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Successful pilot program provides a step ahead


This past summer, Enji giigdoyang, Nipissing’s Office of Indigenous Initiatives, partnered with the Near North School Board to pilot the Summer Reach Ahead Program, giving students entering Grade 9 the opportunity to earn a Native Studies high school credit prior to entering secondary school in the fall.

Taking place on Nipissing’s campus in early July, the program featured the course, Expressing Aboriginal Cultures, which engaged the themes of Identity, Relationships, Sovereignty and Challenges in relation to local Indigenous arts practices.

The Summer Reach Ahead Program was a four-day learning opportunity where students also experienced university life – they stayed in residence, took classes on campus, attended lectures and engaged in experiential learning activities in the Treaty Learning Centre and outdoors. Students explored Indigenous cultures in Canada through art forms such as painting, storytelling, dance, film, and music. They also considered the relationships between the art forms and traditions, philosophy, and culture. To achieve this credit, students are required to complete reflective assignments and a creative project following the experience.

The course was taught by Tyler Dokis, with support from Enji giigdoyang staff and student employees who facilitated learning activities. It welcomed 16 students from Moose Deer Point, Bear Island, Henvey Inlet, Parry Sound, and North Bay.

Workshops throughout the week were facilitated by special guests including Aanmitaagzi, Aylan Couchie, an Anishinaabe artist from Nipissing First Nation; Dan Commanda, an artist and Elder from Nipissing First Nation; Holly Cunningham, executive director of the Near North Media Lab; Maurice Switzer, Ontario Human Rights Commissioner; and Tanya Lukin-Linklater, director of Enji giigdoyang and artist.

In addition to class time that connected the themes to specific artistic practices and activities, students began each day with an opening circle and smudge, played Indigenous games and a lacrosse match, and hiked in the campus trails.

The partners worked to create a space where Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth could connect, explore their identities and means of expression, create a sense of pride, hear Indigenous languages, learn about culture and have fun.

The program will return next summer.

Written by: Samantha Restoule, Biidaaban Community Service-Learning Officer, Enji giigdoyang, Office of Indigenous Initiatives
Nipissing University
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Brantford, ON, Canada N3T 2L6
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