Oẏateki Partnership brings together three leading institutions to transform education and employment systems for Indigenous Youth

SASKATOON – The Oẏateki Partnership is a unique and unprecedented collaboration among three leading post-secondary education institutions in Saskatchewan designed to transform education and employment systems to support success for Indigenous youth.

The Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI), Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies (SIIT), and the University of Saskatchewan (USask) have come together through the Oẏateki Partnership, with support from the Mastercard Foundation’s EleV Program. Through this partnership they will take bold actions to improve and strengthen education and employment systems in Saskatchewan to enable Indigenous young people to prosper and thrive. The Oẏateki Partnership builds on and strengthens collaborative efforts underway by the three institutions and provides an important role for Indigenous youth and students in setting strategic direction.  

We are excited to participate in this partnership alongside the Gabriel Dumont Institute and USask, to create education and employment systems change in Saskatchewan, to better serve Indigenous young people,” says Riel Bellegarde, President and CEO of SIIT. “SIIT is proud to not only be financial stewards of this important initiative, but also to be leading the Indigenous Innovation Accelerator project and the Wraparound Supports strategy, as part of this partnership. We look forward to sharing our expertise and best practices in providing academic, non-academic and cultural support services to students.” 

USask Interim Vice Provost Indigenous Engagement Angela Jaime, echoes Bellegarde’s comments. “USask is extremely grateful for the opportunity provided by the Mastercard Foundation for us to build on longstanding partnerships with GDI and SIIT,” she says. “We are committed to the success of Indigenous undergraduate and graduate students, finding ways to remove barriers and to promote an Indigenous Ways of Knowing and Being approach. The Oẏateki Partnership gives us new pathways to reach for and achieve these aspirations, alongside two outstanding Saskatchewan post-secondary institutions and embedded within Indigenous community.” 

Lisa Bird-Wilson, Executive Director at GDI, shares the importance this new initiative for Métis young people. “Partnering with SIIT and USask on this incredible venture allows us to create pathways for Métis youth now and for generations to come,” she says. “The Oẏateki Partnership encapsulates our commitment to advancing education and employment opportunities for Métis in Saskatchewan. GDI’s Indigenous Apprenticeship Program, supported by the partnership, has a specific focus on increasing Indigenous participation in the labour market, improving the holistic wellness and self-determination of Indigenous youth.” 

To mark the launch and set the vision of the Oẏateki Partnership, representatives from partner institutions, Indigenous youth, Elders and community members are gathering today for an engaging, informative and energizing Oẏateki Partnership Launch Event at Wanuskewin Heritage Park. The afternoon program will run from 1–4 pm and the evening program will run from 5–8 pm. 

The launch event was developed and planned under the leadership of the Oẏateki Partnership Youth Advisory Circle and includes a special session with Kendal Netmaker to inspire and motivate youth towards a meaningful future. 

“The Oẏateki Partnership’s programs can help Indigenous youth to remember where they want to be and why they started in the first place,” the Oẏateki Partnership Youth Advisory Circle says. “Sacrifice the person you are for the person you could be. The most important conversation in your entire life is the one you have with yourself. Remember to be kind to yourself.”  

Committed to supporting 32,000 First Nations and Métis youth on their path to post- secondary education and on to meaningful livelihoods, the Oẏateki Partnership seeks to create more dynamic, integrated, ‘wholistic’, and responsive education and employment systems. The goal is to meet the needs of Indigenous youth and involve them directly in decision-making.  

In partnership with the Mastercard Foundation’s EleV program, which aims to support Indigenous youth in their pathways through education and on to meaningful work, Oẏateki is enabling Indigenous young people in Saskatchewan to lead in their communities and to contribute to self-determination. This work is part of the Foundation’s commitment to building a world where everyone has the opportunity to learn and prosper, with sustained efforts to enable young people in Africa and young Indigenous people in Canada to access quality education and meaningful livelihoods aligned with their values and aspirations. 

“Honoring our Indigenous ways in learning, such as experiential land-based education, supports the development of courage and self-esteem in our youth and honours differences in our children’s learning,” Elders in Oẏateki’s Kahté-ayak (Knowledge Keepers) Focus Group share. 

Students currently in high school, post-secondary programs, and those planning to attend advanced education or training programs, are encouraged to attend Oẏateki’s launch and learn more about how this partnership can support them to be leaders and changemakers.  

Date:May 3, 2022 
Time:Afternoon program 1-4 pm, evening program 5-8 pm 
Location:Wanuskewin, RR #4, Penner Road, Saskatoon, SK 
Itinerary: Engaging, entertaining and educational events and presentations will be ongoing throughout the afternoon and evening, with representatives of all institutions onsite.  

 The concept of Oẏateki as a symbol of this collaboration was gifted to the partnership by Kunsi Connie Wajunta of Standing Buffalo Dakota Nation. Oẏateki is a Dakota word meaning: all people together and leaving no people behind. 


For more information, to arrange interviews and to see the full agenda, please contact: 
Oẏateki Partnership, Marketing and Communications Specialist 
oyateki@siit.ca, 306-665-5074

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