The First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) Partnership

The Cause

The First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) Partnership is an initiative at St. Mary’s University created to ensure that our community is equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to create a safe and welcoming environment for all, specifically people of FNMI background. The FNMI initiative seeks to increase support and services for enrolled FNMI students, providing academic assistance and services to meet their spiritual and cultural needs. The FNMI program assists prospective FNMI students in the community, in high schools and on campus to include transition planning, funding and career assistance. This initiative was developed with the collaboration with surrounding First Nations communities, reaching St. Mary’s goal to be an open and inclusive campus which is culturally relevant for learners in the urban aboriginal population in Calgary.

The FNMI initiative increases the capacity for understanding cultures, serving Calgary communities by:
• Developing curriculum and course offerings that contain historical contexts from the Indigenous perspective.
• Celebrating the diversity of Indigenous cultures.
• Valuing FNMI learners, their culture, and contributions.
• Acknowledging and seeking to understand the unique cultural and economic circumstances of Aboriginal learners.

FNMI initiative hosts the Elders on Campus and FNMI Scholars on Campus programs. The Elders on Campus led by Blackfoot Elder, Casey Eagle Speaker and Métis Elder, Edmee Comstock; facilitates meetings with students, faculty and staff to share cultural and spiritual ways of knowing. The FNMI Scholars on Campus teaches, promotes and supports exceptional learning through workshops, learning circles and public forums.

Funds from the Field Law Community Fund will continue running and expand the Elders on Campus Program to include an Elder from Stoney Nakoda meeting all Treaty 7 signatories. Expansion means we can interweave indigenous ways of knowing into Speakers Series and educational forums and provide sacred support and ceremonies where multiculturalism is celebrated and enhances reconciliation.

Who Will it Benefit?

The FNMI Partnership goal is to facilitate the development of beneficial and meaningful relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students to increase completion rates for FNMI students at St. Mary’s University. Since the launch of the FNMI Partnership, St. Mary’s has seen an enrolment increase of 50% by FNMI students. The FNMI program increases FNMI student engagement and participation in campus activities like student council and other clubs. These activities were developed in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada, as well as the Government’s mandate that FNMI culture and ways of knowing be integrated into curricula.

The FNMI Elders on Campus program benefits the community by providing opportunities for younger generations to learn from older generations. All students benefit from the integrated FNMI learning styles and knowledge from participating in events such as the sacred ceremonies with Blackfoot and Métis Elders on campus and engagement with Scholars on Campus.

The FNMI initiative also collaborates with other Post‐ Secondary Institutions (SAIT, Bow Valley College, University of Calgary, MRU) to develop educational pathways for FNMI learner success in Calgary. These partnerships maintain positive, constructive and inclusive partnerships with community organizations that have a vested interest in FNMI relations. Other partnerships include Southern Alberta FNMI communities (Siksika, Tsuu T’ina, Blood, Peigan and Stoney Nations), the Calgary Board of Education, the Calgary Catholic School District, and the Golden Hills School Division etc.

Already filled to capacity a pilot course titled “Igniting the Fire: Arts Based Literacy for Adult Indigenous Learners”, will be hosted on campus in 2016 providing marginalized learners within Calgary’s community with a bridging program with the opportunity to access education. This course will benefits and provides marginalized indigenous learners with the opportunity to improve their foundational literacy to ensure they have access to educational, employment, and volunteer opportunities.