In the Northwest Territories, a new blend of traditional and academic ways of knowing. First in a series on empowering Indigenous youth.
By Angela Sterritt, 22 Oct 2013, TheTyee.ca
It was late afternoon at Blachford Lake in Akaitcho Territory, Denendeh, the Dene name for the Northwest Territories. Indigenous youth circled around an open fire on rocky terrain and learned about self-determination and the land. They were students gaining knowledge in a unique university, one rooted in the land and life on it. It’s called Dechinta — the bush university.
Dechinta combines theory and academia with land-based cultural activities — like tanning moose hides — and indigenous knowledge. It was mandated to develop an institution of higher learning in the Canadian North. [read more]
Courses at bush school accredited through University of Alberta
Northern News Services
Published Tuesday, July 2, 2013
NWT’s “bush university” has been offering University of Alberta accredited courses for three years, but on Thursday the two schools’ partnership was finally formalized.
“We’ve been common-law for a while now and now we’re making it official,” Erin Freeland Ballantyne joked. She’s the founder of the school and currently sits on the board of directors.
Ballantyne presented University of Alberta representative Brendan Hokowhitu with a gift followed by an embrace on the rooftop of the Doug Bryan Building in Old Town. Afterwards they proceeded with a more “colonial” symbol of alliance, the signing of a memorandum of understanding. [read more]
We would like to congratulate Dechinta Faculty and Advisory Circle Founding Member Dr. Lois Edge for her appointment as Nexen Chair in Indigenous Leadership at Banff Centre.
Lois Edge received her PhD in Educational Policy Studies with a specialization in Indigenous Peoples Education from the University of Alberta. Her doctoral research considers the relationship of participation in traditional cultural activities, such as beadwork, to Indigenous identity, lifelong learning and well-being. Her work in the fields of Indigenous education and Aboriginal health includes participation in several Indigenous knowledge research initiatives involving collaboration with Aboriginal community members, Indigenous knowledge holders and multiple stakeholders. Lois is Academic Coordinator with the Centre for World Indigenous Knowledge and Research at Athabasca University. She is a Gwich’in/Cree Métis from Fort Smith, Northwest Territories.
More information on the appointment can be found here.
Dechinta students share success stories
Northern News Services
Published Friday, Oct. 26, 2012
After 12 weeks of on the land and academic study, seven students are the latest to graduate from the Dechinta Bush University, and they are raving about the program.
Past graduate Kristen Tanche and Brooke Hope were so impressed by what they learned, that both are considering enrolling in post secondary programs at the popular NWT university.
The university, located at Blachford Lake Lodge, about 20 minutes from Yellowknife by charter plane, offers Northern and aboriginal courses – courses which are “taught by Northern leaders, about the Northern context, with an agenda set by Northerners, supported by leading professors with relevant experience,” according to Dechinta’s website.
Courses this semester included self-determination in theory and in practice, health promotion, sustainable community development, traditional leadership, community-based research methodologies and community governance.
The opportunity to learn history and traditional languages impressed Tanche the most.
“I wanted to take Dechinta ever since it opened,” said Tanche, a financial officer with Simpson Air. She said the program exposed her to, “A lot of history of the Northwest Territories at the academic level, which you don’t really get that at other post secondary schools.”
Remaining true to traditional Dene learning, and revisiting traditional language was also a draw for Tanche.
Hope, currently living in Yellowknife and hoping to enrol in another Dechinta program, enjoyed the hands on aspect to academic work.
“It was cool to have elders out there, and being able to build relationships with the professors … we learned a lot about self-governing and self-determination,” Hope said.
Seven students graduated this fall, and according to Hope and Tanche, the experience is one that everyone should experience.
“I think it’s important for people to know the history and where you come from,” Hope said.
The Northern university has received many academic nods this past year, including the Ashoka Changemakers Award for Education Innovation from the Royal Bank of Canada.
The award recognizes innovation in leadership and educational programming.
An MA Student is required for a 1-2 year commitment to assist with tasks and activities associated with a SSHRC-funded research project focused on researching and evaluating land-based university programming.
This successful candidate will be an Indigenous MA Student, or Indigenous student currently in a second-degree professional program. Preference will be given to Indigenous students from the Northwest Territories (Dene, Metis and Inuvialuit).
Dechinta land-based university is located at Blachford Lake Lodge, 220km east of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, on the Chief Drygeese traditional territory of the Yellowknives Dene. The program blends land based cultural activities and knowledge with university courses accredited by university partners. Courses are co-taught by Indigenous knowledge holders and university professors. The purpose of the program is to provide students with a university level learning experience grounded in Indigenous cosmologies and cultural practice.
The MA Student will be expected to assist the principal investigator with developing the institutional model for Dechinta through:
Expectations associated with this position will be identified through a work plan and be consistent with SSHRC guidelines for research student funding. Remuneration for this position is $12,000.00 per year.
CLOSING DATE: March 15, 2012
Please direct inquiries to:
Stephanie Irlbacher-Fox, PhD
Principal Investigator, Dechinta Partnership Development Grant
Send resumes with a cover letter and names of three references to:
Program Manager, Dechinta
Effective, culturally relevant educational programming in Northern Canada has proven elusive at all levels of the educational system. At the post-secondary level, Northern colleges provide essential vocational training, but they rely on partnerships with southern universities to provide some access to degree programs to northern students unable to leave the North. Canada remains the only circumpolar country without a Northern-based university. Yet the need for a well-educated northern population is great, and growing. Faced with unique challenges ranging from climate change and Arctic sovereignty to Indigenous social, economic and political development, the future of North will depend on the capacity of residents to think critically and act wisely in the stewardship of Northern lands and resources.
Dechinta Bush University is based on the vision and commitment of a group of Northern based scholars and southern university supporters seeking to establish a Northern university that draws on Northern strengths: Indigenous cultures, connection to the land, and the necessity for innovating to address unique northern circumstances. This project will see up to 225 graduate students receiving instruction through land-based hands on learning from up to 90 academic instructors and land-based experts in bush-camp settings, supported by several well-established southern universities and Northern Aboriginal, cultural and research organizations.
The program speaks directly to the needs and aspirations of both students and Northern communities: its aim is to produce a cohort of Northern Indigenous students positioned to respond to their community needs through the unique training they will receive at Dechinta.
Conceptualized on a tutoring/apprenticeship pedagogical approach grounded in critical Indigenous educational methodologies, Dechinta offers an environment where Indigenous cultural skills and knowledge provide the basis for developing twenty university-accredited courses. The plethora of issues facing the North today – from climate change to self government – require that decision and policy makers working in communities are increasingly required to function effectively across a range of knowledge sectors.
Small Indigenous communities are beginning to achieve wide-ranging powers to govern under land claims and self government agreements, at the same time that they are struggling to overcome effects of colonization and face global challenges. Tomorrow’s leaders and policy-makers face a complexity of information assimilation and decision making unparalleled in history.
At the same time communities are increasingly relying on their cultural confidence in their Indigenous knowledge as a source of strength and guidance in making decisions. And as these communities achieve a level of self-government, they are anxious to see their children acquire the education and skills necessary to replace a transient non-Indigenous population which currently predominates among the decision making elite. Dechinta represents an opportunity to share in building a unique land-based learning experience that will stand as a model approach to Indigenous and Northern education throughout the circumpolar world.
In the Northwest Territories, a new blend of traditional...
Courses at bush school accredited through University...
We would like to congratulate Dechinta Faculty and...
Dechinta students share success stories Sara Wilson...
An MA Student is required for a 1-2 year commitment...