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USask First Nations teacher education program celebrates milestone

Press Release

Jul 7, 2023

The Indian Teacher Education Program (ITEP) at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) is celebrating 50 years since the program admitted its first students in 1973.

ITEP was established to increase the number of First Nations teachers to help meet the social and cultural needs of Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan and throughout Canada, as well as contribute to school systems where Indigenous and non-Indigenous children make up the student population. Graduates of ITEP receive a Bachelor of Education degree.

“ITEP was built because it was what our Elders wanted: to strengthen identity and culture and provide opportunities to build strong Indigenous people and communities through education,” said Yvette Arcand, director of ITEP and a 1997 graduate of the program. “Today, Indigenous teachings and ways of knowing are embedded not only in our schools and provincial curriculum, but that desire to engage with and learn about Indigenous culture is throughout larger society as well. ITEP was a part of that.”

The program connects First Nations students to their culture, traditions and language, and prepares educators to pass along that knowledge with skill and talent. ITEP is the longest-running Indigenous Teacher Education Program in North America. Over 3,000 alumni have graduated from the program and gone on to varied careers in education, leadership, politics, art, business and other sectors. The program provides a strong foundation for graduates to pursue further academic and professional degrees.

“The impact of the program extends far beyond the classroom, and has now shaped the lives and careers of individuals across three generations who are making a positive difference throughout Indigenous communities,” said Dr. Julia Paulson (PhD), dean of the College of Education, where the program resides. “The fact that ITEP is the longest-running Indigenous teacher education program in North America is a testament to its success. The University of Saskatchewan has learned so much through its ongoing work with ITEP and is honoured to support Indigenous education.”

ITEP was developed in the late 1960s at the request of Indigenous people in Saskatchewan. In 1969, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations—now the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN)—created an education task force, which developed a comprehensive review of Indigenous education in Saskatchewan.

This work was further built upon in 1972, when the National Indian Brotherhood—now the Assembly of First Nations (AFN)—presented a policy paper, Indian Control of Indian Education, to the federal Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. The statement gained momentum and was endorsed by the Government of Canada in 1973.

“The anniversary of 50 years is a significant milestone and provides an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of ITEP graduates, acknowledge the program’s contributions nationally, and reaffirm our commitment to improving and supporting Indigenous teacher education for decades to come,” said Arcand.

To celebrate this milestone year, ITEP is holding a number of celebrations, including a Culture, Language, Traditional Teaching and Learning Gathering on Friday, July 7 at the College of Education on the USask campus.


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