Episode 5 - The Sunrise Report
This episode explores the development of the Sunrise Report in 2008, why it was created and how it has influenced the functioning of the College since, including the development of First Nation Initiatives and the President’s Advisory Council on First Nation Initiatives.
In 2008, Yukon College produced the Sunrise Report, which sought to establish a new framework for the College’s relationship with First Nations.
The report followed eight months of consultation with Yukon First Nations.
The report’s introduction reads:
“Sunrise is our opportunity to bring partners together in the constantly developing forum on how to address the needs of Yukon First Nations. It is a new beginning for us and a new path for our partners.”
In this episode former directors of First Nation Initiatives at Yukon College will share their stories of how the College has developed, and the role of the Sunrise Report.
John Burdek was the first director of First Nation Initiatives at Yukon College, and Elizabeth Bosely was one of the creators of the Sunrise Report.
John Burdek: John Burdek retired. I used to work at the College. I used to work at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. I used to be Chief or Chairperson of Ta’an and Assistant Deputy Minister with the Territorial Government, and I was the Director of Governance with the federal governments—I have a varied background.
I dealt with the College for quite a number of years. When I came to work here, I came into FNI as the initial director of First Nation Initiatives at the senior management table. There wasn’t a First Nation presence there for quite a number of years due to a number of circumstances and personalities.
I came in as a new to establish First Nation Initiatives to bring a First Nation presence to the management table and to assist them, the College, with a few changes that were hopefully coming along.
At that time with the College, it was trying to convince the senior management ... Not all senior management, some were very supportive, some were very not supportive but to convince them to include the First Nation perspective. And not just a one-off on land claims or First Nation history, it was to try and infiltrate, so to speak, all the programs and throughout the College.
So, it was a bit difficult at times, but I think we made some progress.
The reason that I saw the need was that I was chair of Ta’an when we were still as an Indian Act Band. We were finalizing the negotiations, finishing up the last 5%, which was the difficult part. And then we implemented, we ratified it and, “Yahoo”.
Friday night we were Indian Act Band, and Monday we were a self-governing First Nation. And, I sat back in my chair and thought, “Yahoo, give me First Nation self-government.” And I looked around and there were 23 people working for Ta’an, and this monumental task of implementing self-government, and so you really get faced with the capacity and how do we develop over the long-term? And you need everything in there. And so that was the beginning of it.
And I started working with Gary Umbrick worked for me at Ta’an and he started talking about an Executive Development Program to develop executive skills and started putting that together and then I finished up at Ta’an and moved on, and he ended up in Champagne Aishihik. So, he just continued that work at Champagne Aishihik and it turned into that program over there. Then the hurdles with the College that you’re dealing with, they’re understandable hurdles like an institution, a post-secondary institution in particular has standards and a certain way of doing things and it becomes very isolated.
And the rigor is there and that’s a good thing, but it’s not very open to trying new things or looking at things in a different way. It’s this way and that way or the highway kind of stuff. And doesn’t work when you’re developing capacity, especially in the current day situation with the land claims that are fairly new. 30 years is really nothing in the state of a government. So, it needed to be a different approach. So that’s a part of the background and yeah, it was a fun time. But I just remember the good parts of it but there was some really supportive people here at the College. And I think that’s what made it, because to look at things in a different way, especially in a post-secondary institution, you really have to take risks.
It really takes a you out of the comfort zone, I know. And it a sometimes leaves you open to get bashed around quite easily by the standard or status quo. So, it’s a very difficult shift to make, but I think that Yukon College just done great with the different programs that they’ve been able to advance and put forward, it’s been great. And my varied experience, around the table, I was able to keep my hand in each program development from a different perspective at the table. And when I was at the federal government for example, was sort of in the middle of the Champagne Aishihik development of the executive program.
So, I was able to fund part of that and sit on the steering committee and develop it and as that morphed into. And part of it isn’t just a College changing to help implement. It’s the change in the old type of environment too, that the people who were looking at the First Nation people, non-First Nation people how they perceive it and how they access it. And you have to deal with them. And we just did it in very, very calculated baby steps. We try something and it would work and then we try it little bit differently, broaden it out a little bit and to get the people to accept it a little bit more. And it took time, it took years to do it, but it’s a very good process.
It was a culture reaching out to re-establish the First Nation presence at the senior management table because they saw the need and it went from there. They developed a need, like I come in and began working with different programs, different deans, the presidents and slowly we developed programs. It’s a small program and worked our way through. But even before the Champagne Aishihik executive development program that was, I think, called the environmental officer training program, it’s a little EDP program. And that’s where we took a lot of lumps and we kind of learned a lot of how to deliver the program because the majority of people that were out in First Nation land working on environment and that type of work were sometimes Grade 10 education.
So sometimes they were Grade 12 and most of them were fairly needed, we required a bunch of upgrading and to provide upgrading and then give a program you’re four years into it and they still have nothing to show for it. So, we’re trying to develop a program that provided some training and some skills so they can do their job and at the same time upgrade their level.
It was a balancing act and to get the College to accept that kind of a mixed role, it very much had upgrading capability and programs in the school and then had to the formal kind of training on an education on the environment and those aspects of it. But very little of it was something pulled together.
But by putting those two together, it provided access for a lot of people to the program because they didn’t have to go and upgrade for two or three years and then access the program, then they’ve lost interest or lost their job. Three or four years is a long time in somebody’s life and especially in the dynamics of First Nation and all, just in implementing self-government agreements, there are so many opportunities that people move around. But that gave me a good understanding sort of some of the hurdles that jump with our registrar’s office and the way the institution runs and then recognizing, “No, there’s a role of registrar has to play and so you have to meet certain standards.”
In my mind, every program that I was involved in developing had to maintain standards. There was too many workshops and just short things never led to anything, weren’t able to put them together to turn into a certificate, to turn into a diploma, to turn into something that was not really any laddering, so it didn’t provide much opportunity. So, to try and build in some multiple entry and exit points.
So, if somebody was in say for example, an executive training program, if they are only interested in two or three or four components, they could take that and use it, go back to work, use it at work. They could merrily go along and work their whole career in there. But if they wanted to come back within a reasonable amount of time and put a few more together or a whole program together, then they’d have a certificate.
So, it was very important to me to have these multiple entry and exit points. You look at the demographic of Yukon College, it wasn’t young, smiling, 18-year-olds getting out of high school. It was 30-, 35-year-old individuals, a family and a career who they’ve hit a ceiling. And they needed to further their education in order to take the next step. And there’s getting to be quite a lot of those type of people out there that are really at the ceiling really pushing the boundaries of self-government implementation. And so, there’s a definite need for it there. The biggest gap in education demographic certainty was with the First Nation community and still is.
But you also require the other part of the student body or the populist to understand and be able to operate within this new environment here and some ... My experience is some department embrace it and really are trying and making an effort and others are ignoring it for one reason or another. But because for a whole number of factors, they can and still do business, but it’s slowly changing we’re slowly getting capacity and getting the processes working as they should be. And I think it’s a much better thing.
Elizabeth Bosely: My name is Elizabeth Bosely. I was born and raised in the Yukon. My Tlingit name is Kashyek. I am a citizen of Teslin Tlingit Council and I’m from the Daḵlʼaweidí clan. I have a long, rich history in the Yukon. My mother was born on the Nisutlin river in 1923, before the Alaska Highway was built.
Well, in 1996, I entered into the Yukon Native Teacher Education program. I graduated in 2000. I never really wanted to work in elementary, so I set my sights on getting a job in adult basic education and then an opening happened in, at the time it was called Developmental Studies. It’s now the School of Academic and Skill Development, and I was successful. I spent the bulk of my teaching career at Yukon College, teaching adult basic education. It was a rewarding and fulfilling career, definitely, working with a lot of Yukon First Nations students, students from the Northwest Territories. Had students from Tuktoyaktuk, Inuvik, Ross River, Pelly Crossing, all across the Yukon.
I did work for First Nations Initiatives. I stepped in and I did an acting director’s position for about 10 months. That would have been back in 2007, 2008. I worked with John Reid, who was a community campus instructor from Mayo Campus. And together, him and I did some community consultation around the Yukon. We touched base with all self-governing and non-self-governing First Nations and did a community consultation with them to determine what First Nations wanted or needed in order to build capacity within their government. Training was needed at all levels, like right from administrative jobs right up to the senior management level.
When you look at our governments, our First Nation governments, were small from the moment we sign on the dotted line off our self-government agreements and our final land claims agreements, we move from a DIA-run government to a self-governing First Nation. That’s a huge transition to make, and with that comes all of the demands of a government. You have your infrastructure, all of your departments. We operate like a regular government. We, as in Teslin Tlingit Council, because that’s my First Nation. We have a finance department, we have an education department, we have a human resource department, we have a capital and infrastructure department. We have people at all levels, and all expected to do a job, and with that comes a whole bunch of training.
It was being able to glean out that type of information and bring it forward to Yukon College in a report. It was put out as the Sunrise Report. I believe there was something like 15 to 17 recommendations brought forward to Yukon College. A lot of it had to do with training. Some of it had to do with ensuring that there was First Nations staff at Yukon College, that there was a need for more staff at all levels at the college, and to really build that relationship with Yukon First Nations.
Another thing that we were tasked with was developing the President’s Advisory Committee on First Nation Initiatives. Yukon College had an education summit at that time. All First Nations came to the table. One of the biggest requests that they made was to bring together a committee that was arm’s length from the president’s office, that would also provide guidance in regards to course outlines. A lot of our First Nations students attend Yukon College. Just to keep ear to the ground on the type of training that’s coming forward and to provide feedback from a First Nations perspective.
We did the call out at the time that Terry Weninger was our president. We did the call out, brought together that committee, and they are still functioning today. That happened in about 2008, and we’re now moving into 2019, and that committee still meets on a quarterly basis. It was pretty rewarding to be a part of establishing that committee so that they were able to provide some constructive feedback and work in partnership with Yukon College, to bring Yukon First Nation voice to that table.
They had the Northern Strategy Trust at that time, which was monies coming from the Yukon government for First Nations. At that time, one of the things that we were working with in partnership with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nation was the Executive Development Program. It used to go by EDP. That program, they received funds through Northern Strategy Trust, and they were wanting to embark on training for executive development. A lot of, I think, business administrative-type of courses.
At that time, we sat at the table with Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, Yukon government, and First Nation Initiatives, plus instructional staff from Yukon College. The whole premise, I believe, from the beginning of that program’s development was to have that if it was successful, that it would actually morph into something much bigger than that. That’s exactly what it’s done, because today, the Executive Development Program morphed into the FNGPA, First Nation Governance and Public Administration program, which I believe is now Yukon College’s first home-grown degree program.
When you look at how much change has happened and how much growth from a Northern Strategy Trust proposal between Champagne and Aishihik, Yukon government, and Yukon College, has now become a degree program. There’s been lots of significant growth in regards to a First Nation presence at Yukon College. Having been a student there, graduating from there, and then retiring from there in 2018, there’s been so much change in a fairly small period of time. When you step back and take a look at the big picture, a lot has happened.
We are humbled and grateful to the knowledgeable Yukoners who took their time to be a part of this project, and to help tell this story. This audio story was produced by Leighann Chalykoff for Yukon College. Original music is by Jona Barr. Find us on iTunes or look for the next episode at https://ourpath.yukoncollege.yk.ca. And while you’re there, you can sign up for notifications when a new story is released.