The NWT On The Land Collaborative is a collective of partners from government, industry, philanthropy, and beyond, working together to support land-based programs and projects in the NWT. Each of these partner organizations has a representative that participates in quarterly meetings and annual funding decisions. This is the thirteenth in a series of profiles of the people and organizations that make the Collaborative possible. You can read the other profiles here.
Angela Young and Jackie Siegel are roommates, colleagues in the Indigenous Languages and Education Secretariat, and, now, co-representatives for the Secretariat on the NWT On The Land Collaborative (though they assured me that they don’t actually spend that much time together). The two even share a job title, Co-ordinator, although they have different backgrounds and responsibilities within the division. Angela, a “recovering teacher,” supports the delivery of Indigenous culture and language programming in schools through curriculum development and training; Jackie, who has a background in public health, supports monitoring and evaluation initiatives.
Both Jackie and Angela are relatively new to Yellowknife. Jackie was drawn north from his hometown of Vancouver by a job with the Department of Education, Culture, and Employment (ECE). He only intended to stay a year. Three years later, he is still here with no intention of leaving. If you’ve attended any events organized by NWT Pride, then you’ve likely crossed paths with Jackie. He served as the organization’s President for two years. As with many new arrivals to the North, Jackie has expanded his repertoire of outdoor activities since relocating to Yellowknife: “I picked up canoeing since moving here. I’ve given up car camping for canoe camping, which has been exciting!” His goal for this winter is put his new cross country skis to use.
Angela, who also hails from British Columbia, moved to Yellowknife in 2015 after 13 years in Inuvik. For a decade, she was an English teacher at Samuel Hearne/East Three Secondary. She also spent two years working as the Literacy Coordinator for the Beaufort Delta Educational Council. Leaving the Delta was bittersweet. In addition to the relationships she developed with students and community members while in Inuvik, Angela formed a strong bond with the land through time spent at camps throughout the Delta. Ultimately, it was the vision and purpose of the Assistant Deputy Minister for Education and Culture that drew her to Yellowknife. For Rita Mueller, work at ECE headquarters is another way of serving and supporting the territory’s schools, students, and communities. One of the things she loves about her new community are the many wonderful yoga studios and instructors.
Angela and Jackie’s worlds collided in 2015 with the creation of the Indigenous Languages and Education Secretariat (at that time known as the Aboriginal Languages Secretariat). ILES (pronounced “isles”) is tasked with “support[ing] the preservation, promotion, and revitalization of Indigenous languages throughout the NWT.” It is a misconception that the Secretariat, which is housed in ECE, is primarily concerned with supporting language learning in schools. To the contrary, almost half of ILES funding is funnelled through Indigenous governments and non-profits to support grassroots language initiatives.
Increasingly, Indigenous language education programs are taking place on the land, a reflection, Angela observes, of the deep connections between Indigenous languages and the land: “Most Indigenous people would say that the language comes from the land, so language teachers, language champions, and Elders always advocate for learning on the land. An immersion camp is the gold standard for a language experience.”
Members of the Secretariat have been following the Collaborative since it was created in 2015. Existing funding arrangements, however, prevented the division’s participation. A newly minted agreement with the federal Department of Heritage has changed this; as of fall 2017, ILES is officially a funding partner of the NWT On The Land Collaborative.
For the Secretariat, the Collaborative, while still relatively new, is attractive because it “has a system in place.” By taking advantage of this existing structure, ILES is able to ensure that a greater percentage of their funds are directed towards programming rather than administration. Of particular value are the Community Advisors, who, in addition to being an invaluable support for prospective applicants, are the eyes and ears of the Collaborative in their regions. As Angela notes, “The Community Advisors are a unique and invaluable aspect of the Collaborative, offering funding partners a window onto the programs and activities that are happening in their region.”
Equally attractive to ILES are the relationships that the Collaborative has built and strengthened over the last three years with a diverse collection of organizations and programs across the territory. Not only will tapping into this network give the Secretariat a better understanding of the language revitalization components of land-based programming, but it will also allow ILES to extend their reach and diversify the recipients of their support.
The Collaborative, for its part, is happy to have representatives from Education, Culture, and Employment at the table, especially given the number of applications received over the last two years from schools. In 2016, the Collaborative applications were submitted by 38 of the territory’s 49 schools. This year, almost a third of the grant requests came from educational institutions.
The Collaborative and grant recipients will benefit from the expertise that Jackie, Angela, and their colleagues bring to the table. Successful grant recipients will have access to ILES staff, including linguists, evaluators, and curriculum specialists. With the participation of the Secretariat in the Collaborative, more land-based projects with language revitalization as a primary focus will be supported. Jackie and Angela are also hopeful that the involvement of ILES will encourage more programs to make language revitalization a core component of their activities.
The NWT On The Land Collaborative depends on partners like the Indigenous Languages and Education Secretariat (ILES) to support land-based initiatives in the NWT. If your organization is interested in becoming a partner, please contact Steve Ellis (firstname.lastname@example.org).