representing Indigenous Institutes from across Ontario converged in North
York today to help to begin building a new post-secondary education
The Our Community, Our Choice conference, which continues Thursday, is the first
such event to gather students for their input in setting the standards the
Indigenous Advanced Education and Skills Council will use during the
accreditation process moving forward.
The conference is dedicated to the late Delbert Horton,
a founding board member of IAESC one
of the many important contributions of his during a life-time of leadership,
focused on making communities stronger through education.
Jeremy Andy, 25, of
Seven Generations Education Institute, arrived Tuesday. He lives in Fort
Frances and is a member of Couchiching First Nation. He’s studying Anishinaabemowin
in the hope of understanding the deeper meaning beyond the linguistics to learn
the breadth of his culture.
“I know how to speak
Ojibwe a little bit, but I’m going to school so that I can speak well enough to
understand more when I am able to speak to our Elders,” Andy said just hours
before the gathering was to begin.
“This will help me
understand more about myself, where my ancestors came from and that will give
me a deeper connection to our culture.”
The conference begins in
the afternoon at the Westin Prince Hotel with a full day scheduled at Evergreen
Brickworks Thursday before returning to the hotel to wrap things up with a
Joining the Seven
Generations contingent are students from Kenjgewin Teg, Anishinabek Education Institute, First
Nations Technical Institute, Oshki Pimache-o-win: The Wenjack Education
Institute, Six Nations Polytechnic and Shingwauk Kinomaage Gamig.
Social media accounts are also being
used to connect with students at Institutes who are not attending in person
with Instagram @ouriaesc, Twitter @IAESC1 and Facebook IAESC while updates will
also be posted at the Council’s website www.iaesc.ca
“The Indigenous Advanced Education and Skills
Council (IAESC) was created to provide quality assurance to this new and
important pillar and students are uniquely qualified to guide this work,” said
Laurie Robinson, chairwoman and executive director of the Council.
After the opening traditional
ceremony and an introductory workshop a dinner is being held with the 29th
Lieutenant Governor of Ontario Elizabeth Dowdeswell joining the students,
facilitators and organizers as special guest speaker. The evening also features
entertainment provided by Adrian Sutherland, a language keeper among the
Mushkegowuk Cree of James Bay and Midnight Shine band member.
Robinson said the insight and perspective of
Indigenous Institute students is vital to shaping the standards for the
Council’s quality assurance and accreditation process.
“We are at a new time in Indigenous post-secondary
education and training in Ontario,” Robinson said, noting it’s been a difficult
journey to get to this juncture where Indigenous control of Indigenous
education is possible. “We have never been here before and the students
themselves are vital to the building process.”
On Thursday at the Brickworks, a
sunrise ceremony is followed by workshop discussions kicking off with
inspirational words from Ashley Callingbull, a Plains Cree role model from
Enoch First Nations. Facilitators are Erin Dokis, a post-secondary educator
from Dokis First Nation and Perry McLeod Shabogesic, IAESC’s cultural advisor
from Nipissing First Nation.
The goal of the first-ever gathering of its kind is
to learn from the students what an “ideal” post-secondary experience must
include. What do they value? What do they need to fulfill their role in making
their families and community the best it can possibly be?
Back at the Westin Prince for closing ceremonies
and dinner, the event concludes with students sharing their thoughts before
entertainment that includes Sagkeen’s Finest performing their award-winning
dance and DJ NDN, (Ian Campeau, a co-founder of the Juno Award-winning
Tribe Called Red and also from Nipissing First Nation) providing unique musical
styling., Lisa Charleyboy, Tsilhgot’in from Tsi Deldel First Nation and
award-winning story teller, is MC for the evening’s entertainment.