Launched in 2022 by the College of Education, the MILBE degree is unique in North America and provides educators with a knowledge base in Indigenous teachings, restoring connections to the land which have been severed through colonization.
Developed by Dr. Alex Wilson (EdD), member of Opaskwayak Cree Nation and professor in the Department of Educational Foundations, the program is rooted in Indigenous worldview and frameworks, taught primarily by Indigenous faculty, and offered in partnership with Indigenous communities. It blends field and online courses and concludes with students completing a community capstone project. Its structure accommodates teachers who are unable to leave their communities during the regular school year.
Wilson explained that the program creates spaces where Indigenous students feel welcome and comfortable, and see themselves reflected in the learning environment, curriculum and pedagogy.
“Land-based education is becoming increasingly popular in K-12 schools across Canada, but few teachers are trained in how to teach it. The MILBE program addresses that gap,” said Wilson. “It builds on our previous work establishing the Indigenous land-based education stream in the Master of Education program, which began in 2008. The formalization of the MILBE as its own graduate degree signifies the importance of decolonization and reconciliation at the University of Saskatchewan.”
In addition to online courses, the MILBE program involves a series of field courses in Indigenous communities across Canada and internationally. The 2023 graduating cohort travelled to Ugpi'Ganjig First Nation in New Brunswick, the Yellowknives Dene First Nation in the Northwest Territories, and the Kingdom of Hawaii. The final field course involved a canoe trip on the Saskatchewan River from Cumberland House in Saskatchewan to Opaskwayak Cree Nation in Manitoba. Local Elders, Knowledge Holders and cultural providers were involved in designing course content and instructing students.
MILBE graduates were joined by more than 150 family, friends and colleagues at a banquet celebration following the convocation ceremony. Fifteen of the graduates are First Nation or Métis with home communities located across Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia, the Yukon, and New Brunswick. All are in-service teachers or professionals working in Indigenous education.
Christian Sinclair, former Onekanew* of Opaskwayak Cree Nation and twin brother to MILBE graduate Crystal Constant, addressed the graduates and spoke of their impact on Indigenous communities.
“For us growing up, we took for granted growing up on the land: hunting, trapping, fishing – that’s our connection as Indigenous people. It’s our connection to language, which is what we fight for,” shared Sinclair. “Part of what you’re doing is helping to revive our nations’ well-being: spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally with culture, tradition and ceremony. I want to thank you all, kinanaskomitin.”
Graduate ChùndayMą Krista Reid is a member of Agunda (Wolf Clan) and travelled with her family from Haines Junction, Yukon to receive her MILBE degree at convocation.
“My spirit has been so full with the relationships that I’ve built and the people that I’ve met [in this program]. I’ve loved every step of the way. It was like finally being able to articulate everything that I felt was right in my spirit. I’m so grateful,” said Reid.
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College of Education
*former chief of Opaskwayak Cree Nation