First Nations Institutes Form Own Consortium

Feb 15th, 2002 | By | Category: 13-3: Sustaining Our Future, Tribal College News

Indigenous institutes that provide adult and higher education in Canada have formed a nationwide organization, the National Association of Indigenous Institutes of Higher Learning (NAIIHL). The indigenous educators modeled their organization after the American Indian Higher Education consortium (AIHEC), according to Marie Smallface Marule, president of Red Crow Community College in Alberta and also vice chair of the NAIIHL. As a member of the AIHEC board of directors, Marule has been working with tribal college presidents in the United States for several years. “We envy the support you get through AIHEC,” she told her colleagues in the United States at the fall board meeting.

The Institutes that form the association are governed by Indigenous People to meet the postsecondary educational needs of the Indigenous communities of Canada. The First Nations coalition held its initial meeting in March 2000. Later they developed a  Memorandum of Agreement that emphasizes their objectives: to promote indigenous knowledge, language, and culture and to facilitate access to resources.

Funding for the Canadian consortium is provided by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC). Approximately 70 institutes have been represented at the NAIIHL meetings. The board of directors members come from various regions of Canada: Chair Murray Maracle (Ontario); Vice Chair Marule (Alberta); Treasurer Barbara Morin (British Columbia); Secretary Verna Billy Minnabarriet (British Columbia); Norma Shorty (Yukon); Eleanor Bernard (Nova Scotia); Harry Lafond (Saskatchewan); and Delbert Molton (New Brunswick).

“AIIHL is a vehicle to represent and assert our distinctiveness and to affirm our inherent, aboriginal and treaty rights and responsibilities as indigenous nations,” according to Eleanor Bernard (Mi’kmaq), who represents the Mi’kmaq College Institute located in Sydney, Nova Scotia. The NAIIHL will advocate for and support technical, adult, postsecondary, and related Indigenous education. “It is through networking and sharing information that we can make educational programming work for the indigenous students,” Bernard said.

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