First Nations University Working with our Community

Capacity Building – LaLoche

Building capacity in communities is part of our mission at First Nations University of Canada. After the LaLoche school shooting in January 2016, many people and organizations across the country wanted to help, but many didn’t know where to start. First Nations University of Canada was one of the first groups on the ground and is still working directly with community members in Clearwater River Dene Nation by offering the Bachelor of Indigenous Education (Elementary) program. This four-year program will produce teachers who will remain in their home community and educate the next generation. The program has been especially designed to focus on the Dene language and culture. Graduates from this program will continue the legacy of cultural pride and traditional values in Clearwater River. One of the goals of First Nations University’s collaboration with Clearwater River and the Northern Lights School Division is to create an environment in which local children can learn in a Dene immersion educational setting. This in-depth experience of Dene culture will instill hope in the next generation of learners.

Thirty students are enrolled in the Dene Teacher Education Program, offered at the Clearwater River Dene Nation school on reserve.

This program is an excellent example of how this institution is able to help community members get degrees while still living in their home communities. In addition to offering culturally-relevant curriculum, we have staff who understand the challenges faced by students living on reserve. With some of the most talented Indigenous staff in the country, we offer programming that integrates Indigenous worldviews and it is tailored to help Indigenous students succeed.

First Nations University has been successfully offering community-based programming, including teacher education, for more than forty years. Programs have been offered throughout Saskatchewan, and are now being expanded to other provinces and territories.

This program is special because it represents the power of university programming to give hope and new direction to First Nations communities dealing with poverty, suicide, and, in this case, a tragic shooting by a troubled young person.

Students in La Loche
Students in the Dene Education Teacher Program

Language Retention and Renewal

Our languages are an integral part of everything we do at First Nations University of Canada. In addition to the university courses we offer in Cree, Dene, Saulteaux, and Dakota/Lakota/Nakota, we have also partnered with Prince’s Charities Canada to meet several of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action on Language. In collaboration with Prince’s Charities Canada we are working to develop a “Sesame Street” style video that will provide an introduction to Plains Cree, with a focus on teaching the fundamentals to children aged three to five. The video will be dramatized entirely in Plains Cree using puppets, animation and live actors. The script will be written with input from Elders, daycare workers, community members and teachers. To support the video, an additional ten hours of language games and activities will also be created, including board games, group activities, paper bag cut-outs, mural ideas, etc.

Our partnership is also working to provide Digital Language Revitalization workshops in seven communities across the country including locations in Prince Edward Island, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan. These workshops will engage community based-educators and Knowledge Keepers to provide Indigenous youth with training in the fundamentals of computer animation and programming. In this project, youth participants will produce an animation or interactive game with an emphasis on revitalization and preservation of local culture and language. FNUniv students will participate in each project, which uses a “train-the-trainer” model. In each class, two student representatives and at least two educators and an Elder/Knowledge Keeper will be trained on the animation software.

The workshops will culminate in an opportunity for family members and local leadership to interact with the digital creations of the youth participants. With participants’ consent, the projects will also be published in an on-line format in order to encourage and facilitate an exchange of ideas with the broader public as well to provide an opportunity for youth to showcase their talents.

Prince’s Charities Canada (PCC) works with existing Canadian charities and facilitates new opportunities for charitable organizations in Canada. The focus of the charity is on The Prince of Wales’s core interests which have been well-established in the UK for more than 30 years. These include improving the lives of disadvantaged youth, Indigenous issues, education, responsible business, improving the built environment, regeneration of heritage, environmental sustainability and support for the armed forces.

One of the projects on which PCC and FNUniv have worked in partnership is the development of children’s books in Indigenous languages to be used in elementary school settings on reserves and in First Nations communities. The project has been structured so that FNUniv will take the lead role in editing, and translating all of the children’s books that are being created and distributed. To date, books have been created in the three dialects of the Cree languages and dialects, with further books in additional languages and dialects under development or planned for the near future. FNUniv students in the Indigenous Education (teacher education) degree program are distributing and teaching these children’s books in schools and communities across Saskatchewan. Our plan is to expand the distribution of books to other provinces and territories in the next few years.

First Nations Language Instructors’ Certificate graduation ceremony on Carry the Kettle Nakoda First Nation
First Nations Language Instructors’ Certificate graduation ceremony on Carry the Kettle Nakoda First Nation

Community Outreach and Support

When Piapot Cree First Nation needed a space to continue its Adult Basic Education program, offered by Southeast Regional College, First Nations University of Canada was there to help. On very short notice, the community approached the university looking for space to continue to offer this vital programming.

At the university, we know how important Adult Basic Education, which allows adult learners to complete their secondary school education, is for future success. Because we have a nimble and dedicated team, we are able to react quickly to assist our communities. Within a short time-frame, we were able to find the perfect space within our own building.

Now, these students have a classroom situated on the second floor of our building, complete with all of the essential components of a modern classroom. In addition to having a safe, reliable location in which to learn, these students are also able to take classes in a culturally-supportive institution where they see other Indigenous people furthering their own academic dreams. The ABE students can join in the many cultural events and activities offered each semester at the First Nations University of Canada.

These programs may seem small, but for many they are an invaluable lifeline and starting point to future success that may one day lead them to further education, training, and success. We are proud to be able to accommodate such programs.

In addition to supporting Piapot’s Adult Basic Education program, First Nations University is also reaching out to Scott Collegiate, a secondary school in north Regina with a largely First Nations student body. Over the past year, First Nations University has partnered with Scott and other local schools to host the first-ever Indigenous student secondary graduation on its campus last June. We have also arranged for Scott students to come on a regular basis to take part in cultural activities and to have classroom experiences. Currently, we are working with Scott to begin offering transitional university courses right in Scott’s new expanded facility.

Indigenous Management: Certificate in Administration (Level I & Level II)

For many, the field of Business and Administration offers the opportunity to not only build a fulfilling career, but also to develop capacity within our own communities. In order to meet these opportunities, First Nations University of Canada is developing a uniquely Indigenous knowledge-based program.

Within the program, Elders explain key concepts like that of ‘pimatsawin’. Employing this Cree concept of ‘pimatsawin’, students learn about the difference between ‘Making a Living’ and ‘Making Money’. The concept of ‘pimatsawin’ is about pursuing development to support your family and community, not solely to make money. In this way, students are encouraged to look at development through an Indigenous worldview and employ their own unique values to meet the issues and demands found in their own communities.

Each course is offered in a fully interactive online environment and includes dynamic, online video presentations on key concepts from Indigenous Elders, Indigenous business and community leaders, as well as up and coming Indigenous entrepreneurs. Students work through and analyze case studies from Indigenous communities, as well as participate in online discussions with their Professors and fellow students.


Students attending a science demonstration on campus.
Students attending a science demonstration on campus.

At First Nations University of Canada we are always looking for ways to engage and inspire the next generation. One of the unique programs we offer to schools on First Nations as well as urban schools with Indigenous students is a trip to our science labs. Here, instructors take students on a tour of the lab and emphasize the opportunities available for Indigenous people in science fields. Students take part in hands-on science experiments in our labs. They also get the opportunity to interact with other Indigenous scientists who are pursuing their degrees and teaching on campus.

A unique aspect of this program is the combination of Indigenous knowledge with scientific methodology. Our academics work with Indigenous Elders to fully integrate traditional knowledge into our science classes. The result is a program that offers students a solid basis in conventional scientific theory while also including our own traditional world views and knowledge. We find that the combination makes for an enriched and truly distinct program.

Reconciliation Studies

Professor and Elder Willie Ermine.

Following the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the CRS program focusses on recognizing the shared history of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples and the need to promote healing, equity and respect for Indigenous peoples, cultures and values in Canadian society. This interdisciplinary certificate program will allow students to take core courses and electives from Indigenous Studies in the Department of Indigenous Languages, Arts and Culture (DILAC) and Indigenous Health Studies, Indigenous Education, and Indigenous Social Work programs in the Department of Indigenous Health, Education and Social Work (DIESW), and Department of Indigenous Science, the Environment and Economic Development (DISEED). The CRS is intended to benefit non-degree seeking individuals who may apply this certificate for career advancement, as well as students enrolled in degree programs in Social Work, and Health offered at First Nations University of Canada. Through these programs students will engage with historic and current contexts of Indigenous and non-Indigenous relations and with the Truth and Reconciliation’s 2016 Calls to Action students will be prepared to act as leaders for reconciliation within their communities and in future employment.