Friends, one of the main things you learn to do in higher education is to think for yourself, which is actually the purpose of true knowledge.
From a recent column by Bruce Valpy, publisher of News/North, we learn that a shocking 80 per cent of Grade 6 and 9 Northern students are failing in both Math and English.
These being two of the main subjects you need to get anywhere these days, that figure makes a sad statement about where we are headed, or not, today.
When I first began my Indigenous PhD studies some four years ago, one of the main reasons for my picking Trent University was that a Northern student, Celine Vukson, was already there, in the same program.
We stayed in touch over the years, sharing many of the experiences of anyone far from home and in a strange environment.
Our school, Trent U, actually has the longest running Indigenous studies program in the country.
For over fifty years, it has been dedicated to the study of Indigenous peoples and Indigenous knowledge.
What with all of that, it still was not meeting our needs, in a number of very basic ways as Northerners.
Faced with having to do her exam out on the barrenlands while on a canoe trip from her hometown of Behchoko, Celine complained to Trent U that theirs was still very much a Mola or European way of teaching. The Indigenous students were made to feel out of touch and not part of a close-knit community, as they should have been.
The school eventually agreed to allow us students to take our comprehensive exams home, to get out of the stifling classroom situation.
For my part as a residential school survivor, I wanted to be able to do a more self-directed approach, to be allowed to use my professional skills as an artist for research.
I got student assessment onside and now here we were, two Northern Dene students who have tipped the balance, breaking trail for future pupils.
With my research proposal, Sa Ra-ahyileyea T’sodaneke, The Youth in the Midnight Sun, I want to continue to work with my home community, Radilih Koe, Fort Good Hope, to help honour the memory of victims of cancer with a large mural/memorial, which will be painted this coming summer, along with other projects.
This new approach also makes it possible for me to work with the medicine people of our southern relatives, the Navajo Dene.
It is good to get into a place of higher learning, friends, but once there, it is important to do your part to make changes for the better.
Mahsi, thank you.

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