EleV’s Annual Network Gathering

Advancing Indigenous Approaches to Education, Meaningful Livelihoods, and “a Good Life”

EleV's Annual Network Event

Justin Wiebe, Canada Programs Lead of Innovation and Strategic Growth at the Mastercard Foundation (centre) was gifted the Blackfoot name Iinnomaka, which means Buffalo Runner, in a ceremony with Elders Roger Hunt (right) and Cathy Hunt (left).

The Mastercard Foundation has set a bold goal for EleV, its flagship program in Canada: transforming education and employment systems in Canada to enable 100,000 Indigenous young people to access post-secondary education and transition to meaningful livelihoods by 2030. The work is guided by the vision of Indigenous young people living “Mino Bimaadiziwin”, an Anishinaabe concept that means “a good life.” This work is not ours alone, however. In fact, the only way to achieve this goal and vision is through sustained, committed, and deep collaboration with our partners, Indigenous young people, and communities across Canada. 

In June, 2022, we convened with partners, including post-secondary institutions, Indigenous-led education and employment organizations, and Indigenous foundations, for EleV’s Annual Network Gathering. The gathering was an opportunity for EleV Partners from all regions of the country to share their experiences with one another to discuss lessons learned, share best practices and amplify innovations. These important discussions highlight new approaches and models, demonstrate the successes and innovations underway across Canada, deepen relationships, and strengthen and expand our impact plan for the year ahead. 

Through workshops and facilitated discussions, EleV partners shared how they are working to embrace Indigenous cultures, Indigenous languages, and centre Indigenous youth in their work. Partners engaged in focused and generative discussions with topics including: systems change through an Indigenous lens; increasing program impact; expanding supports for Indigenous staff and learners to navigate complex daily realities; advancing models of co-governance and co-creation; the role of relationships in transforming systems of employment and education; and, engaging in participatory data generation.

EleV’s 2022 Network Gathering was held at the University of Lethbridge Iniskim on Blackfoot Territory and centred Indigenous languages, cultures and worldviews, including through daily teachings with Elders and performances by traditional dancers.

Graciously hosted on Blackfoot Territory at the Iniskim (the University of Lethbridge’s Blackfoot name which means Sacred Buffalo Stone), the convening provided a space for Indigenous young people to share their experiences in post-secondary education programs supported by the collaboration of the university, the Blackfoot Confederacy, and EleV. Each day began with teachings and prayers from Blackfoot Elders to centre and ground discussions.  

In his keynote address, Dr. Leroy Little Bear Iikaisskini – Special Advisor to the President and Distinguished Niitsitapi Scholar at the University of Lethbridge Iniskim – emphasized the importance of reciprocity and relationship in the vital work of improving and strengthening education for Indigenous young people. An overall goal of the EleV Program is systems change – transforming systems of education, employment, and training to reflect and embed Indigenous values and approaches to learning and knowing. 

“The Blackfoot Confederacy and Iniskim have had a long relationship. The foundation of the Blackfoot is generosity. The foundation of the University of Lethbridge Iniskim is about a liberal arts education. Then the Mastercard Foundation appeared on the scene to form a ‘Three Sisters’ relationship, to provide protection,” said Dr. Little Bear, referring to Haudenosaunee teachings around the “Three Sisters” agricultural practice of planting corn, beans, and squash in guilds (when planted together, each plant flourishes through their symbiotic relationship with each other).

The EleV Program is informed by the understanding that co-creation and learning are ongoing processes. This latest gathering provided EleV with our partners an opportunity to focus our commitments on transforming policies and practice, to spark new thinking, and to strategize together on the kinds of investments needed for sustained and lasting systems change.