Posts Tagged ‘Olympics’

Dear All, I am writing to support the continuance of the First Nations University in Saskatchewan. It is integral to the healing and support of First Peoples in Canada that this university remains open. Please try to find a way to keep this university open, if this means replacing peoples within it for accounting measures, then please do this – its a simple matter really to make these amends as exampled continuously in federal and provincial accounting issues that incur problems regarding budgets. Revamping the financial structure of the university will solve these problems.

In the history of colonizing Native Peoples and losses of Native cultures as well as traumas incurred by generations from Indian Residential School, and in terms of the reclamation of Native cultures today, healing, and language revival, the First Nations university is providing a service that offers cultural healing and synthesis for Native Peoples within a modern world that supports Canada and the initial multicultural vision of this nation-state.

As Canadians that hold political offices or positions of power and who are proud to be Canadian, would you let the First Nations University ideology fail? Or will you embrace it and make it succeed, to show the true efforts of Canadians as human beings in the “true north, strong and free” that we promoted at the Olympics in Vancouver?

Kind regards, Dr. Paula du Hamel Yellow Horn.

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The Honourable Chuck Strahl, MP
Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs
607 Confederation Building
House of Commons
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6
AINC-INAC Ministre-Minister Minister@ainc-inac.gc.ca

12 March 2010

Dear Chuck Strahl

Thank you for your correspondence of March 12, 2010.

I understand the feeling of being fed-up with a group or situation that does not seem to be progressing along the lines of one’s expectations, this is of course a situation that is very familiar to me. I spent a decade co-facilitating Unlearning Racism workshops at universities and for business and community groups, and nonetheless, the shocking level of ignorance at all levels of our collective Canadian community continues to be deeply distressing to me. I do understand that your decision comes after much trial and much error, and further, I understand that your “cut the crap/cut the funding” decision in relation to First Nations University of Canada is popular with a certain contingent of Conservative supporters, as is evident in the “comments” section of the Globe & Mail website.

I am deeply frustrated that Canadians tolerate such a high level of racism in public spaces, and that leading figures such as yourself are content to make use of the disconnect between indigenous and mainstream Canadians, the “reality gap,” rather than work toward a fuller understanding of one another and a greater level of respect and mutual support. While a Canadian police force recently issued an apology to Muslim communities for mistreatment of Muslim women, the far harsher treatment of indigenous women has yet to be addressed effectively. Still, all mothers are expected to support their children, both culturally and economically, and the supports to do this in a meaningful way lag dramatically behind for Aboriginal women and families. I am happy to submit to you my tax information, and copies of all of my books, if you need further enlightenment on the real-time impacts of violence on the economic and educational aspirations of indigenous women.

I would like to suggest again that the current situation calls for creative and unexpected solutions, and outside-the-box problem-solving initiatives. I would like to suggest that you personally involve yourself in supporting change at the university, first and foremost by re-focusing your perspective away from the longstanding frustration with the host organization, and toward the current and future needs of living and breathing Aboriginal scholars and students, both current and future generations.

The Apology and the Olympics/Four Host Nations are recent, high-profile notes of collaboration that begin to offset historical abuse and current abnegation of indigenous Canadians, and the Throne Speech spin evoking possibilities of justice in the realms of vicious violence and public neglect focused on indigenous women, as well as movement toward redeeming international standing by considering the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples, are all to the good.

However, a substantial recognition that all forms of historical and current abuses impact, in a visceral and a cumulative and an ongoing way, all indigenous people in Canada, continues to elude both political decision-makers and those who applaud the gutting of the First Nations University in the country’s newspapers. While the Auto-industry bail-outs were found to be worthwhile, the international and national development of Aboriginal leadership in all spheres of life continues to be an easy-to-dismiss national irrelevance.

I have appended below four letters by four authors, including my original letter to you, in the event that you have not yet had the opportunity to read the words of the scholars who have been based at FNUniv. More can be read at Edward Doolittle’s blog, https://fnuniv.wordpress.com/.

If you are interested, I am happy to speak with you about my own experiences as an intelligent, passionate, and completely uneducated Canadian, who found such an intensity of abuse in Canada’s mainstream universities that I would rather slit my own throat than re-engage with any of those well-funded, much-lauded institutions. I can tell you about an indigenous PhD who gave up on ever gaining tenure at the mainstream school at which she taught, and relocated out of the country, to do volunteer work at a small US community-based indigenous organization, and other anecdotal evidence that while current supports are improving, the situation is not altogether in hand.

While it is true that increasing numbers of indigenous people are responding to the positive supports that are increasingly available in mainstream institutions, and smaller private colleges, and the relentless ad campaigns funded to drive us all back to school, the need for a non-racist environment in which to go about one’s work in a positive way remains unaddressed. While increasing numbers of First Nations scholars do find a home in mainstream organizations, a sure and stable, highly visible base continues to elude us. The collective permission to abuse and dismiss First Nations people, as individuals and as collective identities, continues to have ongoing impacts on all of us, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.

I am writing to request again that you find a way through this stand-off, by re-focusing your view upon supporting current and future Aboriginal scholars based at First Nations University of Canada, and thereby promoting Canada’s international standing as a nation of integrity, rather than the schizophrenic creature exposed in Honouring the Spirit of Modern Treaties: Closing the Loopholes (Interim Report, Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples) and in countless other documents, reports, and press releases by national and international organizations of excellent repute. http://www.landclaimscoalition.ca/pdf/080515%20Senate%20Cttee%20Report.pdf

The life histories of indigenous people both as individuals and collectively speaking have been marked deeply by predecessors in your role in government, and the most outstanding indigenous families continue to feel the onslaught of day by day violence by those who have permission to treat any and all indigenous people with scorn, and worse.

Tolerating the dismissive view of First Nations attempts to “get things right” by promoting historical amnesia and neglecting the roots of longstanding hardship and shame is, I continue to hope, well beneath you. It is not only the Treaty Indians of Saskatchewan who will feel the impact of your lack of compassionate imagination. It is not only the Treaty Indians who will benefit, should you choose to exercise your power correctly, in supporting a useful and visionary initiative despite your impatience with and dislike of former governors who failed to meet the schedule of reform that was hoped for. The FSIN has agreed to stand back, the head of the University of Regina has expressed confidence in the current working plan, and the opportunity to do the right thing continues to exist.

First Nations Bank of Canada and Aboriginal Peoples Television Network are two examples of local initiatives which made the successful change to nationally useful supports for all Aboriginal Canadians, regardless of cultural origins and political definitions, and I see no reason why the First Nations University of Canada cannot also be allowed to continue to grow and change, to become increasingly broadly based and a high profile, inspirational option, not only to indigenous youth, but to all Canadians. If I may put it so bluntly, Canada does not need another snuff movie starring indigenous Canadians.

Rather than continuing a path that feeds on racism and encourages despair, promoting Canada’s interest in the North by courting the Inuit while continuing to ignore the rife racism experienced on the ground in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, British Columbia, and elsewhere, all across Canada, why not sit back and consider the overall good that you can do, in your few years in office, to make longstanding and genuine impact on all of Canada, and for the good. There is a time for spin, and a time for substance, and I am really personally quite tired of the spin.

Yours Sincerely,

Joanne Arnott

Cc: Stephen Harper
Michael Ignatieff
Jean Crowder
Todd Russell
Michaelle Jean
Shawn Atleo
Guy Lonechild
Jo-Ann Episkenew
Randy Lundy
Edward Doolittle
Aboriginal Multimedia Society
Aboriginal Peoples Television Network
The Globe & Mail
The Vancouver Sun
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

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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
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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Prof. Dr. Hartmut Lutz, Amerikanistik/Kanadistik, Univ. Greifswald, Steinbeckerstr. 15, D-17487 Greifswald
Tel.: +49 (0) 38 34 – 86 33 53
Fax: +49 (0) 38 34 – 86 33 66
E-mail: lutz@uni-greifswald.de
Privat: Nr. 23, D-17390 Bömitz, Germany
Greifswald, den 25.02.2010

Support for First Nations University of Canada

Dear Madam or Sir,

With over 600 members from universities and schools in Austria, Switzerland and Germany, the Association for Canadian Studies in the German Speaking Countries (GKS: Gesellschaft für Kanada-Studien) is the second largest national Canadian Studies association outside North America (after India). We are organized in seven scholarly disciplines and represent over twenty Canadian Studies Centres and Programs as well as hundreds of individual scholars.

Much of our research and many of our publications are focused on First Nations, Inuit and Métis issues. For years, we have enjoyed excellent ties between some of our members and First Nations University of Canada. For at least twenty years our members have visited First Nations University (or the former Saskatchewan Indian Federated College) as students, researchers and teachers, and many members of First Nations University have been involved with our institutions as visiting professors (e.g. the late director of the fine arts program, Professor Bob Boyer) and researchers (e.g: Professor Jo-Ann Episkenew, the first Aboriginal scholar from Canada to receive a PhD from a German university).

As Canadianists, we have always been appreciative and even proud of Canada’s achievements in managing cultural diversity, and we have seen with great empathy and understanding Canada’s many attempts to acknowledge and atone for the painful historical legacies of internal colonialism, especially in the field of education (residential schools). We have also witnessed with empathy and regret, the problems encountered by First Nations University in the most recent years, and we have sympathized with the energetic attempts by the university’s academics, administrators and students, to overcome the difficulties they had. Even during times of great adversity, our colleagues in Saskatchewan have energetically continued their work as researchers, teachers and administrators totally commited to Aboriginal self-determination in higher education, and we applaud all their efforts to pursue and develop Indigenous knowledge well into the future.

Canada often takes great pride in promoting the continued sovereignty and self-determination of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples as foundational members in the Canadian cultural mosaic. This message was strongly sent to all nations of the world during the preparations for and the opening of the Winter Olympics this month. Against this background,and at the precise moment, when Canada is publicly celebrating First Nations cultures flourishing in BC, it seems particularly surprising and even shocking that both levels of the Canadian government have decided to withdraw funding from the only Indigenous university of the world, unless it give up its sovereignty and return to the colonialist practice of being ruled by a non-Indigenous institution (U of R.).

On behalf of the GKS and its hundreds of members, and on behalf of continued international academic relations between First Nations University’s scholars and students, we most emphatically ask you to reconsider your truly historical and very fateful decision.

Sincerely Yours,

Prof. Dr. Hartmut Lutz,
President of the Association for Canadians Studies
in the German Speaking Countries

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I am confused and disappointed by the government of my country. The opening ceremonies of the Olympics in my city of Vancouver expressed the persistence of First Nations culture and values. There is a youth conference nearby in Squamish for native youth to focus their attention and encourage them about the value of sport and education in their lives. At the same time and despite the efforts and money spent on these two high profile events, the government declares it will eliminate funding to a key educational facility for First Nations in Canada. I am certainly unimpressed with the ironic disappointment I feel, yet again, as a Canadian.

Jacqueline Marie Heber
English Teacher
Seycove Secondary School
North Vancouver, B.C.

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