In 2009, Algoma University successfully received its charter and was celebrated as Ontario’s newest university. This year, we celebrate our affirmation as the newest institution accredited by the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium (WINHEC).The accreditation was ratified at the WINHEC annual meeting and conference held in Taiwan in September. Eddie Benton-Banai (Dean, Academic and Spiritual Advisor), Darrell Boissoneau (President), and Dawnis Kennedy (Anishinabe Law Professor) travelled to Hualien, Taiwan to represent Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamigto the world. Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig had a presence at past WINHEC meetings throughout the accreditation process, but this fall is the first time Shingwauk representatives could attend in person.
“It was a beautiful, affirming experience,” explained Dawnis Kennedy, who began her work at Shingwauk as a Visiting Trudeau Scholar in 2009. “The Indigenous nations of Taiwan and the WINHEC family welcomed us with warmth and respect. They affirmed the culture-based curriculum that is offered at Shingwauk because it is about nurturing the hearts, minds and spirits of our people and of all peoples. They honoured our work and gave us strength to keep moving forward.”
This gathering was the culmination of years of preparation. The WINHEC accreditation process included acomprehensive application, a self-study review and a site visit. The site visit team, made up of Dr. Peter Hanohano (Hawaii), Dr. Linda Sue Warner (Oklahoma), and Laura and Delbert Horton (Fort Frances, ON), came to Shingwauk this past April to meet with students, staff and faculty and to see the fullness of education at Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig. They were greeted by Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig, Algoma University and the leadership of Batchewana and Garden River First Nations. They were impressed by students’ stories and work.
The site visit team explored the history of the campus site as a former residential school. They heard the stories of many who put their hands and hearts to the development of Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig. They learned of the vision of Chief Shingwaukonse, a 19th century leader of Garden River. Shingwaukonse’s dream was to prepare the Anishinaabe nation for the future by establishing a teaching wigwam to provide education thatmaintains Anishinabe language, culture and lifeways and also incorporates European skills and knowledge. Thisvision was warped into the Shingwauk Indian Residential School. Through decades of work and dedication, Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig stands as the true fulfilment of Chief Shingwauk’s vision.
“Our collective efforts and our strength in unity has led us to this day,” Darrell Boissoneau stated. “We developed Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig to restore and reclaim the true intent of what Chief Shingwauk dreamed for his people… to preserve and protect our way of life and our story, our philosophy, theology, our legends, the many gifts that the Creator gave to us as Anishinaabe people. They belong to us and we want to share our experiences with the world.”
Indeed, the story of Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig has been heard and celebrated by the world. WINHEC has noted the significance of the partnership between Algoma University and Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig, as enshrined in a sacred Covenant signed in 2006. This agreement is based on the principles of the Two RowWampum, with two distinct nations in their separate vessels traveling down the river of life as equals, side by side. Each vessel commits to respect the other. Through the Covenant, Algoma U and Shingwauk are committed to work together as partners to ensure the development and delivery of quality Anishinaabe education. The distinct ways of each institution are to be respected as equal.
This relationship of mutual recognition and respect is strengthened through WINHEC accreditation. The value of Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig’s Anishinaabe culture-based education model has been affirmed, it has been recognized by the world. This marks a critical moment in the movement for Anishinaabe Control of Anishinaabe Education, four decades after the release of the National Indian Brotherhood’s policy paper Indian Control of Indian Education. Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig is at the forefront of this spiritual movement and we are going strong.
“We wish to express our sincere gratitude and thanks to the good people of Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig for sharing their light with us,” expressed Dr. Peter Hanohano, chair of the WINHEC site visit team. “We are changed because we learned so much from all of you. We honour the good work that you are doing, and know that there is still much to be done. However, you are lighting the way for us and the rest of the world.”
Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig offers courses in Anishinaabe Studies to students of all backgrounds.