Ontario has recognized with legislation that Indigenous
Institutes form an important pillar of the province’s post-secondary education
system. And the Indigenous Advanced Education and Skills Council was created to
provide an independent accreditation body.
Vital to the Council’s success is a reciprocal working
relationship forming with the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education
Consortium, an internationally-recognized and respected organization.
“We have the highest regard for WINHEC’s academic and
scholarly expertise and know this partnership will benefit the Council’s work,
enabling Indigenous Institutes to expand their control of education that much
further,” said Laurie Robinson, Board Chairwoman and Executive Director of
A memorandum of understanding was signed Aug. 22, 2018 at
WINHEC’s annual general meeting hosted by Sarni allaskuvla and Sami University
of Applied Sciences in Guovdageaidnu/Kautokeino
WINHEC was established in 2002 during the triennial World
Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education held at Kananaskis in Calgary,
“We share the vision of all Indigenous Peoples of the world
united in the collective synergy of self-determination through control of
higher education,” the WINHEC board stated as its founding vision. “We commit
to building partnerships that restore and retain Indigenous spirituality,
cultures and languages, homelands, social systems, economic systems and
Several Indigenous Institutes in Ontario already had WINHEC
accreditation so it was a natural step for the Council and WINHEC to begin a
partnership to build on decades of academic advancement. As it turns out, they have
a shared set of values and principles encapsulated by the United Nations
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007, Articles 12-15) and the
Indigenous Institutes Act, 2017.
To begin the relationship, WINHEC shared its expertise and
methodology for organizational and program reviews, while also helping to define
standards adopted by the IAESC’s Quality Assessment Board.
It all fits well with the Council’s broader mandate to work
with Indigenous Institutes to enhance educational opportunities for students
while promoting the revitalization of Indigenous knowledges, cultures and
Robinson spoke before the MOU signing in Norway, beginning
with recognition of the hard work Indigenous educators in Ontario have made
building their post-secondary institutes in their communities.
“Indigenous Institutes were responding to their community’s
wish and desire for post-secondary education and training … in their community,”
Robinson said, noting specifically two in attendance, Rebecca Jamieson,
president of Six Nations Polytechnic and Delbert Horton, IAESC board member and
one of the founders of the Seven Generations Educational Institute.
They and others worked to establish their own institutes as
far back as the 1980s with more communities coming on board across Ontario,
“Their leadership said: ‘We need something that meets the
needs of our community members, that helps them, that educates them at home and
brings them home,’ … and they rose to the challenge and worked very diligently
for a long period of time,” she said.
An essential distinction of the Indigenous Institutes Act,
2017, she said, is that the legislation recognizes, rather than legally
creates, Indigenous Institutes.
“The important piece is jurisdiction … it recognizes them
and where the ownership lies. That’s very important,” Robinson said.
Robinson highlighted the realization that it’s all part of
an even grander vision on a global scale.
In talking with WINHEC members about the MOU, she said it
became clear it’s a step forward in an international effort.