March 30, 2010
Dear Mr. Strahl and Mr. Harper:
I write on behalf of the Council of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, a scholarly organization with over 700 members from scores of countries and Indigenous nations, to express concern over what is happening to the faculty, staff, and students of the First Nations University of Canada. We are a governing council of Indigenous scholars from North America, Hawai’i, Aotearoa New Zealand, and Australia. We represent a membership that includes upwards of 200 Canadian citizens. We unanimously regard the planned closing of First Nations University, the only Aboriginal university in Canada, as a threat to Indigenous higher education everywhere.
The problems at First Nations University are real, of course, but so is the commitment of those dedicated to turning around this situation. Because we are convinced of the seriousness of that commitment, we support the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations in its good faith initiation of the changes required to bring the governance structures at First Nations University into conformity with those of other Canadian universities. As you know, a working group with representation from all stakeholder groups is currently developing a revised funding and governance model for First Nations University. You are certainly also aware that the University of Regina has expressed its willingness to support First Nations University. We also want you to know that our association is willing to provide appropriate support, including help in identifying from among the dozens of program and department administrators and university officials in our membership those who might be of assistance.
We join concerned scholars and students around the world who are following the crisis at First Nations University. We hope that our letter and the many others you are receiving will convince you that your government’s current course of action will in the long run be detrimental to all Aboriginal people, to the province of Saskatchewan, and to Canada’s international reputation. A university represents some of the best hopes and highest ideals for a brighter Indigenous future. We ask that you recognize those hopes as you proceed.
We thus urge you, in the strongest terms, to support the continued operation of First Nations University.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. Please contact me at 217-418-8879 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to follow up directly.
Very truly yours,
Native American and Indigenous Studies Association
Professor of American Indian Studies, History, and English
Director, American Indian Studies
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
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