Category Archives: Connection to Research Topic

Sookinchoot Youtube Channel

The Sookinchoot youtube channel is a component of the Skookinchoot Youth Center, an initiative of the First Nations Friendship Center. The channel presents a collection of videos on a variety of subjects, including First Nations games, culture and art. The Youth Center contains a calender of events for youth as well as informative videos and other relevant information.
There are not that many videos on the channel yet, but one of the events on the Youth Center Calender, Reel Youth, a summer program, will likely go some way to change that. One of the earliest videos covers the dismissal of Aboriginal Education Advocates in School District 22 a few years ago, a decision that was made unilaterally and without consultation, presumably for budget reasons. This speaks to my own research on how First Nations students can best be served in the public school system and the importance of meaningful discussion that promotes partnership and mutual respect, even beyond the notion of consultation. It also brings home the need for building technical skills within the Aboriginal communities to ensure that these stories are told.

Language and Connectivity Maps

The First People’s Language Maps of B.C. site is a wonderfully interractive series of maps showing the 203 language groups that are in B.C. The series of maps shows both contemporary languages and “sleeping” languages or languages that do not have any active speakers. It also shows the level of connectivity of each Band, which would be helpful for educators planning on-line programmes or for governments trying to ensure equal access. They provide information about each band and language group and contact numbers. One of the maps describes art initiatives all over the province. The Community Champions link describes people who are active in promoting language, culture and art throughout the province. The site was begun with the support of the First People’s Heritage Language Culture Council and the Ministry of Education in B.C. In order to be responsive to new information it is constinuously being updated to ensure accuracy. The sites are a great resource for language preservation and certainly bring home the complexity of the language and culture landscape throughout British Columbia. For the elementary classsroom, it offers a great perspective on First Nations culture throughout the province.

Waiting for Superman

When perusing the web, I came across this article “Aboriginal Youth Waiting for their Superman” around aboriginal youth in Canada and what the lack of funding for education is doing for the youth in schools.  This seems pretty common and relevant for all students in the education system as of late.  The article brings to attention the lack of funding for basic accessibility of the Internet, computers and other technology which are not readily available within communities.  Why does it seem to still exist, this dual education modality?  Regular students vs. aboriginal? It is frustrating to read especially from an educators stand-point, If I have been given the opportunity to teach students of all race, colour, gender etc, and provide them with the best education that I can deliver, why isn’t the government supporting this with the necessary funding to do so?  If we as teachers don’t have the resources or means to provide an acceptable education, than yes, we will be struggling and the trickle down effect occurs right to the students.

Waiting for Superman is a 2010 documentary that provides a glimpse into what is happening in the American education system, and relates to the above article.

“First Nations Seeking to cross the digtal divide”

Came across this article that discuss the issue of remote communities and the challenges of not having proper broadband connections. The article written in 2009, brings attention to the issue about how First Nations shouldn’t have to choose having clean water or access to technologies, and that both are important to the infrastructure of the community.

One of the video clips within the article showcases an advocate, Dustin Rivers, and how he is using technologies to bridge the divide and reach within and out of the community. By using podcasting and other resources, he is able to reach out in his native language and English to raise various issues.

Question: Albeit, this article was only 2 years ago, is this still an issue within communities? Was the issue of choice ever discussed?

Make Aboriginal Education a Priority

Articles in the Vancouver Sun on July 7, and 8 stress, as Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond says that BC needs a “more co-ordinated” approach to Aboriginal education. In the article, Grand Chief of the AFN, Shawn Atleo is referenced as saying that during his life-time there’s been a great many commissions and reports resulting great amounts of rhetoric and very little progress that might lead to real success for Aboriginal students. Aboriginal education is equally important for First Nations community as it is for all of Canada, given that First Nations youth represent the “fastest growing demographic”. More and more aboriginal youth are entering the workforce and it is essential for Canada’s economic success that they be educated to meet the needs of the growing knowledge based economy. On July 8th, some solutions are offered. It is noted that graduation rates among Aboriginal students continue to lag behind the general population, putting youth at a great disadvantage. They point out that in a “media-rich” global economy increased technical skills are key and that First Nations students are an “underutilized resource”. They state that “renewal must begin with the communities themselves”. They must move beyond the trauma of residential schools and “create a new warrior ethos”. Systemic flaws in the current system contribute to Aboriginal students’ lack of success and the system must respond and evolve to meet their needs. Early access to education, on and off reserves, in addition to stable, equitable funding are critical components of a successful system. First Nations communities, the Federal Government and the Province all need to work together to ensure progress is made on this issue. These articles will help support my work with my own school district and outlines the need for all levels to work in a co-ordinated fashion.

Reel Injun

Reel Injun is being aired on CBC right now. Cree filmmaker, Neil Diamond, takes a journey through film to discover his “Hollywood Roots”. He explores the Aboriginal identity that has been presented throughout the film era, from the silent films until now. He explores the legends and stereotypes that abound and how they have effected how many Aboriginal people see themselves or perceive that others see them. These are the stereotypes we’ve all grown up with, and as educators when we use films in our classes we need to be sensitive to these stereotypes. Certainly, some films can be informative if they are historically accurate but Hollywood, especially in the 1930’2 and forties found that there was more of a market for presenting Aboriginal people as savages. Frequently the First Nations parts were played by white people and actual Aboriginal actors were paid with cigarettes and alcohol. Some of the violence depicted in the films is shocking. This is an insightful documentary.

A podcast with Jo-Ann Episkenew and Shelagh Rogers

In this podcast, Shelagh Rogers interviews a number of Saskatchewan writers that offer varying perspectives on prairie life and the prairie landscape. Her last interview is with Jo-Ann Episkenew, regarding her award winning book, Taking Back our Spirits. Episkenew is both an author and a Professor at First Nations University of Canada in Regina and a member of the Regina Riel Metis Council. She talks about her own education experience and about her realization that much of what is taught in school stems from a mistaken belief that all knowledge stems from classical Greece, denying or ignoring the fact that active and vital cultures have thrived all over the planet for thousands of years, with and without Western “knowledge”. In sharing the literature and her studies and her love of reading, she attempts to shed light on the actual history and literature of Aboriginal people with an eye to promoting healing. Ultimately she is hopeful. The indigenous stories are being told and many Canadians are keen to understand the past and present realities of First Nations in Canada. What continues to strike me is how recent all of trauma from colonial policies and residential schools is. Policies continue to smack of discrimination. On another CBC radio show today, it was noted that although Inuit Dancers were invited to perform for the Royal Tour, no Treaty Nations were invited. As Episkenew states, when Prime Minister Harper says that Canada has no Colonial history, he denies the fact that Canadian policies, in effect, continue the colonization process.

Aboriginal Education: Solutions for the Future

Cheryl Jackson continues her video series with Aboriginal Education, Solutions for the future. The video is focused on the experience of communities around Thunder Bay. She visits a school that is fundamentally structured around First Nations Culture and students are seeing some success. She discusses successes and options for the future with Bentley Cheechoo, Director with Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Lynnita Jo Guillet, Aborigianl Resource Teacher in Thunder Bay, and Ron Kanutski and social worker and Cultural Co-ordinator in Thunder Bay. All of them feel that a great amount of progress has been made since the last residential school was closed in the 1990’s. One example that they use is the cultural teaching of the Seven Grandfathers. Resources, especially funding, continue to be a challenge. To counteract arguments against special programs for Aboriginal students, Lynnita Jo Guillet uses the example of Italians that would be able to return to Italy and learn more about their culture. First Nations students must learn about their culture in the place that they are and in the schools that they attend. They also talk about how First Nations parents and communities must play a strong, active role and while it’s happening they have a long way to go to make all of the schools and the curriculum truly responsive and culturally relevant. Bentley Cheechoo stresses that it is essential for Aboriginal parents and communities to take full ownership of the education of their children
Considering my research into what’s helpful in the elementary classroom, ensuring that students feel fully valued and that families and communities feel welcome may make the difference for Aboriginal students. The discussion stresses again that feelings of racism and suspicion, resulting from western focused policies and residential schools, still exist and it will take time and effort to fundamentally structure classrooms that are truly inclusive and empowering.

Aboriginal Education: Past and Present

In Aboriginal Education- Past and Present, a TVO production, facilitated by Cheryl Jackson, in the Fort William Community Center in Thunder Bay, Dolores Wawia, a Professor at Lakehead Univeristy, Goyce Kakegamic, educator and former chief, and Michelle Derosier, social worker and filmmaker offer their perspectives of the past and future of Aboriginal Education. They discuss the experiences that they’ve had with residential schools, that include racism, oppression and abuse and how even though today’s students may have not gone to residential schools they still deal with the trauma that the experience has had on their families and their communities. They discuss ways of gaining more control over curriculum and teaching to ensure the Aboriginal students can more successful. Educators need to be more culturally sensitive and having First Nations teachers in positions to teach Aboriginal students and aboriginal studies, will promote that. Educators need to provide opportunities for Aboriginal students to see themselves as capable students. That requires a system that responds to and respects their needs and their culture. For example, Ms. Wawia talks about the importance of extended families and a culture of non-interference, that may not be understood by non-aboriginal educators. When considering what is the might be useful for young children in my school district, these cultural differences and the essential role that is played by families and community is critical. It’s also essential to realize that the residential school legacy is still with us and will be for a long time to come.

TakingITGlobal & Aboriginal Youth Network

TakingItGlobal has a simple focus in mind; Inspire, Inform, and Involve.  The site provides tools and resources for youth to reach out and connect with like-minded individuals locally, nationally, and globally. As highlighted on the site “Inspiration from a global community of their peers builds self-confidence.”  When you have reached out and made a simple connection with someone “outside” your world, you are driven to continue those connections.  Seeing this first hand in my classroom, students engaging in email communication with other students abroad, inspires them to continue communicating and seek more information, truly inspiring!

Within the larger site of “Taking it Global,” the Aboriginal Youth Network (AYN) is a resource that is a unique site that is created by Aboriginal youth for Aboriginal youth.  When youth of all ages are using the Internet and/or other social media venues, what better way to reach out and communicate to the masses with a targeted website.  The site is making attempts to promote cultural identity within Aboriginal culture specifically in Canada, making the attempt to connect across the country.  The site focuses on news and events that have the youth audience in mind, and more importantly wanting youth to communicate with each other.