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Despite recommendations from the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate, the number of Aboriginal children in care continues to increase.
“That we made a recommendation last year for government to take action in partnership with Aboriginal people to start to change that trend and recognizing that the government has spoken and there has been a number of discussions ongoing that in fact that trend has gotten worse, that is a surprise,” said Del Graff, the province’s Child and Youth Advocate. “I had been hopeful that in fact it would start to move the other way or at least flatten out.”
Aboriginal Elders hold prominent, vital and respected roles in their communities — positions that are bestowed on a select few.
This is why a local Elder is concerned with an apparent trend he has seen taking shape in Edmonton.
Jerry Wood, an Elder in Residence, educator and cultural facilitator at Grant McEwan University, says he is commonly encountering people of non-Aboriginal descent passing themselves off as Elders.
“This confuses people,” said the 72-year-old Cree First Nations Elder, who also sits on the Council of Elders with the Edmonton Catholic School District.
“Native people don’t want to see others play around with their culture, it’s very spiritual, something they hold sacred.”
Wood described two recent occasions where people self-proclaimed themselves as Elders. He calls these people “plastic” or “popcorn” Elders.
Beating an alpaca skin drum with a Peruvian Elder, learning how to build and cook traditional food in an earth stove, and tasting guinea pig were just a few of the experiences Chance Roasting of Hobbema had on a 10-day trip to Peru.
Roasting, who was attending school at Tsuu T’ina, was one of five outstanding youth from Calgary and Edmonton area nominated by their schools to participate in an exchange program that introduced students to how Alberta non-governmental organizations help in international development. Paired with five Peruvian youth, the group was immersed in the Peruvian culture as part of the Change Your World Alberta Youth Leadership Tour initiated by the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation.
“Before the trip, I didn’t know what international development was. I understand it now. The world should be focusing more on stuff like that,” Roasting said.
Michelle Thrush has been recognized once more – this time as an Aboriginal Role Model.
The Calgary-born Cree actress has met with success in films and television, such as Northern Exposure, North of 60, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and Highlander, and has 25 years of experience in the arts industry. In 2011 she was awarded a Gemini for best performance in a continuing leading dramatic role for her work in Blackstone.
“This has been a phenomenal year, what with the Gemini, which was a huge honour, the biggest in Canada for acting. And I also received the Rosie Award, which is given for the best performance by an Alberta actress, from the Alberta Film and Television Awards,” Thursh said.
She has several more projects on the go and expects to keep busy with films in Canada and the United States.Visit the Gallery
Tân’si, kitatamiskâkowâw awa nehiyaw iskwew Dorothy Thunder ehisiyihkâsot Little Pine First Nation, Saskatchewan ohci. Metoni nanâskomew onekihikom‚wa epekiskinohamâkot nehiyaw pimâtisiwin.
[Hello and how are you? You are all greeted by this Plains Cree woman Dorothy Thunder from Little Pine First Nation, Sask. She is very thankful to her parents for teaching her the Cree way of life.]
Cree runs deeply in Dorothy Thunder’s DNA.
It was her first language as she grew up in Little Pine Reserve, near Cutknife, Sask. Despite being a fluent Cree speaker, she says, learning to read and write her language was a huge challenge. Learning Nehiyawewin – the Cree language – in university allowed her to see it from a different perspective.
The gift of a large brown rock and an urge to skip a night class became the turning point that changed Jason Carter’s life. It was the night his inner sculptor emerged.
“One night, I had to go to a class and was looking for a reason to skip,” he recalls. “I picked up the rock, scraped at it, took it onto the deck and used the tools I had – a screwdriver and a wrench – and I turned it into a raven. I sat on the deck for six hours and carved, and that was it. I was hooked.”
Since then, Carter’s talent has propelled him from one show to another, to exhibits and commissions that recently pushed him to leave a day job he loved at CityTV, to dedicate his time to his art. He is widely recognized as an accomplished contemporary Aboriginal visual artist.
Aboriginal youth across the province are discussing the challenges they face when transitioning out of government care services — information that will form the basis of a report brought to the legislature in the New Year.
The Office of the Child and Youth Advocate, an independent Office of the Legislature, launched 15 focus group consultations in October and November in urban, rural and Aboriginal communities across the province.
Youth aged 17 to 21, who are currently receiving services under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, were asked about the challenges they face when transitioning into independence.
Focus groups were conducted in Aboriginal communities such as Saddle Lake, Hobbema and Stoney Nakoda, said Melanie Lukevich, public education specialist with OCYA. These communities were chosen as there is a higher representation of Aboriginal youth in care.
Two southern Alberta First Nations are using provincial government money gleaned from the Civil Forfeiture Fund to fight gang activity.
The Stoney Nation received $135,000 for its Youth Engagement Strategy in Morley and its satellite community of Eden Valley, while the Kainai Family Early Intervention program at Standoff also received $138,000 for it Eagle Eyes Program.
“Gangs are not as bad as some other reserves, such as Hobbema,” said Bearspaw CEO Rob Shotclose.
While there are some visible signs of possible gang activity at Morley such as graffiti, Shotclose says they want to “nip it in the bud.”
The Youth Engagement Strategy project is twofold, comprised of a primary and a secondary intervention strategy. The primary aspect will provide weekly activities for children and families, and communicate the risks associated with gang involvement.
An Inuit beneficiary card is not sufficient identification for a young Inuk boy from Kuujjuaq, Quebec, who now lives in Alberta, to obtain a provincial fishing licence.
“I have been inquiring about a domestic fishing licence from Fish and Wildlife for my son, and have been given quite the run around,” said Helene Paul.
Paul began pursuing the fishing license for her son Michel, 15, this past summer, making application to the Fish and Wildlife office in Cold Lake, where she resides.
“They said all I had to show was a status card, but his was an Inuit card and they said the card wasn’t sufficient,” Paul said.
Jessica Potter, spokesperson for Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, says a letter from a Quebec government official is required.
Even though the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation says the federal government’s caribou recovery plan has not addressed all concerns, neither the ACFN nor the handful of other First Nations that forced the government’s hand on protecting the woodland caribou will be pursuing further legal action on that plan at this point.
In October, the federal government released its Boreal Woodland Caribou Recovery Strategy.
“They’ve identified stronger areas for protection, but what they’ve missed is that there are certain herds in areas that are vital to First Nations … in geographical areas that they are still not addressing,” said Eriel Deranger, spokesperson for ACFN.
She says the government has chosen not to protect caribou and bison in areas that are tarsand extraction zones.
“They’re vital. We have scientific data and traditional ecological knowledge data that have outlined these areas as critical to species survival,” she said.
Students, faculty and staff from Bow Valley College’s Aboriginal Addictions Services Counselling certificate program gather for the 15th annual Wellness Walk, which launched National Addictions Awareness Week.
National Addictions Awareness Week marked
Chris Robinson, executive director with the Royal Alberta Museum, introduces the museum’s newest collection, Innujaq: Dolls of the Canadian Arctic.
Inuit collection of dolls on display
Marilyn Buffalo was elected president of the Indian Association of Alberta at the annual general meeting on Nov. 3. The IAA is a grassroots treaty rights organization. “The IAA provided research to the treaty chiefs, who then acted in unity with the IAA. It was the right combination of force and influences to protect our rights,” said Buffalo, in a news release. Two board positions remain vacant. Board members for Treaty 7 and Treaty 8 are still required. Rounding out the executive are Mervin Grandbois (Treaty 6), L. Cheryl Blood-Bouvier (Treaty 7), Robert Cree (Treaty 8), all in vice-president positions; Rose Saddleback (treasurer) and Marie Smallboy (secretary).
Brittany Smith, of Strathmore, is one of 10 recipients of this year’s RBC Aboriginal Student Awards Program. Over 500 applications were received from students who are pursuing post-secondary education. Smith, a Métis, is enrolled at the University of Saskatchewan, in Veterinary Medicine. “With the Aboriginal population growing nearly six times faster than the general population, it’s never been more important for Aboriginal youth to overcome the financial obstacles that prevent them from pursuing higher education,” said Chinyere Eni, national director, Aboriginal Markets, RBC. “With the right resources and educational support, Aboriginal youth can contribute to Canada’s economic prosperity.” The RBC has been awarding funding for 20 years. Each year, the RBC Aboriginal Student Awards Program provides $4,000 annually, for a maximum of four years, to 10 students pursuing a post-secondary education.
Chief Wilton Littlechild, presently commissioner on the Indian Residential Schools’ Truth and Reconciliation Commission, was among a number of recent Aboriginal recipients of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. Also awarded was Bertha Clark, of Athabasca. Clark is a respected Elder, trailblazer and champion for Indigenous women across Canada. She founded the organization now known as the Native Women’s Association of Canada and is an Officer of the Order of Canada.
The province has added a provision into the Education Act that allows appointment — rather than election — of school board trustees from select communities, which would include First Nations. Jacquie Hansen, with the Alberta School Boards Association, said the new provisions outlined in the act, would likely be first utilized by certain rural school boards in the province that have agreements in place with multiple First Nations. Appointed First Nations trustees are given full voting power but can only make up one-third of any Alberta school board, with the other positions being filled through general elections. The new Education Act passed on Nov. 20.
The Alberta Court of Appeal dismissed an application from Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and Métis groups for leave to appeal a decision of the Joint Review Panel to not review the adequacy of Crown consultation before deciding whether to approve Shell’s Jackpine Mine expansion project. The court’s decision was rendered Nov. 26. “If there is a violation of our constitutionally protected treaty rights it should be dealt with before this project is found to be in the public interest. A project of this magnitude couldn’t possibly be in the public interest if our rights have not been upheld and we have not been adequately consulted,” said ACFN Chief Allan Adam in a news release. ACFN is currently reviewing their options to address the lack of adequate consultation with respect to Shell’s tar sands project.
Alberta Chiefs have let Aboriginal Relations Minister Robin Campbell know they are concerned about a discussion paper released this fall on consultation, which is legally required before any projects can proceed on Crown lands. “It’s quite clear the goal is to continue to minimize what it really means to consult with First Nations,” said Grand Chief Marvin Yellowbird of Treaty 6. “The province’s current discussion paper approach is not meaningful.” The three-page discussion paper suggests a single office would set standards and determine how much consultation was required. It would also produce a “matrix” outlining what would be necessary for what kind of project. The chiefs say government alone cannot determine appropriate levels of consultation without input from those being consulted. The comment period on the policy has been extended from Nov. 30 until the end of December.
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