WINHEC offers experience, expertise
Ontario has recognized with legislation that Indigenous Institutes form an important pillar of the province’s post-secondary education system. And the Indigenous Advanced Education and Skills Council was created to provide an independent accreditation body.
Vital to the Council’s success is a reciprocal working relationship forming with the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium, an internationally-recognized and respected organization.
“We have the highest regard for WINHEC’s academic and scholarly expertise and know this partnership will benefit the Council’s work, enabling Indigenous Institutes to expand their control of education that much further,” said Laurie Robinson, Board Chairwoman and Executive Director of IAESC.
A memorandum of understanding was signed Aug. 22, 2018 at WINHEC’s annual general meeting hosted by Sarni allaskuvla and Sami University of Applied Sciences in Guovdageaidnu/Kautokeino Norway.
WINHEC was established in 2002 during the triennial World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education held at Kananaskis in Calgary, Alberta.
“We share the vision of all Indigenous Peoples of the world united in the collective synergy of self-determination through control of higher education,” the WINHEC board stated as its founding vision. “We commit to building partnerships that restore and retain Indigenous spirituality, cultures and languages, homelands, social systems, economic systems and self-determination.”
Several Indigenous Institutes in Ontario already had WINHEC accreditation so it was a natural step for the Council and WINHEC to begin a partnership to build on decades of academic advancement. As it turns out, they have a shared set of values and principles encapsulated by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007, Articles 12-15) and the Indigenous Institutes Act, 2017.
To begin the relationship, WINHEC shared its expertise and methodology for organizational and program reviews, while also helping to define standards adopted by the IAESC’s Quality Assessment Board.
It all fits well with the Council’s broader mandate to work with Indigenous Institutes to enhance educational opportunities for students while promoting the revitalization of Indigenous knowledges, cultures and languages.
Robinson spoke before the MOU signing in Norway, beginning with recognition of the hard work Indigenous educators in Ontario have made building their post-secondary institutes in their communities.
“Indigenous Institutes were responding to their community’s wish and desire for post-secondary education and training … in their community,” Robinson said, noting specifically two in attendance, Rebecca Jamieson, president of Six Nations Polytechnic and Delbert Horton, IAESC board member and one of the founders of the Seven Generations Educational Institute.
They and others worked to establish their own institutes as far back as the 1980s with more communities coming on board across Ontario, Robinson said.
“Their leadership said: ‘We need something that meets the needs of our community members, that helps them, that educates them at home and brings them home,’ … and they rose to the challenge and worked very diligently for a long period of time,” she said.
An essential distinction of the Indigenous Institutes Act, 2017, she said, is that the legislation recognizes, rather than legally creates, Indigenous Institutes.
“The important piece is jurisdiction … it recognizes them and where the ownership lies. That’s very important,” Robinson said.
Robinson highlighted the realization that it’s all part of an even grander vision on a global scale.
In talking with WINHEC members about the MOU, she said it became clear it’s a step forward in an international effort.