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Archive for the ‘Reasons to fund FNUniv’ Category

From an opinion piece by Jesse Rae Archibald-Barber published in the CAUT Bulletin of May, 2010.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially apologized in June 2008 to the tens of thousands of former students of the residential schools system. “We now recognize that it was wrong to separate children from rich and vibrant cultures and traditions — that it created a void in many lives and communities, and we apologize for having done this,” he said.

“There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian Residential Schools system to ever prevail again. You have been working on recovering from this experience for a long time and in a very real sense, we are now joining you on this journey.”

Last month, faculty of the First Nations University of Canada gathered to showcase the academic ex­cellence of the school. If anything, this place, this school, provides a way of recovering from past educational policies that the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs im­posed on First Nations communities throughout the history of this country.

Read the full opinion piece in the CAUT Bulletin.

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From the booklet distributed at the grand opening of our new building on June 21, 2003:

Congratulations to the First Nations University of Canada

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada congratulates the First Nations University of Canada on the grand opening of its distinctive, new building.

We welcome our new working relationship and look forward to our future together.

On behalf of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, we extend best wishes to Canada’s only First Nations University.

If you are unhappy about the direction our relationship with the Government of Canada has taken, write a letter.

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The FNUniv Indigenous Education department is one of many valuable departments at First Nations University. Many of our graduates are teaching in schools not only in Regina, but in communities throughout Saskatchewan. A number of our students are currently placed in practicums with former graduates who are now teachers within the Regina school system. Graduates of our program are teaching in both elementary and secondary schools in Regina, including Balfour Collegiate, Thom Collegiate, École Connaught School, and at W. F. Ready Elementary School. Some of our graduates are now principals and administrators. A similar story prevails at our Northern Campus located in Prince Albert.

It is important for the public, and especially parents with school-aged children to realize that FNUniv-trained teachers may be found in any number of schools in Regina and area, and that children from any neighbourhood or culture may have one of our graduates as their teacher. Our teachers have and will continue to contribute significantly to the education of young people whatever their ancestry. In this respect, FNUniv is supporting the success of our children and youth, and our provincial economy which depends on an educated work force.

First Nations University has taken all the steps required to make it more open, transparent and accountable. If the federal government continues to withhold funding now that these changes have been made, it will, in effect, become an agent of complicity in bringing about the demise of FNUniv. The federal government has the opportunity now to reverse this tragic series of events by restoring full funding to FNUniv. This will go a long way to rebuilding positive relationships not only with First Nations across Canada, but all persons concerned about fairness and access to education.

Ben Schenstead
Assistant Professor, Department of Indigenous Education
FNUniv

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Our annual Spring Celebration Pow-wow is a major community event in Saskatchewan. For over 30 years, our pow-wow has marked the beginning of the pow-wow season in the province. With 7000 attendees each year, both First Nations and non-First Nations, it is now the largest university-sponsored community event in the country (with the possible exception of one or two of the largest football games).

The Pow-wow is a longstanding cultural tradition for the First Nations University. This ceremony is one of the ways that the University “gives back” to the community – a gift of sharing and spirituality. This celebration of life and healing is a part of the cultural fabric of our institution. It is a special part of what makes us different and sets us apart from other Universities – there is beauty in the way that we live.

An end to funding to First Nations University will bring an end to this unique community service provided by First Nations University. If you are alarmed by this potential loss, write Chuck Strahl today.

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Please support and help us save First Nations University of Canada.

  1. Send this video to FOUR Friends
  2. Go to fnuniv.wordpress.com
  3. Print the letter of support and send it to your MP, Minister of Indian Affairs, and/or the Prime Minister.

WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT TO SAVE OUR SCHOOL!

The Four Friends video can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zc1xmmQlOY

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Indian Affairs Minister Strahl calls Professor Randy Lundy’s comparison of cutting funding to First Nations University to assimilation policy “ridiculous”. This is the remark of someone at a loss for anything substantive to say in rebuttal.

Professor Lundy’s point is that the alternative to a First Nation university institution is “assimilation”, or perhaps more properly “integration”, into the mainstream institutions. It seems that this has the same failed end goal as residential schools: “assimilation.”

The “mainstream” universities, even those making the most sincere efforts to do really good things in this area – and they must be gratefully acknowledged – are hard pressed to deliver on meaningful results, or to create an inviting environment for Aboriginal students. Indeed, earlier this week the UofR held a consultation discussion on making the university more inviting to Aboriginal students. Students themselves said that the curriculum is empty of meaningful content with respect to Aboriginal peoples, and that it does not create a good place for learning for Aboriginal students. This is not for want of expressions of intent and action on the part of the UofR, which has, for example, created an Aboriginal Student Centre and organizes various events and activities. But that is only part of the overall university environment; the classroom, cultural compenents, genuine respect for students, and real inclusion are important.

Recent studies document the failure of the “mainstream” post-secondary education system for Aboriginal students, not to mention the dismal performance of the K-12 system, both on and off reserve.

Returning to Professor Lundy’s remarks, it should be noted that an even more widespread practice than residential schools in the 1960s was “integration”, which saw the closing of on-reserve day schools and widespread bussing of First Nations students to public (and separate) schools. The well-documented experience of students subjected to this system speaks to the one-sided character of “integration” (i.e. assimilation), similar to the problems that the UofR describes encountering today. The federal government admitted the failure of the integration experiment, and adopted the “Indian Control of Indian Education” policy.

That policy has had its growing pains, and mixed success. On many reserves, the lack of resources and other issues make it difficult to provide students with a good education. There are also communities where the results shine and put the “mainstream” system to shame. There is a need to provide more resources, to evaluate results, make improvements more aggressively, adopt best practices and provide meaningful and effective content to the phrase “Indian Control of Education”.

This is as true for post-secondary education as for K-12 education. Many of the problems faced by reserve schools have been reproduced in the FNUniv, particularly in the past five years: politicized governance, poor management, squandering of limited resources, and diversion of inadequate resources from one purpose to another to meet urgent needs. These practices must be radically reformed. The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Chiefs in Assembly, the interim Board of Governors, and interim Chief Operating Officer, have shown that they recognize this. Institutional practices must be professionalized.

But the solution is not to close the institution and return to the failed policies of assimilation which have characterized the Indian Department throughout its history.

Minister Strahl appears not be aware of the long history of deadly folly within his Department of Indian Affairs, and as George Santayana said, “those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”

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According to Matthew Little of the Epoch Times of March 18, 2010, when Chuck Strahl was asked what First Nations University should do to get its funding back, Strahl did not have a specific reason why it shouldn’t.

“It is just a myriad of things, there is no one specific incident,” said Strahl when asked if there was some fundamental issue the government was waiting to see addressed.

The truth is, we have addressed all of the federal government’s stated concerns about the governance and administration of our institution. There is no longer any reason for the federal government to withhold its funding.

In the same article, Matthew Little writes,

Many problems at FNUC have stemmed from political intervention by the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) which owns the university. Recently elected to helm the federation, Guy Lonechild has worked to correct those problems and told reporters last week he doesn’t know what else the government wants him to do so that funding can be reinstated.

The federal and Saskatchewan governments both announced they were cutting their funding of the institution last month, though Rob Norris, Saskatchewan’s minister of advanced education, recently put the province’s $5.1 million in funding back on the table and hoped Ottawa would do the same with its $7.2 million.

But Strahl said it was just too little too late.

Chuck Strahl has nothing to offer but tired cliches. If there are specific actions we need to take to get our funding back, we need to know now what those are. On the other hand, if there is no specific reason why Strahl is not reinstating our funding, other than his personal whim, we need to know that too, so that all the people who have been working 18 hour days this past month to put together a deal realize that their work was in vain because the federal government has been bargaining in bad faith.

If you are as appalled with the minister’s statements as we are, please write a letter to the minister and copy it to the opposition critics and the newspapers.

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