Ontario announces intent to recognize and respect Indigenous education

On November 23, 2017, the province of Ontario announced its intention to introduce legislation that will recognize Indigenous Institutes as a third complementary pillar in postsecondary education and create a new pathway for Indigenous students to earn a diploma, certificate or degree.

Currently, Indigenous post-secondary institutions like Six Nations Polytechnic (SNP) must offer diplomas or degrees in partnerships with other, Ontario recognized, colleges and universities. The one exception to this can be found at Six Nations Polytechnic. In December 2015, SNP received ministerial consent to offer and grant the Bachelor of Arts in Ogwehoweh Languages. By successfully completing the rigorous Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board process, SNP demonstrated that Indigenous institutions are more than capable of designing, creating, delivering and accrediting their own degrees, while maintaining cultural and intellectual integrity when it comes to Indigenous Knowledge.

As a result, this past June, SNP held its very first convocation to grant 11 degrees to the first class of graduates in the Bachelor of Arts in Ogwehoweh Languages program. This was an important and historic day, as it was the first time an Indigenous postsecondary institution had ever granted its own degree, for its own people, on Indigenous land.

Six Nations Polytechnic also underwent a separate review process to receive accreditation from the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium (WINHEC) in July 2017. In receiving accreditation from WINHEC, Six Nations Polytechnic has been recognized as an Indigenous-serving institution whose work is framed by the Indigenous philosophy of the Indigenous community it serves; is soundly conceived and intelligently devised; integrates Indigenous culture, language and worldviews into programming; and is purposefully being accomplished in a manner that should continue to merit confidence by the Indigenous constituencies being served.

When it comes to partnerships and reconciliation, Six Nations Polytechnic uses a unique “two-row” approach. Based on the teachings of the two-row wampum, SNP works alongside Ontario colleges and universities to re-establish the relationship of reciprocity for the benefit of all who share this land. At SNP, learners of all backgrounds are welcomed and encouraged to share their individual experiences, while respectfully interacting with other knowledge systems.

Ontario’s announcement today marks an important day in history. As the Ontario government announces its intent to acknowledge Indigenous institutions as a “third pillar” of postsecondary education in the province, the Government is demonstrating its resolve to be a full partner with Indigenous educational institutions on the journey towards reconciliation.

As reaffirmed in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, First Nations have an inherent right to self-determination, and education is a large part of this. The forthcoming legislation will not only demonstrate Ontario’s commitment, but will help Indigenous Institutions collectively change the future to build relationships based on trust, respect, and recognition of Indigenous Knowledge.

Quotes:

“Ontario’s announcement to recognize and respect the work Indigenous education institutes have been doing sends an important message to all people living in Ontario; that Indigenous education is unique, that Indigenous education is thriving, and that Indigenous education is essential to the future of this country. At Six Nations Polytechnic we welcome learners of all backgrounds, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. We are hopeful that this announcement today will signify our openness to learning together and learning from each other as we work to build a future mindful of reconciliation.”

  • Rebecca Jamieson, President/CEO, Six Nations Polytechnic

“I commend Ontario for recognizing the importance of Indigenous education and acknowledging the good work that our Institutions are doing. This is a testament to the commitment that the Province made to the First Nations in Ontario when the Premier signed the Political Accord. The announcement today sets the bar for the other Provinces in the country and challenges them to place the same importance and significance on Indigenous education.”

  • Ava Hill, Chief, Six Nations Elected Council