not only in Canada, but in other parts of the world.

Smaller companies like Sapling and Flint Designs and Tlicho Online Store work to promote and celebrate their cultures and support their communities through the sale of their products. While companies like NeechieGear promote the celebration of Indiginous culture in general, while giving a percentage of their proceeds back to the community.

Although Manitoba Mukluks is one of the most successful of these the Indigenous-owned company strives to insure that the success of the company is shared with others, as it supports Indigenous communities, celebrates Indigenous values, traditions and history.

In 2014 Australia hosted its first Indigenous Fashion Week showcasing artists and designers and well as inspiring Aboriginal models, whom were mentored by professional models throughout the week.

Other designers like Canada’s Jamie Medicine Crane notes that she is inspired by her Blackfoot culture when designing. She also uses her designs to bring attention to social issues, for example a gown with 2,000 gemstones, each representing a missing or murdered Indigenous Woman.

Cultural Appropriation is a concern for many, as artists and designers often take ideas from one another.  In 2015 after creating a sweater that was a replica of an Inuit Shaman’s jacket, the UK fashion label KTZ did pull the jacket from store shelves, and apologize, but did not offer financial compensation. The company did say they were trying to “to encourage appreciation for traditions, ethnicities and religions’ diversity.” Additionally, Canadian designers Dean and Dan Caten of Dsquared2, have not only used Indigenous inspired designs, but were accused of using racist labeling in their 2015-16 collection titled #Dsquaw.

There are no laws protecting Indigenous art, designs, or other traditional knowledge. According to Simon Fraser University professor, George Nicholas, “Indigenous heritage is often seen as public domain, free for the taking,” and it is extremely difficult to protect. Intellectual-property laws were not designed with shared cultural knowledge and art in mind. The World Intellectual Protection Organization has formed a special committee to develop a system that would protect Indigenous intellectual property.

Whitehorse lawyer, Clair Anderson encourages Aboriginal groups should look at their traditional laws. She gives the example of the Tlingit culture:

“if someone exploits someone else’s design or steals property, they must apologize in front of the community at a public forum, like a potlatch. She says some sort of compensation is given — whether it’s monetary or the gifting of a song.”

Module 4: Post # 3 ~ Boys with Braids

One of the first things many residential school survivors experienced was the cutting of their hair. Today, many Indigenous People are choosing to grow their hair long as a statement of cultural pride. However, hair has a greater spiritual meaning for many Aboriginal cultures.

Boys with Braids is an educational movement dedicated to sharing the teachings of why boys, men and elders wear braids. Started by Michael Linklaster when his son was bullied for having long hair. Linklaster hopes to stop bullying by raising awareness about the spiritual and cultural significance of long hair. He also hopes that Indigenous children and youth will take more pride in their long hair.

Cecil Sveinson, host of a March 2016 Winnipeg Boys with Braids Event hopes to raise awareness among non-Indigenous Adults as well. Hoping that with raised awareness adults will be more culturally sensitive.


Module 4: Post # 2 ~ Reconciliation: An Ongoing Process for All Canadians

The Ontario Ministry of Indigenous Relation and Reconciliation’s Facebook page and website made me consider how many non-Indiginous Canadian’s are “involved” with the ongoing reconciliation process, and what they can do to support Indigenous Canadian’s through this process.

CBC’s Rosanna Dearchild, host of Unreserved posted the question in October of this year, “How are you putting reconciliation into action?” The post explores how reconciliation is an ongoing process and everyone plays a part.


Module 4: Post # 1 ~ Alaska Natives: Our Fight to Survive

A Short AJ+ Documentary Titled Alaska Natives: Our Fight to Survive looks at the past, present and future of Indigenous Peoples in Alaska; including major obstacles, such as the division among the people caused by oil and gas exploration. As people struggled between a desire to protect the land, and the need to earn a living.

The documentary is informative and well done, but I found it interesting that none of the producers are Indigenous.

The documentary does raise many issues. One of which, is food insecurity faced by the Inuit due to high rates of unemployment, and low paying jobs, brought on by the rapid modernization of Canada’s north in the last fifty years. The Feeding Nunavut Program reports that 60% of Nunavut’s children live in households without a dependable quantity of nutritious food.

One of the solutions to the program was paying harvesters to hunt and distribute the food gathered throughout the communities participating. Interestingly the traditional food, called country food, could not be shared with the schools because of health regulations. The author of the report, Taye Newman, noted that this was discouraging as the rules are in direct contrast with the goal of feeding children, and encouraging traditional foods. Another success of the program was the involvement of youth in learning how to hunt, gather, and prepare traditional foods.

Module 3 ~ Post # 5: Uncontacted, Contacted, Unconquered

In the book The Unconquered, author Scott Wallace describes how the Brazlian’s governments past efforts to protect uncontacted peoples by setting up parks around them, and using already contacted tribes as a buffer between the uncontacted and the outside world. Wallace questions if keeping peoples uncontacted is realistic endevour. He describes how the government originally setup this system because of the global political pressure to prevent the mass genocide of entire tribal groups from disease as they come into contact with the outside world. In the book Wallace joins an expedition whose mandate is to gather information about the uncontacted people known as the “People of the Arrow, including the location in which they lived so it could be included in the protected zone. The expedition that took him deep into the rainforest, and brought them face-to-face with the very people they hoped to never see. The expedition leaders warned the “People of the Arrow”, that they should not welcome strangers and that they should not leave their land.

Though the governments of South America are at least aware of the desire of the global community to protect the uncontacted tribes, they are also pressure by the financial needs of their countries to continue to allow more logging and mining development further into the jungles. Which brings the modern world into contact with tribal groups living much the same way that have lived for hundreds of years.

The Waiapi, an ancient tribe living deep in the Brazilian rainforest, were almost wiped out from disease when they first came into contact with the outside world in the 1970’s. Now they vow to protect their way of life and prevent the Brazilian government from developing the area. Many of the members say they will arm themselves and physically fight, with traditional poison tipped arrows if necessary.

One of the tribes members, Jawaruwa Waiapi feels that it is through political pressure that Indigenous Peoples will be win the battle for their homes. He is the first Waiapi member to earn an elected title as a municipal councilor in the community of Pedra Branca, which is two hours away from his village. He says that, “Today we don’t have to fight with arrows or clubs. We have to fight through knowledge, through politics. This is our new weapon.”

Survival International is a non-profit organization that works to support tribal peoples throughout the world. Their mandate is to help tribes deal with the political and legal system; many of these tribes have only been in contact with the contemporary world for less then fifty-years. Surival International also works to raise awareness about uncontacted Peoples and pressure government to protect these Peoples.


Module 3 ~ Post # 4: Drinking Water on Canadian Reservations

One of the things that comes to mind when you think of Canada is its pristine lakes and rivers. Sadly over 80 Canadian reserves are under drinking-water advisories. Prime Minister Trudeau promises that Aboriginal Communities will have safe drinking water by 2021.   According to a 2017 Globe and Mail article the government is not even close to fulfilling this promise. Many of the water treatment facilities in First Nation communities are not up to standard and are failing. Poor long term funding, and adequate training of staff also limits the life-span of the facilities that are working.   Additionally, because of lack of funding costs are cut when selecting systems and companies to install the systems – leading to problems in the future.

Another interesting fact uncovered by the Globe and Mail is the fact that many First Nation water systems are built to province 180 liters of water per resident per day, while municipal systems in Ontario provide 450 liters per resident per day. As the First Nation population grows these systems will not be able to keep up with demand.


Module 3 ~ Post 3: Motivating Youth while Celebrating Success

We are seeing an increase in post-secondary school programs specifically targeted at Aboriginal Youth. Along with this comes backlash from non-aboriginal peoples who see this us unfair. As the fastest growing population in Canada it is imperative to the countries future that these youth be supported and given every opportunity. Perhaps more education of non-aboriginal peoples is necessary to raise awareness of the obstacles aboriginal youth must overcome.

Celebration of the successes is important in all cultures. Perhaps it mainstream North American society it is taken from granted that most people will graduate from high school and attend post-secondary school. This has not historically been the case for Aboriginal Peoples, and their success should not be overlooked, but celebrated.

Indspire is an Indigenous-led registered charity that invests in the education of Indigenous people. The program works to connect Aboriginal Youth with resources to become better educated. Every year they celebrate the success of many Aboriginal students through the Inspire Awards Banquet.

Other celebrations of success are the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business’- Aboriginal Business Hall of Fame Award and a Gwich’in project, which highlights the success of its members in a published catalog/timeline that will eventually be put online. Diane Baxter, Gwich’in program officer, notes that the Gwich’in First Nation has a 100 percent employment rate for anyone with post-secondary education.

The project not only highlights the importance of post-secondary education, but the importance of recognizing and celebrating achievements of Aboriginal Peoples. Hopefully the recognition will also encourage Indigenous Youth to strive through the obstacles they face, not only for a better future for themselves and their communities, but for all of us.



Module 3 ~ Post 2: Skills for the Modern World

Historically and euro-centered ideologies have been considered correct and other ways of believing and dealing with life have been considered wrong. So much so, that thousands of missionaries worked tirelessly to teach the “right” way.

In our course readings and videos thus far we have touched on how the ideologies of Indigenous peoples can help the world in the 21st century.   A non-indigenous author, Ulrich E Dupree believes that the traditional Hawaiian forgiveness Ritual, Ho’oponopono can help emotional heal families and relationships.

Nina Wagner, Co-founder of the non-profit organization, the Vanishing Cultures Project believes that Indigenous Cultures could save the modern world from itself.   Noting that the “modern world needs the perspectives and wisdom of indigenous and traditional peoples now more than ever”.

Indigenous cultures did not fail to become modernized. They were cultures that developed based on ideologies that respected the land and sought a spiritual connection with the world they were in. Indigenous cultures can teach us ways we can stay mentally and physically healthy, and care for our world.

National Geographic author and advocate for indigenous cultures Wade Davis said, “All these peoples’ cultures teach us of other ways of being, other ways of thinking, other ways of orienting yourself in the earth. And this is an idea, if you really think about, that can only fill you with hope.”


Davis, Wade. “Dreams from endangered cultures.” Wade Davis: Dreams from endangered cultures | TED Talk,

“Understanding The Ancient Hawaiian Practice Of Forgiveness.” Collective Evolution, 2 Dec. 2016,

Wegner, Nina. “How Indigenous Cultures Can Save the Modern World.” The Huffington Post,, 6 Feb. 2012,

Module 3 – Post 1: Sacred Indigenous Sites visited by Tourists

Thousands of tourists visit sacred Indigenous sites throughout the world every year. Controversy about benefits and consequences of allowing tourists into these sites does not only only occur between Indigenous communities and governments, but among the Aboriginals themselves.

“The Big Red Rock” and a UNESCO World Heritage Site is a popular tourist destination, and although there have been signs around the formation asking people to respect the spiritual significance of the structure by abstain from climbing it, thousands of visitors ignore the signs and climb it anyway. Sammy Wilson, an Uluru Park board chairman and native Aboriginal notes that because of Uluru’s popularity the Anangu Peoples felt pressured to continue to allow tourists to climb the rock, which is a taboo in their culture. In the past they also hoped that tourism would help provide jobs for youth at nearby resorts.

The Australian government has taken the unprecedented step to ban tourists from climbing Uluru Rock, a sacred Anagu Aboriginals site, has been met with both applause and criticism.

Some tourist organizations, along with Northern Territory Chief Adam Giles argues that by closing Uluru to climbers the Indigenous communities around it loose income from potential tourists. While others argue that the ban may spike visitations if Indigenous communities develop educational experiences for tourists where they can learn about the ban and the spiritual significance of Uluru.

Increase interest in Eco-tourism is leading opportunities for Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous communities struggle with finding a balance between protecting spiritual territories and respecting traditions with teaching others and making a living. In 2014 an Aboriginal Tourism Operator was rebuked by his own Nation for showing members of the press a traditional burial site and disturbing the burial box.


Hallinan, Bridget. “Visitors Will Soon Be Banned from Climbing Australia’s Uluru Rock.” Condé Nast Traveler, CondÉ Nast Traveler, 1 Nov. 2017,

Hamilton, Wawmeesh G. “Aboriginal tourism operator rebuked for opening burial boxes for travellers.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 22 Sept. 2014,

Marks, Kathy. “Is it ‘ludicrous’ to ban climbers from Uluru?” BBC News, BBC, 11 May 2016,