Indigenous Peoples represent nearly 5 percent of Canada’s population—1.7 million people. Investing in Indigenous education is an important step to improve the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians and to build a stronger, more united country. Closing the achievement gap between Indigenous students and other students can create jobs and grow Canada’s economy by $27.7 billion, or 1.5 percent annually. One example is the Indigenous-run Anishinabek Educational Institute (AEI) in northern Ontario. They partner with post-secondary institutions to offer students degree and diploma programs, as well as apprenticeships. The curriculum reflects cultural heritage, identity and community needs.
For over 100 years, Indigenous children in Canada were required to attend government-funded residential schools, which removed them from their communities and the influence parents had in the spiritual, cultural and intellectual development of First Nations, Métis and Inuit children. The last residential school closed in 1996, but its legacy continues to affect Indigenous Peoples today.
The Government of Canada is working to renew a nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples. In 2008 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established, and in 2016 Canada adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
More than 6.6 million people in the U.S. identify as Native American or Alaska Native. As of January 2017, 567 tribal entities were federally recognized, meaning they possess certain inherent rights of self-government (i.e., tribal sovereignty) and are entitled to receive certain federal benefits, services and protections. In the spring of 2016, protests that drew international attention began in North Dakota, in reaction to the approved construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and its impact on the environment. A number of Native Americans in Iowa and the Dakotas opposed the pipeline, including the Meskwaki and several Sioux tribal nations, under the assertion that the pipeline would destroy sites of great historic, religious and cultural significance, and threaten the quality of farmland and water in the area.
Bear Ears Monument is a vast landscape of red rock canyons with numerous Native American sites scattered across its land. It’s been home to local Navajo tribes for time immemorial and has hundreds of thousands of objects of cultural significance. In December 2016, President Obama announced he would protect Bear Ears, the 1.35 million-acre site as a national monument.
As of today, this national monument has been modified under the Trump administration to two separate monuments that are made up of 201,397 acres of land combined. That’s an 85% cut of the original Bear Ears monument, leaving the sacred lands and its objects vulnerable to development, looting and other threats, outside of federal protection. Several lawsuits have been filed to return Bear Ears to its original size by not only Native American groups but also conservation, historical and outdoor industry groups