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Dear Minister Strahl

Your recent decision to withdraw $7.2 million dollars in core funding to the First Nations University of Canada (FNUC) has drastic consequences and I ask that you reverse it.

FNUC is a world leader in Indigenous Education. It began teaching in the areas of Indian social work, Indian art, and Indian languages over 30 years ago. Within the sciences, for example, two unique bachelor degree programs (the Environmental Health & Science program and the Resource & Environmental Studies program) which incorporate First Nations traditional knowledge and culture have been developed. Furthermore, FNUC is involved research funded by Health Canada into the environmental and health impacts from environmental chemicals in First Nations Communities. This program, the National First Nations Environmental Contaminants Program is the only such program in Canada. These unparalleled science educational and research programs will end unless you restore operational funding to FNUC.

The University of Regina (UofR) and the FNUC have reached an agreement concerning the management of FNUC finances. The president of the UofR, Dr. Vianne Timmons, states that “The University of Regina has agreed to the principles of a shared management model where the stewardship of the administrative and financial management of FNUniv is placed with the University of Regina through a contractual relationship for a four-year period.” Please allow sufficient time for the partners to submit a written MOU to your office.

Federal funding for FNUC has been guaranteed annually under the Indian Studies Support Program for funding First Nation post-secondary institutions. Please honor the federal obligation to fund the FNUC.

All the steps required to make FNUC more open, transparent and accountable have been taken. The financial administration of FNUC is now being overseen by UofR. The administrative difficulties have also been rectified. The structure of the board of governors has been changed. It has been depoliticized and downsized. A new interim Chair and new board members have been appointed. The new board has fired the President of FNUC.

Please reverse your decision and restore the $7.2 million funding for FNUC the upcoming year.

Sincerely,

Senator Lillian E. Dyck
Saskatchewan

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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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Dr. Herman Michell (B.A., MEd., PhD). Dr. Herman Michell is originally from the small fishing/trapping community of Kinoosao, on the eastern shores of Reindeer Lake in northern Saskatchewan. He speaks fluent Cree (‘th’ dialect) and also has Inuit, Dene and Swedish ancestry. He has been involved in Aboriginal higher education in different capacities for over ten years. He is an Associate Professor (tenured) at First Nations University of Canada and has taught undergraduate courses in Indigenous Health Studies, Education, and Environment.

Dr. Michell has studied in four Canadian universities. In 2008, he completed a PhD in Education from the University of Regina in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on the inclusion of Cree culture in science education. Previous to this, he graduated with a Masters Degree in Education from the University of British Columbia in 1998, specializing in Curriculum & Instruction. He also completed graduate course work in Education Psychology and Special Education from both UBC and the University of Manitoba. Dr. Michell initially obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree majoring in Sociology from the University of Winnipeg in 1990.

In addition to teaching and research, Dr. Michell sits on numerous internal and external committees including having served on the Board of Governors at First Nations University of Canada as a faculty representative for seven years. His administrative experience includes completion of a three-year term as Department Head of Science and one year as Acting Head of Science. He is currently the Vice President of Academics at First Nations University of Canada.

As part of his academic endeavors, Dr. Michell has published widely and has also travelled internationally (South Africa, Netherlands, England, South America, West Indies, Barbadoes). Dr. Michell regularly visits pre-service teacher education programs as a guest lecturer on the topic of cultural content inclusion. He is also called upon as a guest speaker on numerous occasions to address youth in First Nation communities and schools in relation to pursuing careers in science and health-related fields. As principal investigator, his research team recently completed a major federally funded study in 2008 entitled, “Learning Indigenous Science from Place: An Action Research Study Examining Indigenous Science Perspectives in Saskatchewan First Nations and Métis Community Contexts.” It will influence curriculum and instruction in science education for years to come.

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From an article by Jason Warick in the Leader-Post of February 19, 2010.

Much of the recent focus on FNUniv has centred on allegations of misdeeds of various administrators, the vulnerable students and the high-level negotiations underway attempting to salvage the institution.

But something else is at stake. Although many accomplished professors have fled or been chased from FNUC in recent years, the talent pool on each of its three campuses — Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert — remains deep. FNUniv is a unique source of both traditional and cutting-edge aboriginal research in art, education, social work, health, linguistics and other fields.

Read the full article in the Leader-Post.

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We, the First Nations, are children of the Earth, placed here by the Creator to live in harmony with each other, the land, animals and other living beings. All beings are interconnected in the Great Circle of Life.

As First Nations, we treasure our collective values of wisdom, respect, humility, sharing, harmony, beauty, strength and spirituality. They have preserved and passed down our traditions through countless generations.

The Elders teach us to respect the beliefs and values of all nations. Under the Treaties, our leaders bade us to work in cooperation and equal partnership with other nations. The Elders’ desire for an Indian institution of higher education led to the establishment of the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College (SIFC).

The First Nations University of Canada provides an opportunity for students of all nations to learn in an environment of First Nations cultures and values. The university is a special place of learning where we recognize the spiritual power of knowledge and where knowledge is respected and promoted. In following the paths given to us by the Creator, the First Nations have a unique vision to contribute to higher education. With the diversity and scope of the First Nations degree programs, the university occupies a unique role in Canadian higher education. The university promotes a high quality of education, research and publication.

At the First Nations University of Canada, First Nations students can learn in the context of their own traditions, languages and values. Rooted in their own traditions, our students will walk proudly and wisely today. The university, through extension programming, reaches out and welcomes First Nations peoples to use its resources for the enrichment of their communities.

The university requires facilities which reflect the uniqueness, values, dignity and beauty of the First Nations it represents. It will include appropriate recognition and integration of the role of the Elders, cultural symbols and the First Nations connectedness to the land.

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Dr. Arzu Sardarli, Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Physics and Acting Department Head of Science; Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Regina. Dr. Sardarli has worked for twenty years in leading research institutions of Canada, Russia and Ukraine. He has been working for First Nations University of Canada since 2007. His current research interest is the mathematical modeling of processes in social and ecological systems. In 2008-09 he coordinated a research project on the mathematical modeling of water quality in two First Nations communities (Peepeekisis and Kahkewistahaw) within the National First Nations Environmental Contaminants Program (NFNECP) supported by Health Canada. Recently Dr. Sardarli received a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) grant for modeling the contribution of Aboriginal People in the labour market of Saskatchewan. Dr. Sardarli coordinates the Wiseman Mathematical Contest, supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC PromoScience) for 2009-2011, which is in its second phase. He is developing two online courses within Technology Enhanced Learning grant program (University of Regina). All three projects would be severely jeopardized should funding to First Nations University of Canada be cut.

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Indigenous people have been given special responsibilities to care for the environment, the land, the plants, and the animals. With those duties in mind, a group of faculty from First Nations University and Luther College (our immediate neighbors at the University of Regina) came together when construction of our new Regina campus was completed in 2003 to establish the Indigenous Garden Project on the north side of the building. Over the past seven years, a native prairie ecosystem has been carefully established on the site consisting mainly of native prairie grasses and flowering plants, lovingly tended and hand-weeded by faculty and student assistants. The project represents an investment of not only several hundred thousand dollars, mostly provided by external donors, but is a potent symbol for our relationship to the earth, how the duties and responsibilities we have had since time immemorial can be met in a modern context, and of how Indigenous peoples can work together with newcomer peoples to achieve something good for us all.

In addition to the grasses and flowering plants required for a healthy ecosystem, the garden is home to numerous species of animals, insects, food and medicinal plants, and art works. Food plants, particularly heritage species, are grown in a special community garden section of raised planting boxes built on the east side of the site by community volunteers and tended by students, community members, and Aboriginal youth who in turn donate a share of the produce for the most needy. Medicinal plants grow naturally throughout the site, but are concentrated on a special medicine wheel garden planting on the west side of the garden. The medicine wheel is carefully organized and documented with signage, and is used by elders and traditional teachers to teach our students about the identification and appropriate use of medicinal plants. Art works in the garden include a memorial to missing Aboriginal women with a protector spirit to help the vulnerable.

The Indigenous Garden project is more than a chunk of land on the north side of our building. The entire project, including not only the plants, but also faculty, students, volunteers, community members, hired landscapers, donors, artists, and elders and traditional teachers, is itself a fragile ecosystem. Recent bombastic actions by administrators, politicians, and governments have threatened not only the ecosystem on the land but also the nascent ecosystem of ideas which supports everything we do. The investments of all involved may, in the worst case, simply become grown over by invasive weeds if our institution should fail. Express your dismay at the current situation by writing your MP and MLA today.

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