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United Native Friendship Centre Alternative Secondary School Program (Fort Frances)

The Alternative Secondary School Program (ASSP) addresses the needs of urban Indigenous students in Fort Frances and surrounding areas by creating a culture-based educational environment where the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual areas of a student’s life are centered.

Founded in 2004, the Alternative Secondary School Program (ASSP) in Fort Frances is the culmination of a partnership between United Native Friendship Centre, Fort Frances High School and the Rainy River District School Board. The ASSP addresses the needs of urban Indigenous students in Fort Frances and the surrounding areas by creating a culture-based educational environment where the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual areas of a student’s life are centered. Through the program, students are empowered to become active members in the community and obtain an Ontario Secondary School Diploma. The program is based on individual, independent learning courses that students can complete at their own pace and offers additional tutoring. Cultural teachings, Indigenous language, and wholistic learning approaches are integrated in the curriculum to prepare urban Indigenous students for workplace readiness, skills development and training, or transition to mainstream high school or post-secondary education institutions. The program addresses food insecurity and student nutritional needs by providing a lunch program to enrolled students. Cultural programming is made possible through collaboration with Friendship Centre staff such as the Cultural Resource Coordinator, Elders, and Knowledge Keepers.

The ASSP at United Native Friendship Centre is part of an Ontario-wide network of 11 Alternative Secondary Schools supported by the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC). The OFIFC is the largest urban Indigenous service network supporting the vibrant, diverse, and quickly-growing urban Indigenous population through programs and initiatives that span justice, health, family support, long-term care, healing and wellness, employment and training, education, and research. The OFIFC represents the collective interests and vision of its 29-member Friendship Centres, which are hubs of community and gathering spaces where people can connect to their culture, access services and programs and build community.

The vision of the Friendship Centre movement is to improve the quality of life for Indigenous people living in urban environments. Education has always been an integral part of this vision, as access to culturally-safe learning opportunities that center learners’ needs and gifts is key for the wellbeing of urban Indigenous people. The Alternative Secondary School Program was first piloted in 1990, as Friendship Centre communities organized to meet the needs of students and their families, in response to major gaps in mainstream schooling that included lack of safe, culture-based, wholistic education available to Indigenous learners. The program is realized through a partnership between Friendship Centres and their local District School Board, supported by a long-standing relationship between the Ontario Ministry of Education and the OFIFC. As a program dedicated to offering personalized support to Indigenous students within a setting that combines community and academic support, the ASSP reflects Indigenous student needs and delivers education tailored to Indigenous students in an Indigenous environment.

To learn more about this program, please visit https://ofifc.org/program/alternative-secondary-school-program/ and https://unfc.org/alternative-secondary-school-program.

N’Swakamok Alternative School, N’Swakamok Friendship Centre (Sudbury)

The mission of the N’Swakamok Alternative School is to offer a wholistic and culturally inclusive educational program that meets the needs of urban Indigenous students.

Founded in 1990, N’Swakamok Alternative School is housed at the N’Swakamok Native Friendship Centre in downtown Sudbury. The program is based on individualized, independent learning courses that students can complete at their own pace. The culturally-based program provides one-to-one tutoring, small and large group instruction with an integration of Indigenous content and traditional ways of teaching and learning. The mission of the N’Swakamok Alternative School is to offer a wholistic and culturally inclusive educational program that meets the needs of urban Indigenous students. The program coordinator, teachers and Friendship Centre staff support all students as they work toward their secondary, post-secondary, career and personal goals.

The N’Swakamok Alternative School is part of an Ontario-wide network of 11 Alternative Secondary Schools supported by the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC). The OFIFC is the largest urban Indigenous service network supporting the vibrant, diverse, and quickly-growing urban Indigenous population through programs and initiatives that span justice, health, family support, long-term care, healing and wellness, employment and training, education, and research. The OFIFC represents the collective interests and vision of its 29-member Friendship Centres, which are hubs of community and gathering spaces where people can connect to their culture, access services and programs and build community.

The vision of the Friendship Centre movement is to improve the quality of life for Indigenous people living in urban environments. Education has always been an integral part of this vision, as access to culturally-safe learning opportunities that center learners’ needs and gifts is key for the wellbeing of urban Indigenous people. The Alternative Secondary School Program was first piloted in 1990, as Friendship Centre communities organized to meet the needs of students and their families, in response to major gaps in mainstream schooling that included lack of safe, culture-based, wholistic education available to Indigenous learners. The program is realized through a partnership between Friendship Centres and their local District School Board, supported by a long-standing relationship between the Ontario Ministry of Education and the OFIFC. As a program dedicated to offering personalized support to Indigenous students within a setting that combines community and academic support, the ASSP reflects Indigenous student needs and delivers education tailored to Indigenous students in an Indigenous environment.

To learn more about this program, please visit https://ofifc.org/program/alternative-secondary-school-program/ and http://www.nfcsudbury.org/nswakamok-alternative-school/.

Wiingashk Alternative Secondary School, N’Amerind Friendship Centre (London)

Wiingashk Alternative Secondary School is located at N’Amerind Friendship Centre in London. This program offers urban Indigenous students a culture-based education that balances the secondary school curriculum with wholistic, culturally relevant educational approaches.

Wiingashk offers opportunities to learn life skills and Indigenous cultural teachings and is designed to help encourage Indigenous students to continue their self-voiced educational goals. The program coordinator and teachers work collaboratively with Friendship Centre staff, specifically Indigenous counsellors and mental health supports, to assist students with their overall well-being, personal goals, and life challenges. 

The Wiingashk Alternative Secondary School is part of an Ontario-wide network of 11 Alternative Secondary Schools supported by the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC). The OFIFC is the largest urban Indigenous service network supporting the vibrant, diverse, and quickly-growing urban Indigenous population through programs and initiatives that span justice, health, family support, long-term care, healing and wellness, employment and training, education, and research. The OFIFC represents the collective interests and vision of its 29-member Friendship Centres, which are hubs of community and gathering spaces where people can connect to their culture, access services and programs and build community.

The vision of the Friendship Centre movement is to improve the quality of life for Indigenous people living in urban environments. Education has always been an integral part of this vision, as access to culturally-safe learning opportunities that center learners’ needs and gifts is key for the wellbeing of urban Indigenous people. The Alternative Secondary School Program was first piloted in 1990, as Friendship Centre communities organized to meet the needs of students and their families, in response to major gaps in mainstream schooling that included lack of safe, culture-based, wholistic education available to Indigenous learners. The program is realized through a partnership between Friendship Centres and their local District School Board, supported by a long-standing relationship between the Ontario Ministry of Education and the OFIFC. As a program dedicated to offering personalized support to Indigenous students within a setting that combines community and academic support, the ASSP reflects Indigenous student needs and delivers education tailored to Indigenous students in an Indigenous environment.

To learn more about this program, please visit https://ofifc.org/program/alternative-secondary-school-program/  and http://www.namerind.on.ca/.

Art Petahtegoose – Thinking in Our Language and Our Role in Creation

An Elder, who is preparing Anishinaabe people to be responsible, knowledgeable about their culture, creation and to show us our own personal role in Creation.

An Elder, who is preparing Anishinaabe people to be responsible, knowledgeable about their culture, creation and to show us our own personal role in Creation.

Teresa McGregor – Anishnawbek Ways of Knowing

“Choices” is an alternative School and General Cultural Programming within Native Friendship Centre and Native Health centres. The goal of the program was to revitalize culture and incorporate Anishnawbek ways.

“Choices” is an alternative School and General Cultural Programming within Native Friendship Centre and Native Health centres. The goal of the program was to revitalize culture and incorporate Anishnawbek ways.

Délina Petit Pas, Chair and Director, Mi’kmaw Language and Culture Programs, Mi’kmaw Heritage Research and Restoration Association

Délina Petit Pas is the Chair and Director of the Mi’kmaw Language and Culture Programs with the Mi’kmaw Heritage Research and Restoration Association (MHRRA), which is a not-for-profit society based in Nova Scotia.  In the interview, she describes the culture and language revitalization camps and classes offered by MHRRA in several Newfoundland communities. At the […]

Délina Petit Pas is the Chair and Director of the Mi’kmaw Language and Culture Programs with the Mi’kmaw Heritage Research and Restoration Association (MHRRA), which is a not-for-profit society based in Nova Scotia.  In the interview, she describes the culture and language revitalization camps and classes offered by MHRRA in several Newfoundland communities. At the camps, participants learn the basics of the Smith-Francis Mi’kmaw orthography and gain a deeper understanding of their language in relation to Mi’kmaw culture and traditions. Videos of esteemed Elders Bernie Francis and Curtis Michael at the camps can be found at http://vimeo.copm/channels/mhrra

Making Cree Resources and Traditional Stories Accessible

Solomon Ratt is an educator who has dedicated his life to teaching, while also creating and translating resources into Cree.

Solomon Ratt is an Associate Professor of Indigenous Languages at First Nations University of Canada. Ratt has been teaching Cree and creating Cree language learning and teaching resources since the 1970’s. He says, growing up there was no access to Indigenous literature and now, because of some key players like Freda Ahenikew and the Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre (SICC), there has been significant progress in writing both traditional stories and other stories in Cree. Despite what some people say about writing and sharing traditional Cree stories in written form, Ratt believes in order for the language to survive we need to be able to write our stories in our languages so that they are available for the next generation. More and more of our people are isolated without a community of mentors who will teach us the language – writing it and creating ways online for people to access it is crucial to its survival and the survival of our cultures. Ratt suggests a number of resources that are effective in language learning and most of them are accessible through SICC.

Resources: 

SayITFirst Books

Cree Literacy Network

Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre

Dr. Brock Pitawanakwat – Nation-specific models of education

Developing models for nation-specific education through language revitalization and community engagement.

Developing models for nation-specific education through language revitalization and community engagement.

Manitoba First Nations School System

Manitoba First Nations School System (MFNSS), begun in 2017, has been empowered to engage in Indigenous led education within the province.  Established by the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre (MFNERC), MFNSS is a First Nations-designed and led school system.  For more information, visit: https://www.mfnss.com/About/Pages/default.aspx#/=.

Manitoba First Nations School System (MFNSS), begun in 2017, has been empowered to engage in Indigenous led education within the province.  Established by the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre (MFNERC), MFNSS is a First Nations-designed and led school system.  For more information, visit: https://www.mfnss.com/About/Pages/default.aspx#/=.

Hailey Prince at the Nak’azdli Cultural Centre

Hailey Prince details the Nak’azdli Cultural Centre’s aims and initiatives of capturing and maintaining Dakelh traditional knowledge through methods of traditional knowledge transfer from Elders. The centre offers programs and classes that are focused on strengthening areas of traditional Dakelh knowledge. Classes include teaching Dakelh language; drums, rattles, snowshoes, shawls, vests, baskets making; as well, […]

Hailey Prince details the Nak’azdli Cultural Centre’s aims and initiatives of capturing and maintaining Dakelh traditional knowledge through methods of traditional knowledge transfer from Elders. The centre offers programs and classes that are focused on strengthening areas of traditional Dakelh knowledge. Classes include teaching Dakelh language; drums, rattles, snowshoes, shawls, vests, baskets making; as well, learning traditional ways of hunting, trapping, and fishing. Among being a place of teaching and learning, the Cultural Centre is a support system to the community through ensuring all those in need are cared for. A food hamper program is an example Hailey describes as one way the centre ensures those in need are cared for. All donations given to the centre are offered to families in need. Traditional knowledge retention and community support are just some of the areas in which Hailey Prince views the Nak’azdli centre as an area of success in Indigenous education.