Great start for student gathering

Great start for student gathering

Students representing Indigenous Institutes from across Ontario converged in North York today to help to begin building a new post-secondary education foundation.

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. 

There is a story behind every name and it's a good ice-breaker for a gathering of people about to work together.
There is a story behind every name and it's a good ice-breaker for a gathering of people about to work together.

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 closing dinner.

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.

29th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario Elizabeth Dowdeswell was the special guest speaker at the opening dinner. Sara Cornthwaite Photo
29th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario Elizabeth Dowdeswell was the special guest speaker at the opening dinner. Sara Cornthwaite Photo

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.”

Laurie Robinson, chairwoman and executive director of the Indigenous Advanced Education and Skills Council.
Laurie Robinson, chairwoman and executive director of the Indigenous Advanced Education and Skills Council.

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. 

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