The Dene Nation said Aurora College’s plans for the polytechnic university in the north “tokenizes Indigenous knowledge and culture” and are “sorely lacking.”
The national organization, of which Yellowknives Dene First Nation are a member, also reiterated concerns with the governance structure initially brought forward by Hotıì ts’eeda, a research support centre hosted by the Tłı̨chǫ government.
These are focused on a lack of Indigenous representation in the polytechnic’s proposed governing bodies.
Recommendations to fix this include hiring an Indigenous chancellor, as well as an Indigenous university president, both of which were not included in the polytechnic’s plans.
“Indigenous students deserve to see themselves represented and to see their values, cultures, and histories reflected in their education systems,” the statement read.
Currently Indigenous representation in the governance structure is “sorely lacking” according to the statement.
Three Indigenous spots have been reserved for Indigenous representatives on the board, which Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty previously said is disproportionate to the overall population in the Northwest Territories.
“There is an urgent need to reform the education system to create long-lasting systemic change. To do this, we require Indigenous leadership and representation embedded within the education system itself,” Norman Yakeleya, the Dene First Nations national chief, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, what we have with Aurora College is the status quo.”
“The status quo does not serve our people, it simply continues to contribute to the deepening void between Indigenous students and non-Indigenous students,” Yakelaya added.
The school’s plans have faced criticism for their governance structure in the past, notably from Alty.
The plan for how Aurora College will transform into a polytechnic, the “transformation implementation plan”, is yet to be released, but Aurora College’s strategic plan for the next three years were released in October, and its corporate plan was released last week
Yakelaya added the Dene First Nation are committed to being a partner with the Aurora College and “dismantling the colonial structures of the existing education system.”
“It tokenizes Indigenous knowledge and culture, rather than taking a serious look at how to reform the system for supportive wellness and healing.”