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Archive for February, 2010

Sharon Leslie Acoose, School of Indian Social Work, Saskatoon Campus. Ms. Acoose is a member of the Sakimay Indian Band. She has been working for First Nations University since 1999, which has been one of the most empowering experiences of her life. She is a recovering drug addicted alcoholic and will celebrate 19 years of sobriety April 1, 2010. In those 19 years she has acquired a Bachelor of Human Justice, a Certificate in Corrections, a Master of Social Work and is presently enrolled in a Doctorate of Philosophy program through the College of Medicine – Dept of Community Health & Epidemiology, University of Saskatchewan. Her research interests are issues around Indian women who have been in conflict with the law; her thesis will be based on the concept of reintegration. Ms. Acoose has rich and colourful past life experiences which she uses in her classrooms and in her many community presentations. She loves teaching for the First Nations University of Canada.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Del Anaquod
Chief Operating Officer
First Nations University of Canada

Re: Support for a Resolution at First Nations University of Canada

Dear Mr. Anaquod:

On behalf of the Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development in Saskatchewan (RCE Saskatchewan), both Dr. Roger Petry and I as its co-coordinators would like to signify our support for not only your role as the new interim Chief Operating Officer of the First Nations University of Canada, but also the collective determination and good will that you, your faculty, staff, and students are bringing to resolve the current difficulties you are experiencing. We are all impacted by the outcomes of the upcoming decisions governing First Nations University of Canada’s funding arrangements and its future as distinct scholarly community as you offer unique educational models for supporting Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) regionally and globally with a First Nations perspective.

As you are aware, RCE Saskatchewan was designated by the United Nations University in 2007. We worked closely with members of First Nations University of Canada in hosting the first International RCE Conference of the Americas at the University of Regina in May of 2008, along with our other organizational partners including the University of Regina, Luther College, the University of Saskatchewan, and SIAST. RCE Saskatchewan has also relied on further partnerships with your faculty who have shared research and done presentations for the University of Regina’s Faculty of Education, helped develop the Green Life educational series (as seen on the SCN network), and assisting RCE Saskatchewan in developing an educational model for sustainable development in 2009 that includes traditional ways of knowing of First Nations people and their cultural perspectives. At this time we further recognize the importance and strength of the new partnerships we understand both you and the First Nations University of Canada are facilitating in attempting to provide an interim model of co-determination that is respectful of the history, integrity, and especially the educational successes that have been achieved by your institution and its scholars. We assume this will be grounded on its historical partnerships and continue to embody principles of mutual respect, cooperation, and understanding.

We wish both you and all of our other partners (especially those from higher education and government) much success during this challenging period. We would like to offer our support in a manner which you and the other partners might find useful to meet and enhance opportunities to resolve the current issues. As mandated by the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (UN DESD 2005-2014), we are committed to assisting in the development of a model that ensures a sustainable future for First Nations University of Canada and the social and human capital found within its scholarly community. This community has had many successes and holds much promise in the area of Education for Sustainable Development. It is unique both within our region and within the international scholarly community. The distinctive work of your faculty and students is important for regional and national education, and for international sustainable educational partnerships. As one of 74 global RCEs that advance research based on a respect for the autonomy of our organizational partners along with the potential we observe when networking for the common cause of sustainability, we affirm the importance of your maintaining a distinct, self-governing scholarly community operating in partnership with the University of Regina. We look forward to any further discussions or support you may require from RCE Saskatchewan.

Sincerely,

Lyle A. Benko and Roger A. Petry
Co-Coordinators

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February 24, 2010

Honourable Chuck Strahl
Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Dear Minister Strahl,

The Saskatchewan Aboriginal Literacy Network Inc. (SALN) is writing this letter to you to announce our full support for the First Nations University of Canada.

The SALN is a non-profit, community-based organization with a provincial mandate to provide Aboriginal literacy programming and services to Aboriginal people throughout Saskatchewan. Our goal is to provide programming and services that honour, include, and express First Nations and Métis cultures and languages so that they can be more intimately and relevantly connected to their learning goals, whether they are personal or career goals.

We are deeply concerned about the situation at the First Nations University of Canada. This institution is a vital and essential link to engaging Aboriginal people to participate fully in Canadian society while still maintaining a strong connection to their culture and language – an essential part of one’s identity. We strongly support the kind of unique and meaningful educational experience that is the mandate of the First Nations University of Canada.

We strongly encourage the Canadian government to continue to find ways to support this important institution and provide the kind of funding necessary to honour treaty and the special relationships we have with the First Peoples of this land.

We would be honoured to discuss this issue further with you.

Sincerely,

Carole Vandale
Executive director for

Ivy Kennedy
SALN Board of Directors, Vice-President

c.c:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Honourable Kelly Block, MP Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar
Minister Rob Norris, Saskatchewan Advanced Education, Employment, and Labour
Chief Guy Lonechild, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations
Del Anaquod, Interim Chief Operating Officer
Elaine Ebenal, Interim Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Literacy Network

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From an article by Jason Warick in the Leader-Post of February 24, 2010.

The fate of the First Nations University of Canada’s $1.2 million art collection is uncertain, and its curator says drastic action may be necessary to protect it.

“This is an historic collection from Native artists across Canada. As a work of record, it’s very important to our history of First Nations people, and I am in charge of it,” said professor Alfred Young Man, head of FNUniv’s department of Indian fine arts.

Read the full article in the Leader-Post.

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The Wiseman Mathematics Contest is an annual competition for grade 4 and 5 mathematics students in First Nations schools. The purpose of Wiseman Mathematics Contests is to motivate young students in First Nations schools to learn mathematics in competitive environment. It is the first mathematics contest in North America developed especially for Aboriginal students.

Though there is a variety of other mathematics contests in North America, very often Aboriginal students are not encouraged strongly enough to participate in those competitions. Most of the contest organizers require a registration fee from the school; sometimes the schools have to pay a fee for each contestant. That is just one of the factors discouraging First Nations schools to participate in math contests. On the other hand, unlike traditional math contests Wiseman Mathematics Contest is absolutely free of any registration or participation fee.

Traditional math contests do not encourage the teachers; only contestants are awarded. The Wiseman Mathematics contest recognizes the significant role of teachers. The teachers of winners are awarded by books to help them teach and other presents. Furthermore, in contrast to traditional math contests, all of the contestants in the Wiseman Mathematics Contest are recognized. We send participation and merit certificates to all contestants. This approach to awards motivates all students to participate in the competition, even if they are not expecting high results.

Teachers use our preparatory materials as extracurricular activity resources. Some teachers have asked us to extend the age interval of the contest at least up to grade 9. Though the Wiseman Mathematics Contest is addressed to First Nations schools, some public schools with large Aboriginal student contingents have also shown an interest to our contest. We have provided preparatory materials to those schools as well.

The 2008 cycle of the competition was sponsored by the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA). Fifteen First Nations schools from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba participated in the contest. We provided preparatory materials to 460 registered students. The winners were awarded with recognition and cash prizes. The math teachers received gifts of books.

Since 2008 the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) has been supporting The Wiseman Mathematics Contest through the PromoScience program. The 2009 cycle was also sponsored by SIGA and SaskEnergy. In the 2009 cycle we extended geography of the contest; twenty one First Nations schools and one public school from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario were registered for the Contest. We provided preparatory materials for 504 students. The top winners were invited to the award ceremony in Northern Campus (Prince Albert) of FNUniv. After the award ceremony, the Northern Campus staff organized a campus tour for the winners.

We are now planning to start the cycle 2010 of the contest. Within this cycle we will again extend the geographical range of participating First Nations schools.

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Ralph Goodale, M.P. Wascana
310 University Park Drive
Regina, Saskatchewan
S4V 0Y8

Dear Ralph,

I am writing to express my great concern and decisions of Minister Strahl of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada regarding First Nations University of Canada and his recent letter to the editor, which appeared in the Globe and Mail on Thursday February 18, 2010. I am requesting your intervention in this matter.

To my knowledge the First Nations University of Canada has not been found to have violated anyone’s academic freedom. This one outstanding case has been settled in the favour of the First Nations University of Canada. As well, no one at any point has raised any concerns over the academic qualifications of the faculty of the First Nations University of Canada or the overall academic integrity of the institution itself.

The issues that have been raised have been in regards to the perceived possibility of the First Nations leadership somehow impinging on the academic freedom or integrity of this institution. Certainly wild accusations have been thrown around over the years but nothing has been proven in a court of law.

In his letter to the editor Minister Strahl stated that, “The decision not to renew funding for this institution was based on many attempts to help make its governance accountable and its spending transparent. Unfortunately, these efforts proved to be unsuccessful …”

In my opinion this statement is flatly untrue. You will recall the Minister Strahl had made the decision to withdraw federal funding on Monday February 8. 2010. By that point the Legislative Assembly of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations had dissolved the former Board of Governors and put in place a new board with no political representation.

Clearly Minister Strahl is being misleading when he states that the decision was made because the efforts to achieve governance accountability were unsuccessful. When he made the decision on February 8, 2010 Minister Strahl knew that the Legislative Assembly of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations had made this substantive change to the governance structure of the First Nations University of Canada. It is beneath the honour of the Crown that a Minister of the Crown to put forth such an untruth in a national newspaper.

The spending of the First Nations University of Canada has been reviewed on a substantive annual basis by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. If Minister Strahl was exercising his due diligence he should have been aware of the particulars of the spending of the First Nations University of Canada. At the time of this decision he ought to have known that Meyers Norris Penny LLP are preparing an audit of the First Nations University of Canada. Clearly he is pre-judging the results of this report.

It is my considered opinion that the hurried decision of the federal government to withdraw funding was intended to kill First Nations University of Canada regardless of the existing facts. In his letter of February 18, 2010 Minister Strahl, “… I continue to remain an active participant in these discussions …”

As Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada that the honour of the Crown must be upheld in these discussions. As well the duty to consult and accommodate must be maintained in these discussions. In particular, if a decision has already been made then Minister Strahl is not upholding the honour of the Crown or fulfilling the duty to consult and accommodate. He has an obligation to uphold his fiduciary responsibility to the First Nations. I am particularly troubled by his assertion that, “While no decision has been made on how funds will be reallocated, I can confirm that they will be used to support first nations [sic] learners …”

I’m not sure whom he is referring to by ‘first nations learners’. However First Nations post secondary students in Saskatchewan should be troubled by that statement as it gives them no assurance whatsoever. The First Nations University of Canada has contributed immensely to Canadian academia, First Nations’ economic development, Saskatchewan socio-economic prosperity and will continue to do so.

As well, the First Nations University of Canada has taught thousands of non-First Nations students from the University of Regina and other institutions. That has contributed significantly to bridging cross-cultural differences in this province. By this point I trust Minister Strahl and the Government of Saskatchewan appreciate the great attachment the over 130,000 Saskatchewan First Nations citizens have for this institution.

It is essential to appreciate the historical context that led to the founding of the First Nations University of Canada in 1976. There had been little success by First Nations learners in mainstream post-secondary, secondary and elementary institutions, among other things. This led the Assembly of First Nations of Canada to put forward the landmark Indian Control of Indian Education position paper in 1972.

The positions articulated in Indian Control of Indian Education were adopted as federal policy in 1973. The First Nations University of Canada was the first concrete expression of Indian Control of Indian Education at the post secondary level. The recent effort of the federal government to kill the First Nations University of Canada is an abandonment of the long established federal policy of Indian Control of Indian Education. This abandonment of long established federal policy was done with out fulfilling the duty to consult and accommodate First Nations. The First Nations University of Canada is an institution of the First Nations of Canada. Clearly the First Nations of Canada have not been consulted.

It is deeply troubling that the estimated 40,000 children in the current K – 12 Saskatchewan system will not complete high school, using the current 76% drop out rate for up to age 16. Age 16 is used because INAC responsibility ends at that age because these children can become emancipated at that age, so the drop-out rate is much higher when one includes the 17 and 18 year olds. These same children are being taught using the provincial curriculum and being taught by teachers who received their education from the provincial institutions, so its my prediction we will still see the extremes of the socio-economic stratification of the First Nations and the general Saskatchewan population.

The First Nations University of Canada gives hope for a higher education in a culturally nurturing environment for countless First Nations’ youth. At the Legislative Assembly of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations on February 4, 2010 seventeen-year-old Amelia Badger expressed her desire to attend the First Nations University of Canada. The actions of the federal government are quite clearly intended to dash her dreams and those of countless other First Nations’ youth.

The First Nations University of Canada provides quality academic programming. That was never at issue but rather the administrative side was. Clearly the actions of the federal government do not justify the punishment being dealt out to First Nations University of Canada students and faculty.

This rush to judgement reflected by the many public statements by Ministers of Crown violate the principle of sub judice that requires not commenting on matters before the court. It should be remembered the former Chief Financial Officer Murray Westerlund has launched a lawsuit against the First Nations University of Canada. A fair interpretation is that the many comments by Ministers Rob Norris and Chuck Strahl clearly accept as fact the allegations that have apparently been made by Murray Westerlund.

So it makes me wonder what else the governments are doing to kill this institution and how many closed door meetings; so where is the accountability and transparency, where is the duty to consult? The needs of the First Nations peoples of Canada for post secondary education have not been met or accommodated. In general, First Nations post secondary graduation rates are at half of the Canadian population in the same cohort. The immense cost to the Canadian economy and society cannot be overstated if this capital investment is not continued.

In my opinion, in the drive for governance changes and transparency, these intentional decisions of the Federal and Provincial government were made to kill First Nations University of Canada, which would be one way to for federal off-loading whereby the province acquires those same federal dollars for their provincial institutions.

Sincerely,
Della Anaquod, Alumna 1991, First Nations University of Canada

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February 24, 2010

Honourable Rob Norris, MLA
Minister of Advanced Education, Employment and Learning
#5-2720 8th Street East
Saskatoon, SK
S7H 0V8

Dear Mr. Norris,

We, the Intercultural Grandmothers Uniting which is facilitated by the University of Regina’s Seniors Education Centre, are a network of grandmothers of many cultures whose purpose is to build bridges of understanding, respect, trust, and friendship among races and generations. We work with schools to teach children about cross-cultural understanding. We have produced a book that won the Saskatchewan Book of the Year Award. We have also taught elders to read and write and facilitated the telling of their stories. Women have come from all over Saskatchewan to attend Intercultural Grandmothers Uniting retreats. Senator Sharon Carstairs presented us with national recognition for community building and cultural understanding.

We are now writing this letter to address our concerns with the situation at the First Nations University of Canada. It cannot be overstated how the First Nations University of Canada is a unique and incredible historical creation. The fact that it was the first university of it’s kind in the world established in this province and in this country speaks very well of our province. Saskatchewan’s Department of Education, as you may know, was also the first province in Canada to adopt a policy for Indian, Metis and Inuit content to be included in all curriculum areas at all grade levels.

Saskatchewan has clearly played a leadership role in the bridging of aboriginal and non-aboriginal cultures to develop understanding and overcome ignorance that cause divisions. It lifts our hearts today that we can listen to the 2010 Olympics in Cree, Dene and Mitchif much to the credit of the First Nations University’s unique language department that teaches the five languages of Saskatchewan’s First Nations.

Now, to bring about the closure of the First Nations University of Canada is to go back in time 40 years in cultural relations and preservation of languages indigenous to Saskatchewan. This is not an option for our grandchildren. We stand to lose the ground that many of our elders and academic leaders gave their lives to gain and, the expertise of the current stable of world class professors! Respect for these people is paramount. The current faculty has been holding the university together for the past five years under tremendous duress so those students could continue their studies. Now today, the faculty of First Nations University is in jeopardy of not being paid at the end of this month, midway through a semester due to a lack of funding! Are professors expected to work for nothing next month?

Many institutions and businesses across Saskatchewan and Canada have undergone, or are currently undergoing their own issues of mismanagement and contravention of governance rules. Rather than close those institutions and businesses down however, time and money has been extended to them in an effort to address and correct any issues. Why? Because the economic and social impact has been considered. Now, closure of a university is unprecedented in Canada. Bringing about the destruction of a university simply due to governance and mismanagement issues is wrong no matter which way you look at it. The fact that the university in question is one that was established in this province with a vision to provide an opportunity for students of all nations to learn in an environment of First Nations cultures and values is unconscionable.

The new chief of the FSIN has only been in office for three months and at his earliest opportunity, made the adjustments required of the province and the federal government to ensure continued funding. We understand that the province has promised to reinstate the province’s share of funding for the FNUC through the administration of the U. of R. This is the second best thing that can be done.

We do not want this to become a divisive issue in our province. We highly recommend that this be dealt with in a professional manner so that there is a win-win situation and that the First Nations University of Canada survives this setback. We are in favor of a qualified board and administration at the First Nations University to conduct its own affairs. We the Intercultural Grandmothers Uniting take the stand of defending the university’s vision which is beneficial for all young children, regardless of race. We have children and grandchildren that have attended the First Nations University (there are over 25,000 students who have taken a course at this university) and we stand to protect the university for all great grandchildren and the future of cultural relations in our province.

The Intercultural Grandmothers Uniting highly recommend the province reinstate provincial funding for the FNUC in order for students to complete their semester and to write their exams in March. We also call upon the former Board of Governors of the FNUC, the past president, and vice president to be held responsible for the mismanagement of the First Nations University of Canada.

In the name of intercultural understanding,

Intercultural Grandmothers Uniting, U of R

cc: Guy Lonechild, Chief FSIN
Shawn Atleo, Grand Chief, AFN
Del Anaquod, COO
Dr. Vianne Timmons, President
Laura Buckley, Ministerial Assistant
FNUniv
Premier Brad Wall
Chuck Strahl, Federal Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs
Cam Broten, Saskatchewan NDP Advanced Education Critic
Ralph Goodale, MP and Liberal House Leader

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