The year 2020 was a hard one for both students and teachers. The entire post-secondary student body in Canada found themselves on Zoom instead of in classrooms. And while most colleges and universities are hoping to return to in-person instruction in the fall, the Covid-19 pandemic continues to make this goal uncertain.
Vaccines have been approved by the federal government, but questions remain as to the availability of doses and willingness of populations to be inoculated in order to create herd immunity. There are also mutated strains of the coronavirus popping up all over the globe. So far, those variant strains of the virus haven’t been shown to render current vaccines ineffective, but doctors and scientists are just beginning to study them.
The reality is, no one can say for sure whether life, or school, will be back to normal next fall. All you can do is apply and hope for the best while being prepared for at least one more “Zoomer” semester.
If you’re interested in entering a trade right after graduation, looking to change career-paths later in life, or deciding to go back and finish your high school diploma, the Cree School Board offers vocational training and general education programs in most Cree communities.
From September to June, Sabtuan Adult Education Services (SAES) offers general education programs in all Cree communities. These general education services help you with language skills and completing your Secondary IV and V courses, while working towards a diploma. The SAES promises one-on-one time with teachers as well as a welcoming, culturally rooted learning environment.
Attaining a diploma through general education requires the completion of 54 credits in Secondary IV and V, with 20 of these credits coming from Secondary V. Twelve of these credits must be in language instruction (half in the Secondary V level); eight credits in a second language (half in the Secondary V level); four social science credits; and eight credits in math, science and technology (half in the Secondary V level).
Deadline to apply for the spring semester of general education is January 22.
The SAES also hosts a variety of vocational training courses throughout Eeyou Istchee in line with the needs of the local job market. Application deadlines for most of the spring programs are in late January with more programs to be announced in the coming weeks and months for the spring, summer and fall 2021 terms. Prospective students should visit eeyoueducation.ca/adult/programs for more information and join the SAES mailing list to be informed when new programs are announced.
Beneficiary Attendant (Institutional & Home Care Assistance)
This 870-hour program will teach students how to become a personal support worker or nurse aide. Completing the course will teach you how to provide care to people of all ages and assist them in their recovery while ensuring they maintain their autonomy.
Students who complete this full-time course, taken over 35 weeks, are guaranteed employment through the Cree Health Board. It’s currently offered in Chisasibi and Waswanipi.
This hands-on program teaches future builders how to concrete frame, build and install furniture, walls, roofs and stairs as well as interior and exterior finishing work. The program will teach students how to plan, calculate and price carpentry projects.
In total, the program is 1,350 hours and is to be completed in a full-time capacity over 54 weeks. It’s currently being offered in Mistissini.
This 1,485-hour course prepares students for a career as a secretary, executive assistant or administrative officer. Skills taught in this course include writing professional documents, managing and proofreading spreadsheets, reports and presentations, and accounting operations.
The full-time, 60-week course is offered in Mistissini.
Secretarial Studies – Medical Specialization
Currently offered in Chisasibi, this program prepares students to work as a medical secretary. Upon completion of this 450-hour program, graduates are guaranteed employment thorough the Cree Health Board.
In this program, students will learn how to greet patients and schedule appointments on computer, transcribe, produce and manage medical documents, as well as manage medical supplies and perform basic accounting tasks.
The 18-week program is a full-time commitment.
Colleges and Cégeps
It’s a strange time for last year’s record-breaking number of Cree high school graduates to begin pursuing post-secondary education. Although the ongoing pandemic has likely resulted in more students choosing to continue their education closer to home, the prevalence of online and hybrid learning options means there are also more opportunities to start your studies with southern institutions while remaining in Eeyou Istchee.
Here are some of the most popular Cégeps and colleges for continuing your education journey:
Cégep de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue
Until there’s a Cégep in Eeyou Istchee, this is about as close as it gets, with campuses in Rouyn-Noranda, Amos and Val-d’Or. There are business, education and police technology programs specifically adapted for Indigenous realities, along with many other certificate and preparatory options.
An Explorations semester is designed to help Indigenous students clarify their study path and improve chances of success. While the majority of programs are in French, the Val-d’Or campus offers English options.
Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (UQAT)
UQAT has a uniquely Indigenous focus in much of its programming, research projects and governance. While most of UQAT’s programs are offered in French, there are also a good variety of culturally relevant programs in English for Indigenous students.
These programs include family intervention, digital creation and hydrogeology. The First Peoples Service team at the Val-d’Or campus exists to meet the specific academic, personal and cultural needs of Indigenous students.
While its main campus is located near beautiful Lac Saint-Jean and programs are generally in French, Cégep Saint-Félicien also regularly partners with the Cree Nation for unique offerings in English and Cree. Its Chibougamau campus has a First Nations pathway for introducing college studies and a natural environment technology program.
An exciting new land stewardship program will be offered in Eeyou Istchee beginning March 1, featuring courses like outing and survival, harvesting activities, wildlife inventory and crafting tools.
Designed by and for First Nations students but open to all, Kiuna College aims to democratize postsecondary studies by celebrating and reinforcing Indigenous culture. Located in the Abenaki community of Odanak, near Trois-Rivières, its introductory springboard pathway prepares students for college and can be used to complete missing high school courses.
Kiuna offers Indigenous-focused diplomas in either social science or arts, literature and communication. The latter includes a new two-year Indigenous cinema program, launched in partnership with Wapikoni Mobile.
This English-language Cégep is the largest in Quebec, conveniently located in a multicultural part of downtown Montreal. Dawson has impressive facilities and a variety of popular programs, preparing you for careers ranging from medicine and engineering to theatre and photography.
The one-year Journeys transition program enables Indigenous students to explore their options within a supportive learning community. You can hang out at the First Peoples’ Centre and consider pursuing a certificate in Decolonization and Indigenization Studies.
John Abbott College
Located on the western tip of the Montreal island, John Abbott has one of the most beautiful campuses in the public system and a broad range of pre-university and career programs. Since 1990, it has collaborated with First Nations communities, including the Cree School Board, to address the unique needs of Indigenous students.
The friendly staff of the Indigenous Student Resource Centre provide a welcoming place to work and relax, with academic support, activities and workshops. John Abbott offers the culturally relevant Crossroads transition program for Indigenous students and an Indigenous Studies certificate.
Champlain Regional College
With campuses located on Montreal’s south shore, Quebec City and Sherbrooke, this English-language college offers a variety of pre-university and technical programs. Its Aboriginal Students’ Office offers student mentoring, collaborative instruction and social activities.
The Saint-Lambert campus (near the Longueuil metro station) has partnered with Kahnawake’s Adult Education School Council to develop a First Nations Early Childhood Education program.
Vanier is an English-language Cégep in Montreal’s leafy Saint-Laurent borough with popular arts, science and technical programs. The campus has a good student life and a wide range of pre-university and professional course options to help choose your future education path.
There is an Indigenous Circle organizing events and activities, the A’no:wara Centre providing a social gathering space and academic support for Indigenous students, and an Indigenous Studies certificate program focusing on diverse cultures, histories and local engagement.
Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue
With campuses in Rouyn-Noranda and Val-d’Or, this smaller university specializes in supporting Indigenous students with a range of programs. Students can choose from a Certificate in Aboriginal Studies, a Certificate in Childhood-Family Intervention in Indigenous Contexts, Aboriginal Tourism Management, or other Aboriginal Studies microprograms.
There are even courses in the Cree language. The university offers extensive services to support students, including a First Nations lounge and an Indigenous student committee that organizes activities.
Concordia is one of Canada’s best-known universities, with two campuses in Montreal. While Concordia doesn’t offer an Indigenous studies program, there are a number of Indigenous-focused courses across a range of disciplines, looking at Indigenous history, globalization, Indigenous Peoples and the environment, and Indigenous cinema.
The Aboriginal Student Resource Centre on campus provides cultural programming, while the Aboriginal Students Union works to support students. Concordia also offers a specialized program for Indigenous students interested in library and information studies.
McGill is one of the top universities in Canada, also located in downtown Montreal. The Indigenous Studies program began there in 2014 as a minor in response to student and faculty pressure. It features a range of Indigenous courses from anthropology, art history, history, law, political science and women’s studies.
On campus, the First Peoples’ House includes academic support and advisors, a library, a residence for Indigenous students, and cultural events and programming. The Indigenous Students’ Society seeks to connect Indigenous students, providing resources and events.
This smaller university is located on Abenaki territory just outside Sherbrooke, about two hours from Montreal. Bishop’s features an Indigenous Studies minor, with courses chosen from history, sociology, English and political science, as well as offering courses studying Abenaki. There is an Indigenous student support office which among other services offers to be a liaison with the student’s home community.
Trent University, located in Peterborough, Ontario, has the distinction of being the first university in Canada to offer a degree in Indigenous Studies, and remains one of the few that offers a Master’s and PhD program in Indigenous Studies. There are also programs in Indigenous Environmental Science, Foundation of Indigenous Learning, the Art of Leading, and Indigenous Reconciliation and Resurgence.
The First Peoples’ House of Learning works to support students and staff on cultural issues, academics, as well as support for moving to Peterborough. The Trent University Native Association works to support students and plan events. Trent also features a teepee, wigwam, sweat lodge, medicine garden and visiting Elders program.
University of Ottawa
The University of Ottawa, with its main campus in downtown Ottawa, offers both a major and minor in Indigenous Studies, as well as a specialized Aboriginal Teacher Education Program, and specific programs for Indigenous nursing, medicine, and law students. On campus, the Mashkawazìwogamig Indigenous Resource Centre offers academic guidance and counselling, cultural events, an Elder-in-residence, and more. There’s also an Indigenous Students Association active on campus.
Carleton University, located outside downtown Ottawa, launched its honours program in Indigenous Studies in 2017, with a focus on pre- and post-contact Indigenous studies, Indigenous resistance, Indigenous representations and urban Indigenous issues.
A broad range of courses are available from the anthropology, art, film studies, history, public policy, sociology and political science departments. The university has a Centre for Indigenous Initiatives to provide academic and other support to students, and features the Ojigkwanong Indigenous Student Centre, which has a medicine lodge, kitchenette, study lounge and computer lab.
University of Toronto
One of Canada’s leading universities, the U of T has campuses in downtown Toronto and Scarborough. The university has a well-known Centre for Indigenous Studies, combining courses from anthropology, English, geography, history, and political science, while also offering language courses in Inuktituk, Oneida and Anishinaabemowin. The university has a First Nations House, which provides academic support financial aid, cultural events, and meetings with Elders and traditional teachers.
Ontario College of Art and Design University
This university, also located in downtown Toronto, offers programs focusing on a broad range of visual arts. The school has a specialized program in Indigenous Visual Culture combining traditional arts education with Indigenous art history and general history. An Indigenous Student Centre supports students academically, socially and culturally, hosting weekly events, guest lectures, workshops, visiting artists and field trips, and offering a resource library, computer station, lounge and kitchenette.
University of British Columbia
UBC is the largest university on the west coast, with its main campus on Musqueam territory in Vancouver. As part of the Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies, it offers two programs in First Nations and Indigenous Studies as well as First Nations and Endangered Languages. The beautiful campus features a First Nations House of Learning, which functions as a student lounge, an Indigenous-focused library, and a Health Research and Education Garden.
First Nations University of Canada
Founded in 1976 as a college associated with the University of Regina, FNUniv changed its name in 2003 and now sees thousands of First Nations students attend one of its three campuses in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert. The university offers programs in Indigenous business, Indigenous education, Indigenous health, Indigenous languages, Indigenous social work, and more. There are several student services also offered, from Elder services, childcare, counselling, a library and a teepee.