University Blue Quills wins Alberta literacy award

(October, 2016) – A groundbreaking First Nations-controlled university in northeastern Alberta has received special recognition for its innovative literacy program.

The Council of Federation Literacy Award was presented to University Blue Quills (UBQ) President Vincent Steinhauer by Alberta Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt at ceremonies in Edmonton.

The Council is composed of the Premiers of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories, and was created in 2003 to enable Premiers to work collaboratively to strengthen the Canadian federation by fostering a constructive relationship among the provinces and territories, and with the Canadian government.

Created by Premiers in 2004, the Literacy Award recognizes the important role literacy plays in facilitating Canadians’ participation as full and active citizens in all areas of society.  The award celebrates adult learners who undertake literacy training and the valuable contributions made by Canadians in the field of literacy, including family, Aboriginal, health, workplace, and community  organizations (including non-governmental organizations) and businesses in each province and territory.

University Blue Quills. Vincent Steinhauer,

University Blue Quills President, Vincent Steinhauer

In accepting the award, UBQ President Steinhauer quoted Mahatma Gandhi :  “Poverty is the worst form of violence.”

“Couple that with being illiterate in a society where you need English to be a contributing member of society,” Steinhauer said, “and it becomes a double-edged sword that cuts deep into our Peoples, further eliminating them from becoming contributing members of Canadian society.”

The Blue Quills Literacy Centre is unique in its approach to literacy and adult literacy, a multi-dimensional approach that incorporates reading, writing, family, Indigenous world view, and Indigenous languages and relationships.

The UBQ literacy team is led by Valerie Cardinal, with support from literary specialist Gale Nahnehpowisk and literary assistant Taleah Jackson, the newest addition to the team.

The UBQ literacy strategy is modeled on the guidance provided at a 2014 round table of representatives of the seven First Nations that govern UBQ.  (Beaver Lake, Cold Lake, Frog Lake, Whitefish Lake, Frog Lake, Kehewin and Saddle Lake).

Under their direction, the Blue Quills Literacy Centre focuses on Indigenous Worldview- consistent with UBQ philosophy: Indigenous Languages- People need to master grammar and phonics in their mother language and to learn their culture as children in order to prepare them to become literate adults. This develops identity and purpose which helps to build self-esteem; relationships- foundation of Indigenous way of being;reading and writing – essential skills for life and work; family-  central to culture. Have family literacy activities to build families.

The Indigenous Literacy model grew from the Indigenous Literacy Round Table discussions where people from the 7 Nations gathered at BQ in 2014:

The “Call to Action” from this table informs what Valerie and Gale hope to achieve in the world of Adult Literacy while implementing the Indigenous Literacy Model. This is what the Nations see us doing at Blue Quills:

– Indigenous Literacy Network – • Find ways to work together as a community to provide assistance at many levels including literacy. Build collaboration and partnerships with other programs and organizations, even political entities. Share the Indigenous Literacy model as framework for engaging with Indigenous people.

– Inclusion of Indigenous languages – The UnBQ Elders Senate has endorsed the BQ Literacy to include Indigenous languages in our programming.

– Data Collection Project- sharing of resources within Nations and other adult literacy providers. Provide a mechanism to gather literacy statistics for Nations.

– Inclusion of Family Literacy- The Un BQ also endorses the Literacy to Centre to include family literacy.

– Adopt the “Just Do It” philosophy-  Keep doing what you’re doing now, build on that, and the rest will fall into place. Make simple goals rather than inundating people with the jargon around literacy and essential skills. Make it fun!

– Improve Youth literacy levels – develop and deliver programs to youth (high school and junior high students) — skills component: effects of colonization. Stability of home life could be addressed (addictions and other barriers that exist in the home life can prevent learning—at what point do we start helping them?

The Blue Quills Literacy Centre has facilitated a number of partnerships to further literacy and to advise and inform the role of Indigenous Literacy in the Literacy world: Bow Valley College, Northern Lakes College, and Maskwacis Cultural College, Old Sun, Redcrow Community College, Ontario Native Literacy and NorQuest College.

The motto of BQ Literacy Centre is Enthusiasm! Energy! Excellence! The team at Blue Quills is committed to implementing an Indigenous Literacy model that is embedded in traditional nehiyaw worldview and balancing it with the necessary literacy and essential skills that will our Nations and people into the world of literacy and employment.

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