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Making gains: Indigenous education paving the way to reconciliation

Katherine Davis, an Asper MBA graduate and business instructor at the school is teaching the course

It’s been eight years since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its final report and 94 Calls to Action. Call #62 addresses in part the need for action on reconciliation in post-secondary institutions: “We call upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, in consultation and collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal peoples, and educators, to provide the necessary funding to post-secondary institutions to educate teachers on how to integrate Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into classrooms.”

In Manitoba, post-secondary educators have taken the call to heart through initiatives that are taking real action.

Asper School of Business, University of Manitoba
In June, The Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba, on its own journey with reconciliation, announced the launch of a new Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) curriculum this fall, with a core course on Indigenous Peoples and Canadian business. In it, students will “learn about the past, present and future of Indigenous peoples and settler society, and how this history shapes Indigenous business and economic development today.” Asper is now one of the first business schools in Canada with an Indigenous Business course delivered by the faculty.

Katherine Davis, an Asper MBA graduate and business instructor at the school is teaching the course. The first iteration of the course is a pilot running in the 2022-23 academic year. “We took a consultative approach to developing the course, gathering feedback from Indigenous communities, business and students to set the priorities for the course,” says Davis. “There is a lot of diversity in Indigenous communities and we had to ensure we were getting multiple perspectives and voices.”

The course has five goals for learners: Positionality & Worldview, Journey from past to present, Relationship building, Emerging Indigenous economy and Future vision. Once the pilot is complete, the course will be evaluated and its content finalized before it becomes a requirement for undergraduates at Asper in 2024.

“This course underscores the significance of healthy relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada for business success. Without genuine reconciliation, Canada’s business potential will not be realized. The growing success of the Indigenous economy is highlighted by models that respect Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination, and demonstrates how the future can be better with the honesty to confront the harms and mistakes of the past and present,” says Davis. “For business leaders, partnering with Indigenous communities by respecting the principles of Call to Action #92, particularly free, prior and informed consent, is the responsible way of conducting business. Given that over 90 per cent of related court cases side with Indigenous communities due to misunderstandings of law, it is an oversight that can affect business operations and profitability.”

Asper also signed a memorandum of understanding between the school and both Norway House Cree Nation and Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO) on August 29. The historic agreement will see all three organizations working together to develop new programs to support and create employment opportunities in business, economic development and entrepreneurship for learners in Northern First Nations, and adding more Indigenous training and topics into Asper’s curriculum. “This MOU will lay the groundwork for a better path forward for the future of our youth and will provide opportunities that will ensure their personal and personal success for them and their families,” said Norway House Chief Larson Anderson at the signing.

The graduation ceremony represented a celebration of the unique partnership that continues between Assiniboine,
Pewapun Construction and the Atoskiwin Training & Employment Centre in Nelson House. Photo provided by ACC

Assiniboine Community College
Assiniboine Community College (ACC) is also working on education reconciliation initiatives, including a partnership with Atoskiwin Training & Employment Centre (ATEC) and Nisichawaysihk Cree Nation at Nelson House, Man. It started with a community-based nursing program many years ago, from which the partnership has grown, and continues with trades programming that helps people get trained for skills needed in the community.

On August 22, the community held a graduation for 58 learners from ACC/ATEC trades programs including the accredited Applied Plumbing and micro-trades such as drywalling, interior finishing, painting and concrete finishing.

“The training and support provided by ATEC to students helps them achieve the skills and education needed towards meaningful employment,” said Jim Moore, executive director at ATEC with the ceremony announcement. “The success is possible through collaboration and partnerships with institutions such as Assiniboine Community College, Yellowquill, UCN and also with organizations such as Workplace Education Manitoba, Pewapun, NCN Chief & Council, NCN Housing Authority, Medicine Lodge, Family and Community Wellness Centre, NNCEA. It’s with these relationships, the spirit of collaboration and working together that creates success for all our students in our community.”

The relationship between ACC and ATEC continues with more courses on the way. “We have another microtrade program coming at Nelson House, and a second intake for nursing on the horizon,” says Michael Cameron, dean of community development at ACC. “We’re totally committed to community partnerships like this one that help with Indigenous economic development. We listen to what communities need and deliver the programming. That’s what creates relationships like this one.”


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