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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/.

Harvest Days at Sturgeon Lake First Nation

Sturgeon Lake First Nation community members reflecting on Harvest Days during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Harvest Days is an example of what is possible – community members came together at the Healing Lodge, over the course of a week, and between young and old, they hunted, fished, picked berries, processed food, prepared medicines and drank pandemic immunity. Their efforts to support their community during a pandemic and their commitment to teaching the youth about land-based learning, community, and traditional health is shown in their food security preparations.

*Disclaimer: this video deals wth the processing of deer, moose, and fish for preservation and has graphic content. 

Taking Responsibility – Preserving and Teaching the Nakoda Language

In this mini language lesson, Armand McArthur shares the Nakoda language.

The late Elder Armand McArthur was a Nakoda man from Siyónide Nakóna Oyáde (Pheasant Rump First Nation). He was an instructor, both in his community and at First Nations University, specializing in teaching the Nakoda language. Using English alphabet symbols he teaches audience members how to pronounce sounds and words.

Cree Language Revitalization and Reclamation

Revitalizing the Cree language, one experience at a time.

Cree scholar, Belinda Daniels, began her nēhiyawēwin language journey so that her children would be able to speak Cree and communicate with their grandparents. She believed that if she wants this for her children then there must be many others who want this for their children too. On her journey of learning Cree and finding Cree language teaching methods she decided to create the nêhiyawak Summer Language Experience. Daniels’ education, both from Western institutions and teachings from her community have prepared her for this life’s work. She hopes that when people learn the Cree language they will understand how the language comes from the land and that the language is connected to life in this place.

Resources:

  • Herman, C., Daniels, B., Lewis, K., & Koole, M. (in review). Awakening sleeping languages in Saskatchewan with culturally appropriate curricula and technology. In H. Crompton and J. Traxler (Eds.) Critical Mobile Pedagogy: Cases of Inclusion, Development, and Empowerment. London, UK: Routledge.
  • Daniels, B., & Sterzuk, A, Turner, P., Cook, W., Thunder, D., & Morin, R. (in press). e ka pimohteyahk nikanehk ote nikan: nehiyawewin (cree language): Revitalization and Indigenous knowledge (re) generation – An ethics of southern research. In K. Heugh, C. Stround, P. De Costa & K. Taylor-Leech (Eds.). A sociolinguists of the South. Routledge

Buffalo Hide Tanning and Teachings – Part 1 – Introducing Buffalo People Arts Institute

The resilience of the buffalo is in our blood and we must re-learn and remember our relationship with the buffalo. 

Joely BigEagle-Kequahtooway and Lorne Kequahtooway are artists and leaders behind the Buffalo People Arts Institute (BPAI). Founded in 2015, BPAI became a non-profit organization whose mission is to share traditional Indigenous teachings and knowledge in order to raise social consciousness and create awareness of the power and strength drawn from blood memory and our connection to the buffalo.

In collaboration with NCCIE and Common Weal, BPAI documents the process of and teachings about buffalo hide tanning. This series of stories entitled, Buffalo Hide Tanning and Teachings, takes you on a journey of exploring connection to the buffalo while also reflecting on the social and historical realities of the buffalo and the people who rely on its survival.

Buffalo Hide Tanning and Teachings – Part 2 – Making a Buffalo Bone Scraping Tool

In Part 2 of the series, Lorne shares his knowledge about and models making a buffalo bone scraping tool used on buffalo hides. 

Lorne Kequahtooway walks the audience through a demonstration of traditional tool making while discussing the history of the tools. The first steps in making a buffalo or moose bone scraping tool is to boil the bones and remove any meat or fat left on the bone. Once the bone dries there may be hair or skin on the bone that needs to be removed. Then, the edge of the bone needs to be cut at a 60 degree angle with grooves cut into the angled edge creating a serrated edge. The serrated edge is filed and sharpened which allows for a more efficient hide scraping. The last step of this process involves drilling a hole through the bone to install a leather loop handle.

Joely BigEagle-Kequahtooway and Lorne Kequahtooway are artists and leaders behind the Buffalo People Arts Institute (BPAI). Founded in 2015, BPAI became a non-profit organization whose mission is to share traditional Indigenous teachings and knowledge in order to raise social consciousness and create awareness of the power and strength drawn from blood memory and our connection to the buffalo.

In collaboration with NCCIE and Common Weal, BPAI documents the process of and teachings about buffalo hide tanning. This series of stories entitled, Buffalo Hide Tanning and Teachings, takes you on a journey of exploring connection to the buffalo while also reflecting on the social and historical realities of the buffalo and the people who rely on its survival.

Buffalo Hide Tanning and Teachings – Part 3 – Preparing the Buffalo Hide for Scraping

In Part 3 of the series, the Buffalo People Arts Institute prepare the buffalo hide for scraping.

A lot of work goes into preparing the buffalo hide for scraping. First, you start by spreading out the hide and washing it, keeping it wet so it doesn’t dry out and harden. Before working on the hide it is important to smudge and pray for the hide, to work with it in a good way. It is important to remain open to the teachings of the hide and reflect while you are working on it. Then, in order to string up the hide it needs many holes cut into the edges of the hide. In order to make the holes it is important to cut the fat off from around the edges before it is strung up, otherwise it becomes too difficult scraping around the rope and holes. After the crew is done scraping around the edge and the holes are made, they can begin to make the 10×10 frame with which the hide will be tied to and strung up so that they can begin scraping.

Joely BigEagle-Kequahtooway and Lorne Kequahtooway are artists and leaders behind the Buffalo People Arts Institute (BPAI). Founded in 2015, BPAI became a non-profit organization whose mission is to share traditional Indigenous teachings and knowledge in order to raise social consciousness and create awareness of the power and strength drawn from blood memory and our connection to the buffalo.

In collaboration with NCCIE and Common Weal, BPAI documents the process of and teachings about buffalo hide tanning. This series of stories entitled, Buffalo Hide Tanning and Teachings, takes you on a journey of exploring connection to the buffalo while also reflecting on the social and historical realities of the buffalo and the people who rely on its survival.

Buffalo Hide Tanning and Teachings – Part 4 – Scraping a Buffalo Hide

In Part 4 of the series, the Buffalo People Arts Institute demonstrate hide scraping tips and techniques.

The meditative act of scraping a buffalo hide activates and re-awakens who we are through both physical and spiritual memories in our hearts and minds. As we do this work, we remember that our ancestors were trained from a young age to do this work and by knowing this we feel connected to them. We do this work together and are committed to seeing it through which bonds us as women. Joely BigEagle-Kequahtooway explains, “just like the buffalo we have made it through the dark times of colonization, and now we have to do this hard work to make it through the next parts.” For BigEagle-Kequahtooway, the buffalo feeds her spirit and by doing this work it makes her spirit happy – one lesson is to take actions that feed your spirit.

Joely BigEagle-Kequahtooway and Lorne Kequahtooway are artists and leaders behind the Buffalo People Arts Institute (BPAI). Founded in 2015, BPAI became a non-profit organization whose mission is to share traditional Indigenous teachings and knowledge in order to raise social consciousness and create awareness of the power and strength drawn from blood memory and our connection to the buffalo.

In collaboration with NCCIE and Common Weal, BPAI documents the process of and teachings about buffalo hide tanning. This series of stories entitled, Buffalo Hide Tanning and Teachings, takes you on a journey of exploring connection to the buffalo while also reflecting on the social and historical realities of the buffalo and the people who rely on its survival.